Car reviews - Volvo - XC60 - range
Exterior design, interior packaging, energetic plug-in hybrid powertrain, zippy D4 diesel engine, lack of cabin noise
Room for improvement
Hit and miss standard gear, pricey options, glitchy semi-autonomous drive system
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13 Oct 2017
VOLVO is in the process of replacing its entire model line-up, starting with the largest models first before changing up the mid-sizers and the small models.
The latest Volvo to benefit from the company’s top to bottom rejuvenation under new-ish owners Geely is the XC60 mid-size SUV, which also happens to be the Swedish brand’s global top seller.
Volvo has already impressed with its all-new XC90 seven-seat SUV and S90/V90 large sedan and wagon twins, and given the XC60 shares the same underpinnings, it should be a winner.
However, the number and quality of competitors in the premium mid-size SUV segment has grown significantly since the original XC60 arrived in 2009. We sampled a couple of new XC60 variants at the Australian launch to see if it can still hold its own.
It has been eight years since Volvo launched its XC60 SUV in Australia, which not only helped change brand perception for the Swedish car-maker, but also provided them with its most popular offering – by some margin.
Even in its last full year on sale the XC60 recorded its second best sales result, proving you don’t need to be the newest, shiniest thing on the block to appeal to buyers.
After the company was snapped up by Chinese giant Geely in 2010 it received a massive cash injection to develop a suite of new models on new platforms to replace the old ones that were shared with Ford and Jaguar Land Rover.
Now Volvo is midway through its new model rollout and the five-seat XC60 mid-size SUV is the latest model to hit showrooms.
It shares its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform with the larger seven-seat XC90 launched in early 2015 and the S90 sedan that arrived exactly one year ago, as well as the V90 Cross Country jacked-up wagon.
The premium mid-size segment has had a busy period of late, with the arrival a couple of years ago of the Land Rover Discovery Sport that now leads the segment on sales, as well as Mercedes’ successful GLC, Lexus’ popular NX and the stylish Jaguar F-Pace.
Audi recently launched its impressive new-generation Q5 and next month BMW lobs its all-new X3.
In short, there are a lot of high quality offerings and Volvo has its work cut out equalling or topping its rivals.
Thankfully the company has learned from recent experiences of pitching its models at the same price as the established marques and has priced the XC60 from a very reasonable $59,990 plus on roads in base D4 Momentum guise.
Each variant is reasonably well equipped and there are only a couple of options packs so the choice doesn’t become overwhelming.
However, heated seats should really be standard at this price point, even in base guise, not as part of an options pack.
In the metal, the family resemblance to the related XC90 and S/V90 is clear, with the Thor’s hammer LED lights up front, overall shape, very Volvo tail-light treatment and even the choice of colours.
It’s not a criticism either – the XC60 is a handsome looking beast, with simple clean lines and an avoidance of anything too fussy – very Scandinavian then.
Volvo is offering three specification grades – Momentum, Inscription and R-Design – with a choice of D4, D5 diesel, T5 and T6 petrol and T8 plug-in petrol-electric hybrid powertrains, depending on the spec grade.
Our first taste of the XC60 was in the flagship T8 R-Design PHEV that is priced from $92,990, which is quite the leap from the next variant down – the $76,990 T6 R-Design.
Volvo does get bragging rights as the first model in the premium mid-size SUV segment to be offered with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
Benz, BMW and Audi are considering adding their own electrified versions of the GLC, X3 and Q5 respectively down the track, and Lexus of course has hybrid versions of its NX, but they are not plug in.
Inside the T8, everything is very ‘current Volvo’ from the portrait style touchscreen, minimal use of buttons on the centre stack, crystal glass gear shifter and the overall design.
It’s all very stylish and the use of high quality materials ensures the car’s premium status. The seats offer incredible levels of support up front and are multi-adjustable. The leather also feels more high-end than many of its rivals.
The test car was a little dark given all of the black but that is easily fixed by perusing the options list for different coloured leather or wood trim.
The second row seats are also supportive and there is loads of knee, leg and toe room in the back, not to mention the acres of headroom. Entry and egress is a breeze in the second row as well, despite the seemingly narrow door openings.
Face-level air-conditioning vents are a welcome addition.
Our test car was fitted with the $7500 Premium Pack that adds a bunch of things including heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, Air Suspension and a fancy Bowers & Wilkins stereo among other things, and it was also fitted with more goodies that lifted the price to $105,340.
It all adds to the premium feel but that premium feel can sap your cash.
At 505 litres with the second row in place, the boot is a decent size, but it is smaller than the Q5, GLC and the upcoming new-gen X3 that all boast 550L.
Back in the front seat, the XC60 T8 R-Design has excellent visibility and a nice chunky steering wheel and it is easy to find the best seating position.
Although the steering wheel adjustment is manual, not automatic, which is not very premium.
The T8’s petrol-electric drivetrain is the sporty pick of the XC60 line-up and with a combined system output of 300kW on tap, and a 0-100km/h-dash time of 5.3 seconds, it is easy to see why.
It picks up the pace swiftly, thanks to all of the torque from the electric motor, and of course it does it in almost complete silence.
You can switch between various modes, including full-electric driving, but Hybrid mode lets the car decide for you when it switches over to petrol power.
And the transition is seamless and whisper quiet.
In fact the cabin is very well insulated, with only some tyre noise creeping in on coarse surfaces.
The massive optional 21-inch tyres fitted to the test car (the R-Design comes standard with 20s) do not help the ride quality, and the R-Design is tuned for sportier performance, meaning the T8 is on the firmer side of comfortable, even with the optional Air Suspension fitted.
Steering is sharp but very lightly weighted, and the eight-speed transmission is a sweet, smooth shifting unit that does its job without even being noticed.
Volvo’s Pilot Assist technology that can partially autonomously drive at up to 130km/h worked for the most part, ensuring the XC60 stayed in its lane, but it would occasionally miss the markings, which may have been a result of driving rain and sodden roads.
Our very brief time behind the wheel of the $66,990 D4 Momentum proved that you don’t need to spend top dollar for a quality XC60 variant.
The 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is a gutsy little oil burner and has more than enough get up and go for around town punts and country road cruising, and it is difficult to detect what fuel the new-gen engine uses.
We didn’t sample the D5 but an additional 33kW/80Nm would only improve an already solid powertrain.
Volvo is at pains to point out that the XC60 is not just a shrunken XC90, but the mid-sizer feels a lot like its seven-seat sibling, only smaller, lighter and much more agile.
It is not as dynamically capable as the freshly launched Audi Q5, but the new XC60 finally feels like a genuine contender in the increasingly competitive segment.
If you are bored by the big three Germans and want something a little different, but you still need practicality, a premium feel, the latest tech and strong exterior and interior design, the XC60 represents a compelling proposition.
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