All change as Volvo plays transformers with XC60
Upwardly-mobile Volvo has started the next phase of its regeneration with the all-new XC60, Europe's most popular compact SUV. Motoring editor Andy Russell gets a launch drive.
If ever a car-maker had transformed its image, appeal and sales, it’s Volvo which has been upwardly mobile since leaving Ford for Chinese ownership under Geely.
Even safer to drive and stylish rather than staid, Volvo is attracting a new, more youthful market.
Having launched its 90 series - XC90 sport utility vehicle, S90 saloon and V90 estate – it’s the turn of the 60 series, starting with the XC60.
Looks and image
The XC60, Volvo’s best-seller and Europe’s most popular mid-size premium SUV, builds on the new family DNA first seen in the bigger XC90 and is the first 60 series underpinned by Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform which allows electrification and shares high-end technology, driver aids and four-cylinder 2.0-litre engines.
It doesn’t look much smaller than the XC90 – not surprising with an XC40 on the way – but the wider T-shaped ‘Thor’s hammer’ daytime running lights and rear lights distinguish the XC60 at a distance.
Under the bonnet
Turbo diesel will dominate with the 190hp D4 taking half the annual 12,000 UK sales and 235hp D5 a quarter with the rest split between 254hp turbo petrol T5 and T8 Twin Engine plug-in petrol hybrid combining a 320hp supercharged turbo petrol engine driving front wheels and 87hp electric motor driving the rear axle.
All come with a slick eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.
The D4 has enough power and pace but the D5 with its PowerPulse system to overcome turbo lag and boost response at low revs is noticeably quicker but carries a £3,500 premium.
Drive modes – comfort, eco, dynamic, off-road and individual for D4, D5 and T5 – tailor the driving experience.
How it drives
Volvo says the XC60 is the more dynamic option. Yes, the new one is better to drive but not as agile as some rivals.
It also uses front coil springs and transverse rear leaf spring as standard to maximise grip and minimise body roll but adaptive dampers and electronic air suspension is a £1,500 option but standard on R-Design Pro and Inscription Pro.
The standard springs make for a firmer ride and taut, agile handling, while the adaptive system wafts over bumpy roads but feels less composed in corners. Both have their pluses but I’d spend my money on other options.
Space and comfort
If you don’t need the XC90’s seven standard seats, the XC60 isn’t that much of a poor relation in terms of space in the Scandinavian simplicity of the tasteful cabin.
Tall, long-legged adults won’t feel the squeeze, even three abreast in the back, but the centre passenger has to straddle the transmission tunnel.
The 505-litre boot holds a good load of luggage, but has a high floor, growing to 1,432 litres with the 60/40 rear seats folded. The T8’s hybrid battery reduces boot space to 468 and 1,395 litres respectively.
Cabin storage includes slim compartments under the outer backs seats for tablets, books or magazines.
At the wheel
The XC60’s fascia follows the almost minimalist look of the XC90, dominated by the nine-inch touchscreen for the Sensus infotainment system which does away with lots of buttons. It takes a while to work out where everything is but you’re soon swiping, pinching and pressing intuitively.
Equipment and safety
Both strong selling points for the XC60 with even entry-level Momentum including navigation, LED headlights, leather seats, heated front seats, 18in alloys, power-operated tailgate and two-zone climate control. Along with sporty R-Design and luxury Inscription Pro versions of all three trims add specific spec packs to appeal to business users.
XC60 introduces three steering aid safety technologies to the class – two standard to avoid potential collisions and head-on crashes and an optional one to avoid pulling out in front of vehicle in the blindspot.
Volvo’s XC60 was already the class sales front-runner, the new model is so good it could woo people out of bigger SUVs. Inevitably, the price has been enhanced too but, with significantly better residuals now among the strongest in the class, it’s one worth paying.
TECH AND SPEC
Price: Volvo XC60 R-Design D4 AWD £39,705 (range £37,205 to £57,950)
Engine: 1,969cc, 190hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol with eight-speed automatic
Performance: 0-62mph 8.4 seconds; top speed 127mph
MPG: Urban 48.7; extra urban 58.9; combined 54.3
CO2 emissions: 136g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 29%
Insurance group: 31 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Will it fit in the garage? L 4,688mm; W (including door mirrors) 2,117mm; H 1,658mm