Car reviews - Volvo - XC60 - D5 5-dr wagon
Fuel economy, cruising comfort, cabin ergonomics, safety tech, eerily effective active headlights
Room for improvement
Vague steering, transmission quibbles, tedious electric tail-gate
31 Jan 2014
By DANIEL GARDNER<31><01><2014>Price and equipment
AS YOU would expect in such a competitive market, the Volvo XC60 is priced precisely and carefully to sit amongst its premium rivals, and the sniff under $70,000 ticket reflects the diesel engine size, performance and levels of equipment.
Oil-burning competitors from Germany start in the low $60,000s before on-road costs, with the 2.0-litre BMW X3 xDrive 20d at $63,100 and the $62,200 2.0 TDI Q5 from Audi, while the $54,100 Land Rover Freelander 2 (automatic) has a slightly larger 2.2-litre diesel donk to compete with Volvo’s cheapest XC60 D4 Kinetic at $58,990 – although the latter is the only one lacking four-wheel drive.
Here though we are focusing on variants that bring a little more in the way of performance and luxury, and the middle of the range XC60 does exactly that.
The D5 badge indicates a diesel drinking five-cylinder engine lies under the bonnet, which in some ways puts this variant in a class of its own, since it has no rivals with an uneven number of pots or the 2.4-litre capacity.
‘Luxury’ specification brings some good additions over the lesser ‘Kinetic’ specification with 18-inch wheels, active headlights with washers, a dashboard dressed in leather, keyless entry, electric front passenger seat adjustability, voice-controlled navigation and a compass in the rear-view mirror.
Standard across the range is Volvo’s so-called Sensus multimedia system with Bluetooth, leather seats, reversing camera and sensors, cruise-control, rain-sensing wipers, Our test-car also had the $5000 driver support pack, which adds some safety improving equipment with blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise-control, front parking sensors, auto-dimming side mirrors, a ‘Driver Alert’ system to warn the driver if they become drowsy and a ‘Cross Traffic’ system, which monitors passing traffic when reversing.
The XC60 continues Volvo’s excellent record of seating and both front and rear seats provided great comfort during long journeys and were covered in an unusual coarse-grained grey leather not unlike ostrich hide.
A high ride-height enabled a good view of both the surroundings and the road ahead, while the excellent driving position allowed easy access of all controls.
Controls for the various entertainment and information systems initially seemed a bit cluttered and fiddly, but were actually quite carefully thought-out and became intuitive with use.
With 580 litres of boot space at our disposal the Volvo swallowed all the kit we needed for a weekend away and still had room for 4 or 5 to travel in comfort.
If more space is required though the 60:40 folding rear seats increase the load space to more than 1600 litres but at the cost of one, two or three of the rear spots.
With the outside temperature nudging 40 degrees, the powerful air-conditioning was a very welcome addition and cooled the large interior space rapidly.
The Swedish maker is often associated with an excellent safety rating and this is in-part thanks to some very clever systems, such as a camera mounted behind the rear view mirror to read speed-limit signs and display a constant reminder on the dash.
Generally the system worked well updating the display within meters of a speed limit change, but it was occasionally caught-out and displayed the incorrect limit.
Many systems are built in to the XC60 which warn of unbuckled seatbelts, collision hazards and unplanned lane departures, but we were surprised that a half-open tailgate provoked only one small warning lamp on the dash.
An obstructing object had caused the electrically closing boot-lid to stop and partially reopen, which highlighted one of the foibles of automatic tailgates.
We would prefer the faster, cheaper, lighter, old-fashioned manual variety.
Voice activation of the satellite navigation worked very effectively, allowing destinations to be entered quickly and without needing to take your eye from the road or negotiate a series of input steps.
The nav wasn’t without flaws though and some of the spoken instructions were confusing and frustrating. “Turn slightly right, then turn slightly right” and “keep right, then keep left”, for example, provoked both bemusement and amusement.
Without question our favourite feature of the Volvo were the outstanding ‘Active Bending Headlights’ which not only follow the contours of the road when the steering wheel is turned, but also create a black-spot around approaching and leading vehicles.
