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Car reviews - Volvo - XC60 - 5-dr wagon range

Launch Story

Volvo logo10 Feb 2009

By LUCIANO PAOLINO

AFTER half a decade of going it alone, BMW’s compact X3 luxury SUV is facing competition in the form of the all-new Volvo XC60.

Pipping the Audi Q5 to the post by just a few weeks, the Belgian-built Swedish wagon will go on sale this week in Australia priced from an aggressive $57,950.

This undercuts both the Q5 2.0TDI/2.0TFSI and X3 xDrive20d Lifestyle base models by $1950 and $3880 respectively

A trio of turbo-charged XC60s will arrive initially, with a fourth model – fitted with a naturally aspirated 3.2-litre petrol engine – expected around August, to open the range from about $56,000.

All will boast Volvo’s world-first low-speed crash-avoidance technology called city safety.

Standard on every XC60 sold worldwide, city safety has already prompted one insurance agency to offer 20 per cent lower premiums.

Devised to decimate the popular X3, the XC60 is the first production Volvo from design director Steve Mattin after a decade of models under the stewardship of Peter Horbury.

Seeking a sleek wedge shape with coupe-like forms (for a drag co-efficiency of 0.35 Cd), the XC60 evolves the Horbury-era look with a raised waistline, offset window area, V-shaped frontal aspect, broad shoulder line encapsulating high-set micro-optic LED tail-lights, and low roof/wide track/high ground clearance/big-wheeled stance.

Length/width/height measurements are 4628/1891/1713mm respectively, and the wheelbase is 2774mm long, to provide a roomier overall package compared to the X3. Cargo volume is rated at 490 litres.

Volvo’s signature “floating” centre console reappears, as does the asymmetrical look of the dashboard, but is angled towards the driver to reflect the marque’s newfound dynamic and performance orientation.

To that end, buyers will be able to choose between the company’s long-serving 2.5-litre twin-cam 20-valve five-cylinder turbo-diesel with particulate filter (D5) or the 3.0-litre twin-cam 24-valve in-line six-cylinder twin-scroll turbo-charged petrol engine with continually variable valve timing on the inlet side (T6) that is also found in the V70 wagon and S80 sedan.

As seen in other Volvos such as the XC90 full-sized SUV, the D5 produces 136kW of power at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque from between 2000rpm and 2750rpm.

The D5’s accelerates from zero to 100km/h in 9.9 seconds, hits a top speed of 200km/h, has a combined fuel consumption average of 8.3 litres per 100km and combined carbon dioxide emissions rating of 219gm/km respectively.

By contrast, the T6 – with its outputs of 210kW at 5600rpm and 400Nm between 1500 and 4800rpm – achieves a 7.5-second sprint-time, 210km/h V-max (which is electronically governed), 11.3L/100km fuel-use average and 284g/km of CO2 emissions.

Meanwhile, the upcoming XC60 3.2 “base engine” should produce around 175kW at 6200rpm and 320Nm at 3200rpm.

With no manual transmission on offer, each powerplant is tied to an Aisin six-speed automatic transmission featuring Volvo’s Geartronic sequential shift facility. It sends up to 95 per cent of torque to the front wheels in normal driving conditions, and up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels if extra grip is needed. This amount varies through corners for optimum stability and turning agility.

All this is done via a fourth-generation Haldex four-wheel-drive transmission, which works in concert with the electronic stability control, traction control, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA) that Volvo collectively calls its dynamic stability and traction control (DSTC) system.

DSTC also includes anti-roll sensors to aid stability during evasive manoeuvres, as well as a trailer stability assist which dampens potential oscillations by braking of one or more wheels and by restricting engine torque.

Volvo has borrowed Land Rover technology in the form of hill descent control (HDC). Available as an option on the D5 and standard on T6 vehicles, HDC uses the engine’s torque and the ABS to maintain a steady crawling speed in steep descents.

An electronic parking brake with an auto-release function is standard on all XC60s.

Kerb weight kicks off from 1880kg in the D5 and 1912 in the T6, with both varieties offering a braked trailer weight of 2000kg, an unbraked trailer weight of 750kg and a 100kg maximum roof load.

Keener drivers are catered for by the availability of Volvo’s $4175 FOUR-C active self-adjusting chassis technology.

This option continuously modifies the suspension’s damping rate according to how it is being driven. There are three settings – comfort, sport and advanced, with “sport” offering greater body control and quicker steering responses over ride-quality prioritising “comfort” mode, while “advanced” firms the dampers for maximum road holding, according to the company.

