Review: Volvo XC60

Volvo's new XC60 soft-roader follows the design scheme set by the XC90 and now flowing through the Volvo catalogue. So far, my favourite is the elegant V90 estate. The XC60 is more SUV than estate. It is smart outside, even better inside, a rival for its German and English peers.

XC60 uses the latest Volvo platform on a raised chassis which marks it out as an SUV rather than an estate.
XC60 uses the latest Volvo platform on a raised chassis which marks it out as an SUV rather than an estate.

The new face catches the eye and the light, as winning as anything in the class. That’s usually the best bit, the calling card. The tailgate slopes acutely – style over function but it covers a roomy luggage area.

XC60 uses the latest Volvo “platform” on a raised chassis which marks it out as an SUV rather than an estate. All have four-wheel drive, 2-litre four-cylinder engines and automatic gearboxes and you’ll have to find £37,205 to join the XC60 club or take out a purchase plan.

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That buys you the 187bhp D4 twin turbo diesel in Momentum specification. The 250bhp T5 petrol version is £37,900. Move up to R-Design and you get the option of the 232bhp D5 diesel. These three engines are available on the remaining trim levels, joined by a 401 bhp T8 petrol hybrid, rated at just 49g of CO2 and a company Benefit in Kind tax of just 9 per cent.

It’s a T8 in Inscription Pro trim that tops the price list, at £57,950. Options will hoist the bill, including engine “optimisation” by Volvo’s in-house tuner, Polestar. It’s your money…

My test car, the £44,705 D5 Inscription, came out at £56,630. “How much?” I’m sorry, I just got carried away. “You should be! Just what…”

Well, there was £2,000 for the glass roof, an almost fool-proof 360 degree camera and parking system. Hmm. Another £1,500 went on adaptive cruise control, steering assistance, £1,500 for the air suspension which makes it ride serenely, £2,500 for the connectivity pack with a Bowers and Wilkins hi-fi…

Well, OK then, it’s very nice, but still, do we need tweeters and sub woofers?

The XC60 followed a Renault Koleos, which had much of this stuff for around £20,000 less. I don’t pretend the Renault was as refined. Stepping from the South Korean Koleos to the Swedish Volvo is akin to stepping from Seoul to Stockholm.

The leather and subtle veneer interior of the XC60 reeked of money and the nicer things in life. It actually reeks of Chinese investment, with its Asian owners piling resources into what is sadly the last Swedish carmaker. Indian loot is doing the same for Jaguar Land Rover and German money has kept Bentley and Roll-Royce affluent and healthily funded.

Today we have Volvo as a quality rival to BMW, Mercedes-Benz, JLR and indeed vox pop Audi. Its UK ops have just appointed both a customer experience manager and a marketing strategy manager – two posts one might have expected already. Volvo needs to get bigger.

Every XC60 has a large information screen, navigation, city braking, LED headlamps, a power tailgate, leather-faced upholstery, 18-inch alloys, lane-keeping assistance. The Inscription spec is the most luxurious, and brings softer, ventilated nappa leather, power seats, a larger screen, 19-inch alloys with well muffled Michelin Latitude tyres, glossy black grille with chrome, more chrome on the side sills, and “drift wood” inlays. Mind you, it’s smart drift wood, no barnacle scars.

So far this year, Volvo sales are heading up. First-half results were 8.2 per cent better, at 277,641 cars. The percentage gain was mirrored in the UK, where we/you/someone bought 24,519 Volvos. China is up most, at 27.6 per cent, but the Volvo roll is going flat in the USA, down 7 per cent.

The twin turbo D5 engine in my test car is fitted with a compressed air injector which kick starts the vanes in the first turbo at low revs – giving faster response, quicker acceleration than the weaker D4. Its official 0-62mph time is a thrusty 7.2 seconds, combined with a rating of 51.4mpg, 144g CO2. Its torque of 354 lb ft is beaten only by the T8 Hybrid which manages a thumping 472 lb ft. There’s a muffled diesel chortle at low speed, otherwise, it’s a quiet engine.

Common sense says that the D4 XC60 is “enough”. It has 295 lb ft of torque, a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds. The price hike to D5 is £3,200. You get a smoother engine – hard to tell from a German six-cylinder diesel. You get a D5 badge on the back, too. In passing, I saw a debadged Porsche Macan the other day, with a blank rear panel where it should say Porsche and Macan. It looked boring, dull. That’s what badges do to and for us.

Verdict: Keep the badges on your XC60. Be proud.