SINGAPORE – Back in 2008, the world was very different. That was just five years ago, but almost the entire lifetime for a modern automobile model.
In that distant era, Volvo was still in the process of shedding its staid image. The C30 hatchback proved the company could do fun (see our V40 R-Design first drive for more spine-chilling details) but the rest of the range was as Volvo as Volvo could be.
In hindsight it took some balls for the Swedish company to double-down and launch a fun, sporty SUV in the wake of the C30 three-door hatchback. But the XC60 was a stroke of genius and injected new life into the company, paving the way for the S60, V60 and V40, the new era of fun-looking, good-driving Volvos.
The XC60 looked great – its basic proportions were all right, it wasn’t too high, nor too low, the details such as the tall, curvy tail-lights and sculpted sides meant it was handsome but too much of a peacock. It drove well too – in T6 form, with more than 300bhp, it was a downright BMW-baiter.
Moving on five years and the old T5 variant (with five actual cylinders) and automatic gearboxes have been superseded by the 2.0-litre turbo in-line four and six-speed dual-clutch gearbox (as found in now more-distant relative, the Ford Kuga).
The XC60, along with the S60, V60 and S80, gets a cosmetic facelift to see it to the end of its life-cycle (when that is, Volvo executives won’t say – our guess is another two years) and the changes are quite considerable: over 3,000 different parts for the six new models in the range. The XC60 itself looks rather different from the front: It’s gone from a shovel-nosed, almost pointy face to a blunter one with more visual brawn. Volvo says it aimed for more horizontal than vertical movement, and the flattening of the LED DRLs, a wider, lower set of grilles and the taller, more pronounced bonnet all add to this impression. Round the back it’s more recognisable, although like the front, it’s got a faux metal bash-plate.
Business on the inside is the familiar Volvo layout – a simple infotainment with a plethora of buttons framed in the ‘floating’ console. It’s thoroughly modern, with the expected feature-set of a Continental brand. You can answer phone calls, stream music, change the colour and intensity of the ambient lighting. A great new feature is the eight-inch TFT virtual instrument display, like on the V40, which is also on all the new facelift cars – it’s customisable, cool and easy to read.
The Volvo gets one up over its rivals thanks to a long list of standard stuff. Besides the features mentioned, it’s also got active bending xenon headlights (a new addition), keyless entry and a powered hatch back. That’s not even mentioning the safety features, like City Safety, the electronic nanny horde and six airbags. Additional safety equipment, like the Lane Keeping Aid, Pedestrian Airbag, Pedestrian Detection System (which automatically stops you from banging someone – no it’s not a condom, and it now detects cyclists) are cost options, but well worth consideration.
All these will increase your karma points (potentially, anyway) and our guess is if you were tempted by the XC60 by now, you’re already sold on it. But we’re glad to report that the original ‘gangsta’ of the Volvo family still drives as well as it did when it first appeared, with a delightful lack of intertia and plenty of pep from the turbocharged engine. The dual-clutch gearbox emphasises smoothness over quickness (unlike say, VW’s DSG) and does lurch a little at low speeds, but the XC60’s tidy handling, plus plush and comfy ride wins it lots of points. It lacks the electronic adjustability of some of its rivals, but it really doesn’t need it – facelifts and safety stuff aside, it’s in some ways, still the most solid Volvo out there.
Volvo XC60 T5
NEED TO KNOW
Engine 1,999cc, 16V, turbo in-line 4
Power 240bhp at 5,800rpm
Torque 320Nm at 1200-5000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 225km/h
0-100km/h 8.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.5L/100km
Price $240,000 with COE
Also Consider: Audi Q3, Honda CR-V, Lexus RX280, Volkswagen Tiguan
Photos by Derryn Wong