Volvo's new XC60 is better than ever at not killing people

It's all about the Steer Assist.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Volvo's 2018 XC60 isn't the newest thing at the New York Auto Show -- it was actually unveiled in Geneva -- but it was too Swedishly pretty not to spend time with. The XC60 will land in the US later this year (price unknown, sadly), but it turns out every XC60 will a little American by default. 2018 will see Volvo build a production facility in South Carolina that'll make every XC60 sold around the world. I kind of expect Volvo to sell quite a few, if only based on the strength of its tech package and design.

Take the dashboard, for instance. It's bisected by a ribbon of wood that's inspired by, but not actually made of, driftwood. Volvo USA CEO Lex Kerssemakers said it was specifically chosen to help turn the XC60's modestly roomy interior -- it's smaller than the XC90, remember -- into a "zone of well-being." It sounds bizarre, I know, but it's also not too far off the mark. Something about having some seemingly rustic wood makes the XC60 feel a little warmer, more natural and definitively Swedish.

That ribbon, by the way, also curves under the 9-inch, portrait-oriented touchscreen where you'll set up your navigation and sift through Spotify playlists. Plenty of companies we've seen here at the show seem to have had trouble figuring out the best way to lay out information and controls on multiple screens. Volvo's approach involves a lots of big touch points, simple gestures and a decently intuitive menu setup. All told, it's probably my favorite interface at the show so far. Given Volvo's long-running obsession with safety, though, the most notable addition to the mix might be Steer Assist. Using the XC60's myriad cameras and sensors, Steer Assist allows the car to wrest control away from drivers (under very specific circumstances).

Let's say you're cruising down the road while you're trying to find the perfect Spotify playlist, you start to drift into oncoming traffic lanes. The car's Oncoming Lane Mitigation will notice what's up and gently steer you back into the correct position (assuming you're going between about 36 and 87 miles per hour). And if you're tooling around a city while distracted, you might get a little too close to an obstacle or person. Older Volvos would just automatically brake, which, while helpful, occasionally meant stuff like this would happen. The 2018 XC60, meanwhile, adds automatic steering correction in hopes of minimizing damage to everyone involved.