The result is the very best visibility when traveling at night without the possibility of forgetting to dip the main-beam and dazzle other road-users.
Engine and transmission
Volvo’s 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel engine is a very strong lump, though naturally the 158kW/440Nm unit’s edge is dulled by the XC’s near two-tonne mass.
The six-speed transmission tends to upshift quickly to conserve fuel, which dulls response, and there’s a bit of turbo lag present around town.
Once up and running though the solid five-cylinder made good progress sitting at low rpm when cruising, remaining quiet and smooth and returning a decent fuel consumption figure of 6.9 litres per 100km.
Gear selections could be made manually using the steering-wheel paddles but a vehicle of this type on a long cruising journey never lent itself to more enthusiastic driving, where manual changes are necessary or rewarding.
Ride and handling
The light and airy cabin of the XC60 was a very pleasant place to be and the kilometers slipped by comfortably. Freeway cruising is where the Volvo feels most at home.
With minimal road and engine noise long journeys were a pleasure and we never felt fatigued when it came to unloading kit ready for the next dip in a river or stroll up a hill.
On a few occasions it was necessary to use unsealed roads to access remote areas, and the raised SUV ride-height was a distinct advantage, allowing progress at on-road speeds.
Traction was never a problem thanks to Volvo’s ‘AWD’ system and when carrying speed through twisty roads the tall tyres had to be pushed very hard to cause complaint.
Despite its relatively tall posture, the XC60 resisted rolling surprisingly well and was capable of keeping a decent pace through serpentine alpine roads.
However, the steering lacks feel and feedback compared to, say, the BMW X3.
Safety and servicing
Safety credentials are Volvo’s raison d’etre: if you can think of it, the XC60 probably has it.
All of the usual ESC, EBD, ABS, seven airbags (including curtain and dual-stage versions for front occupants) are there, with extra tricks such as a trailer stability assistance and whiplash protection (WHIPS) systems.
‘City Safety’ reduces the risk of low-speed bingles in and around traffic by applying the brakes if the system detects an imminent collision at speeds under 50km/h.
Three years roadside assistance is included with the purchase of a new XC60, which covers trailers and caravans being towed too.
Using the XC60 as a daily car to get to and from work or pick up the kids doesn’t really do it justice, although the average inner-city family buyers will no doubt find it a smooth, comfortable, safe and frugal chariot.
However, when the weekend comes around, the XC60 D5 is a good vessel for friends, family and gear, and will whisk all of the above away to your favourite retreat with understated excellence. It’s not perfect, but it remains a top-notch offering.
Audi Q5 2.0 TDI ($62,200 before on-road costs).
Wringing a respectable 130Kw and 380Nm from the 2.0-litre diesel engine, the Audi isn’t far behind the Volvo’s bigger engine with similar performance and fuel consumption too. The relatively low price can quickly balloon as soon as you tuck in to the extras list though.
BMW X3 xDrive 20d ($63,100 before on-road costs).
The xDrive system of the X3 sends a majority of the power to the rear wheels until extra traction is needed, which gives the BMW an on-road advantage with surprising handling for a tall SUV. Moving up to the nicer six-cyinder diesel adds a hefty premium to the pricetag but the four-cylinder produces a decent 135kW/380Nm and manages a very low 5.6l/100km fuel consumption.
Land Rover Freelander SD4 HSE Lux ($68,400 before on-road costs).
As the name suggests, the Landie has a good chunk of equipment included in the price, but it doesn’t quite match the Volvo’s power-output with its smaller 2.2-litre engine. It’s famous Land Rover heritage makes it the pick off-road.
MAKE/MODEL: Volvo XC60 D5 Luxury
ENGINE: 2.4-litre turbocharged five-cylinder diesel
LAYOUT: Front engined, four-wheel drive
TORQUE: 440Nm between 1500 and 3000rpm
TRANSMISSION: Six-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds
TOP SPEED: 205 km/h
EMISSIONS: 183g/km CO2
SUSPENSION: Coil-over struts(f) Multi-link independent(r)
STEERING: Electric PAS
PRICE: From $69,990 before on-roads
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