Swedish high-tech in a svelte SUV body. Volvo’s second-gen XC60 brings the heat to the mid-sized luxury SUV segment
Volvo’s new XC60 replicates the Swedish SUV tropes laid down by its larger brother, the very competent XC90, quite well.
The XC60 is, notably, the first Volvo to be developed totally under Geely’s ownership, as the Chinese car giant bought Volvo in 2010 (and recently acquired Lotus). It’s not a huge difference, as company insiders say the XC90 and S90’s success both came about as a result of Geely letting the Swedes do the necessary without unnecessary interference.
Underpinning the XC60 is Volvo’s Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA) and 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four engine plus eight-speed automatic gearbox. The former is obviously smaller, since the XC60 is a mid-sized SUV, but in comparison to the first-gen model, it’s grown in all the right places.
It’s shorter than before, a little longer at 4,688mm, and quite a bit wider at 1,999mm, while the wheelbase gets a serious stretching from 2,774mm to 2,865mm. The lower, wider footprint gives the new XC60 a leaner, meaner profile, the better to emphasise its looks.
The model tested here is the top-flight T6 R-Design edition, so it does even more of the eyeball razzle-dazzle with an aggressive body kit and rear diffuser. It wears huge, 21-inch rollers, though these are a cost option – the standard T6 R-Design has 19-inch units.
It’s all a far cry from before, which is exactly what Volvo intends as it’s heralding a new age, the harbinger of which was the XC90, so it’s also no surprise to see the same cabin concept applied in the XC60, though obviously on a smaller scale.
A standard-fit panoramic sunroof amps up the feeling of simplicity and spaciousness, as do the clean lines and material choices. It’s a bit like being in Ikea, although with less creakiness.
The lack of buttons is engendered by a 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen infotainment system. It has all the features expected of a luxury unit – navigation, voice control, connectivity – the only downside being navigating the touchscreen to fine-tune them can be as frustrating as menu-diving on a modern smartphone.
Boot space is boosted by a modest 15-litres, at 505-litres, and if you flip the seats down with the handy in-boot remote release buttons, it gives you a total of 1,444-litres, which is plenty to stow a mountain bike or two.
R-Design touches for the interior are nicely subtle, this includes floor mats, sports pedals, perforated leather on the steering wheel and gear knob, plus supportive sport seats.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four, as endemic to Volvo’s range now that the company has foregone five and six-cylinder engines altogether. ‘T6’ denotes the most powerful XC60, with 320hp, which is 14hp more than the old T6 model.
All-wheel drive and the eight-speed gearbox shave off a second for the 0-100km/h time, which is just 5.9 seconds, so like before the XC60 T6 is properly fast and punchy. What’s less endearing is the audible engine clatter and turbo whine, so while the T6 has gobs of power, it’s not the quietest or most refined powerplant around.
The test unit also came with optional air suspension ($9,000), which raises or lowers the car depending on the drive mode selected (Eco, Comfort, Offroad, Dynamic and Individual), though you can only toggle it manually via the rear load-height button.
While the previous XC60 was something of a sleeper driver’s car (it handled and went much better than most would presume), the new model is less so. It’s quick on its feet, but less agile and resolved at extremes of handling. Like many other crossovers, the ride quality leaves a bit to be desired, since it’s jittery at times though we believe the standard T6 with 19-inch wheels will do better.
Yet, it’s a Volvo, so those things can be forgiven in the bigger picture. The XC60, like any new Volvo, debuts new safety systems: If you drop your latte in your lap, the car is now smart enough to avoid traffic in the oncoming lane on the right (Oncoming Lane Mitigation), as well as stopping you from pitching into a ditch on the left (Run-off Road Protection System).
The plethora of safety systems and acronyms could win you a game of Scrabble, but the bottom line is, it’s one of the safest cars around and has a Euro NCAP five-star rating.
While managing all those systems can sometimes be tricky (how do I stop it from reminding me I’m a bad person for going over the speed limit?) it also helps reduce pilot workload.
Volvo’s impressive Pilot Assist system, which takes over the steering and acceleration as well as being able to keep distance to the car in front automatically, is also standard. Keep your phone stowed though, since it’s far from a truly autonomous system, but it helps take some of the load off when driving in heavy traffic.
With the XC60, just as it was with the XC90 and S90, Volvo has pulled off another superb effort, one that fully deserves equal billing with the tough German competition, like the Mercedes-Benz GLC (recently tested in GLC 200 flavour) and Audi Q5 (reviewed in 252hp quattro mode). The R-Design model is a little spendy – at the fatter side of $250k – so the T5 model with 254hp which foregoes a few of the amenities like the sunroof, HUD and auto-park – is likely to prove a strong seller.
Volvo XC60 T6 R-Design
Engine 1,969cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 320hp at 5700rpm
Torque 400Nm at 2200-5400rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Top Speed 230km/h
0-100km/h 5.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 8.0L/100km
Price $258,000 with COE
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Blends Volvo characteristics in a lovely design. A proper competitor for the Germans