Volvo says that delivering “… a rewarding driver experience along with a passenger-pleasing comfortable ride” was a top priority while developing the XC60.

Aiding this are high levels of torsional rigidity and optimal weight distribution between the front and rear axles.

Underpinning the vehicle is a development of Ford’s EUCD (European C/D class) transverse engine midsized architecture that Volvo calls the P24 platform.

Derived from the C1 platform (Ford Focus/Mazda3/Volvo C30/S40/V50/C70), it is also used in the V70, XC70 crossover and S80, Ford’s closely related Mondeo range as well as its European Galaxy/S-Max people-movers and beneath the Land Rover Freelander II.

Front suspension is by coil-over struts incorporating anti-dive and anti-lift geometry, while the rear uses a multi-link independent set-up.

Electro-hydraulic-powered rack-and-pinion steering enables 2.9 turns lock-to-lock and a turning circle of 11.7 metres, while a speed-dependent set-up is optional.

Volvo calls the XC60 its safest vehicle ever, and backs this up with an armada or new and proven technologies.

The aforementioned “city safety” low-speed automatic braking system is designed to prevent or minimise collisions at speeds under 30km/h by using a windscreen-mounted laser sensor to monitor closing speeds within eight metres of the vehicle’s front bumper, then preparing and sometimes activating the brakes before the driver has reacted to an impending collision.

Based on the gap to the vehicle in front and the XC60’s speed, Volvo’s city safety system makes 50 calculations a second to determine what braking force would be needed to avoid a collision.

In a low-speed situation such as stop-start traffic, if the vehicle in front brakes suddenly and the program determines that a collision is imminent, the brakes are “pre-charged”, making them ready for rapid application. Should the driver remain inactive, the car will apply the brakes automatically.

If the relative speed difference between the two vehicles is less than 15km/h then city safety may help the driver entirely avoid the collision. Between 15 and 30km/h, the focus is on reducing speed as much as possible before impact.

The laser sensor interacts with the Volvo’s standard pre-prepared restraint technology, which controls the deployment of airbags and seatbelt limiters in accordance with the severity of the collision.

In the XC60, city safety can be combined with the optional (at $4175) adaptive cruise control with auto brake function that monitors at higher speeds the distance of a vehicle ahead for sudden deceleration, preparing the car for heavy braking and up to 50 per cent of full braking power should the driver not respond to the visual and audible alert that is given.

The $1275 blind-spot information system (BLIS) employs cameras in the door mirrors to locate vehicles lurking outside of the driver’s vision, alerting them via a lamp on the front pillar closest to that vehicle.

The XC60 continues with Volvo’s standard side impact protection system, featuring strong side body structure using different grades of steel for optimum crash performance, as well as extendable inflatable curtain airbags and second-generation child booster seats with two height settings to accommodate a child from 95cm to 120cm and 15kg to 25kg in the higher position, and from to 115cm and 140cm and 22kg and 36kg in the lower one.

Volvo has also optimised its front and rear crumple zones with differing steel grades, while the nose has a low impact zone to maximise the other vehicle’s deformation zones by helping to stop this SUV from mounting and/or crushing a smaller and lighter car.

A second-generation WHIPS anti-whiplash head restraint system is also included, helping the XC60 score the highest rating in this category, as per Euro NCAPS first assessment of the protection offered by vehicles in rear-end collisions.

A personal car communicator uses the car’s heartbeat sensor to alert the owner via the key fob if the car has been unlocked, had its alarm triggered or even if there is somebody hiding in the vehicle.

Buyers can also choose a two-piece panoramic glass sunroof, as well as a clean-zone interior package that ventilates the cabin for about a minute when unlocked by remote control, a park assist camera, water repellent glass, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, heated and electrically adjustable front seats, three levels of audio sound, tyre pressure monitors, larger alloy wheels, and active Bi-Xenon headlights, among a myriad of other options.

Besides city safety, DSTC and airbags all round, standard XC60 features include climate control air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, leather upholstery, alloy wheels, fog lights, puddle lights, remote central locking, power windows and headlight washers.

Volvo hopes to sell at least 80 XC60s a month, or about 1000 a year, with the sales split evenly between diesel and petrol models.

Besides the Q5, conquest sales are expected from the Land Rover Freelander II, Lexus RX and Nissan Murano.

Volvo Cars Australia managing director Alan Desselss said: “We expect some cross-purchasing (of other Volvo models such as the XC70), but we will attract new people to the brand.”

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