Volvo XC60 First Drive
Volvo has become a true competitor in the executive market in recent years, with some excellent models offering a genuine alternative to the usual German options. The Swedish firm's latest is the XC60, which looks to continue the good work carried out by the 90-Series models, and improve on its predecessor. The first-generation XC60 was a very important model for Volvo, arriving just as the SUV boom began. This latest version has far more competition though, so how does this second-generation version fare?
Review by Chris Lilly
Volvo only has two core engine types - one petrol and one diesel. Both are two litres and have four cylinders, which Volvo offers in different states of tune. There is a three-cylinder 1.5 litre unit on its way, but for now, we have this simple line-up to understand. In the new XC60, Volvo fits its D4 and D5 variants of the diesel, a T5 petrol, and a T8 plug-in petrol hybrid. At the launch event, this last option wasn't available, and we've driven the diesels - both of which are good picks. Either will cope with whatever you have to throw at the XC60. The extra power and torque of the D5 makes for a better overall machine. It's a little more comfortable pulling the XC60 up hills or sitting at motorway speeds than the lower powered unit, with the additional 45 horses on top of the D4's 190hp a pleasant luxury to have. However, the D4 is better value. The petrol isn't expected to sell too well in Britain as, although it's a similar cost to the D4 and is faster, it's efficiency figures can't compete. The T8 PHEV option is likely to be the best of the lot considering it's good in the XC90, and the XC60 is a lighter car. All models put their power to the wheels through an automatic eight-speed gearbox. It's a good transmission choice and, although isn't the quickest to change down when you plant your right foot, it keeps the engine working in its best rev-range the majority of the time. It's smooth to change too, and makes the XC60 easy to drive.
Volvo's aren't particularly well known for their dynamic and engaging handling set-up, and the XC60 is no different. That’s not to say it's useless to drive through a series of corners - far from it. It's just that if you want an SUV with the emphasis on the 'sports' section of that acronym, you're better off picking a Jaguar F-Pace for example. The XC60 is typically Volvo then, ironing out imperfections in the road and keeping everyone comfortable inside. I preferred the R-Design model most with its standard sports chassis, as it offers a little more communication and sharper handling than the non-R Design models. If you're after a comfortable SUV though, opt for the Momentum or Inscription trim and you won't be disappointed. The XC60 can deal with a bit of spirited driving though. Tested through the steep and twisty roads of the Peak District, the Volvo wasn't found wanting in terms of grip or ability.
It's a handsome machine the XC60, looking sharper than both the old model and the larger XC90. Because of a squarer stance, it also looks 'younger' than the XC90. The XC60 is the first 60-Series model to be built on Volvo's SPA scalable product architecture, designed for the company's larger models. Until now, it was limited to the roll-out of the 90-Series line-up, but now that S90, V90, and XC90 are all available, the new 60-Series models can be launched in earnest. The benefit of using the SPA platform is that it is both lightweight and strong, plus it has been designed with electrification in mind. Because the batteries for the T8 are stored in the transmission tunnel, there is no penalty in terms of interior space for those picking the plug-in version. For the rest of the range, the diesel and petrol engines have less mass to pull about than before, improving efficiency. Use of the SPA architecture also means the XC60 is almost as wide as the XC90, but a bit shorter. In practical terms, it provides more shoulder space for occupants, especially in the rear. Boot space is good too, though not class leading. You'd have to be miserly to complain at a lack of space in the normal back seats, though adults in the central rear seat have to contend with the aforementioned transmission tunnel. Stick to four adults, or two and three children, and everyone will be happy.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Volvo's seats are famously extremely comfortable, and the XC60 doesn't let the side down in this regard. In fact, the whole interior is up to Volvo's now superb standards, and there is little to differentiate the XC60 from the larger - and more expensive - XC90. No doubt there would be details obvious to those who climbed from one to the other, but I can't remember any and I'm pretty familiar with the 90-Series line-up. This means the excellent Sensus infotainment system is used, and other high quality features make their way into the XC60 too. A Swedish crystal-embedded gear selector is available, as is Volvo’s digital instrument panel, and the whole ambience of the cabin is top-notch. Controls feel well built and easy to use too, whether it's the roller used for the drive mode select, the start/stop rocker switch, or the smartphone-style touchscreen Sensus system.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
The pick of the economy models is clearly the T8 PHEV, but the two diesels perform well too. Official figures of 51.4 MPG for the D5 Powerpulse AWD, and 55.4 for the D4 AWD are quoted. In the real world, low- to mid-40's MPG were possible for the D4, while the D5 averaged high-30's to low 40's - all to be expected really. Both models are in the same VED tax band, with figures of 133 g/km and 144 g/km for the D4 and D5 respectively. This means that both will cost £200 to tax for the first year, and £140 there after for sub-£40,000 models, or £450 if it costs £40,000 or more.
Again, the pick of the green models is the T8, but the XC60 range has a number of features to improve its eco credentials. The first is the SPA platform mentioned previously, with less weight than the old version. There's also the drive mode selector, which offers Eco as one of the options. This calibrates the engine, gearbox, and throttle response for the lowest possible fuel consumption and emissions, while auxiliary systems such as climate control are also optimised. The transmission shifts up at lower revs, and a coasting function kicks in above 40mph, meaning there is no engine braking when lifting off the accelerator. The suspension is dropped too to improve the car's aerodynamics if the model has air suspension fitted.
The XC60 range comes well equipped as standard, effectively with two main rungs to the trim ladder, just split off in different directions. The entry-level Momentum includes goodies such as the 9-inch Sensus Navigation and infotainment system, voice control, LED headlights, leather seats, heated front seats, a powered-tailgate, 18-inch alloys, 8-inch digital instrument display, and drive mode select. Move in a luxurious direction to Inscription and Nappa leather trim is added, along with a larger 12.3-inch digital driver's display, 19-inch alloys, drift wood trim inlays, exterior chrome trim, and powered front seats. Move the other direction into the sportier R-Design model and - over Momentum trim - 19-inch alloys are added, sports suspension, perforated leather seats, the larger digital instrument display, and sports seats are included. There are 'Pro' options for each trim level, offering a half-step between Momentum and Inscription/R-Design, and an extra boost to the standard kit for the other two equipment levels. It's designed for user-chooser company car buyers primarily, who can't add optional extras to their car when ordered. Momentum Pro adds active headlights, Volvo On Call, headted steering wheel and windscreen, and powered driver's seat. R-Design Pro includes 21-inch alloys, and the Active Four-C Chassis with air suspension and active dampers. Finally, Inscription Pro features 20-inch alloys, front massage seat function, and active chassis. All models come with a class-leading active and passive safety suite.
The new XC60 was in a tricky position, burdened with the success of both its predecessor and the 90-Series models. Volvo hasn't dropped the ball though and has created a true competitor in the executive SUV sector. With rivals such as the F-Pace, Alfa Romeo's Stelvio, the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Mercedes Benz GLC, and Land Rover Discovery Sport, the competition is fierce, but the safe, comfortable, and stylish Volvo more than has enough in its arsenal to compete in a tough market.
Model tested: Volvo XC60 D4 AWD
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre diesel / 133 g/km
Trim grades: Momentum, Momentum Pro, Inscription, Inscription Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro
On-road price: From £37,205
Warranty: Three years / 60,000
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars