Volvo rolled into 2020 in spiffing shape. The Swedish brand is still expanding under Chinese ownership and investment. At some time its ascendancy has to level off but right now it is having record sales. It reached 705,452 customers in 2019, a hefty ten per cent increase on 2018. Almost half were sold in Europe and more than 56,000 came to Britain – a record since 1990 when it had the 740, 760, 940 and 960 saloons and estates and the 480 hatchback.
Today’s best sellers are its SUVs. In Britain the XC40 leads while it is the XC60, its mid-sized SUV and by no means its cheapest model, which heads world sales.
This makes good business for Volvo. The XC60 fits between the XC40 and the XC90 and brings higher ground clearance with front or all-wheel drive. At 185 inches long it is roomy enough and not too daunting to manoeuvre. All the engines are 2-litre, four-cylinder turbos, with electric assistance and a supercharger on T8 hybrid petrol models and a milder electric boost on the B4 and B5 diesel. All have automatic gears, so that is one choice you don’t make. Prices start at £37,785 for the 187bhp petrol T4 engine and front-wheel drive in a stand-alone Edition trim.
You then rise through Momentum, Momentum Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription and Inscription Pro to reach the single Polestar Engineered petrol T8 with 399bhp and a price of £64,565. Rated at 52g of CO2 because of its ability to have its electric motor charged on the mains, thus giving a potential 33 miles without tailpipe emissions, it is a strong business proposition. A 385bhp T8 rated from 47g is available in R-Design trim for £55,005 with zero annual road tax.
Good luck if you are a beginner to Volvo model specifications. Momentum is the base on which the rest are developed and equipped. You could get double vision trying to evaluate the desired model.
In short, the basic kit is good and the variations are on things like wheel size, cosmetics, interior lighting, cab trim and so on. The “Pro” tag adds heated screen washer blades, a heated steering wheel, active headlamps, adaptive air suspension and keyless operation.
All have the novelty of a twist action knob on the transmission tunnel to start and stop the engine and the convenience of a ticket clip on the screen pillar.
Volvo sent us the B5 diesel Inscription which is AWD and costs £47,935. That is the starter price but our car had a selection of things you may want to add. Are you ready with your order form? Winter kit at a reasonable £525 brought headlamp cleaners, a heated screen, heated steering wheel and the hot water wipers. Smart phone integration and Harmon Kardon audio added £850. Then £2,000 went on a full-length sunroof, robotic parking assistance, four-zone climate control and a virtual overhead parking camera with guidance lines. This is brilliant for helping you see things near the car – like bollards or wayward pets.
A temporary spare wheel added £150 and a powered drop-down towing hitch cost £1,075. Metallic denim blue paint was £675. Other bits and bobs brought the bill to £55,585.
This was a lush drive. There is sufficient power, as Rolls-Royce used to say. For example, the 0-60mph time is 6.7 seconds but I don’t bother much with wasting fuel. Of more use was the lazy surge of torque from the sequential twin turbochargers, peaking at 354lb ft between 1,750 and 2,250 rpm – the band in which you are likely to be cruising. The eight-speed automatic gearbox works discreetly.
This is not the quietest diesel engine in the sector. German six cylinders are a shade more seductive but Volvo is on a pollution mission and can rate this unit at 142g of CO2 and combined fuel consumption from 39 to 46mpg which is very decent economy for a 231bhp diesel.
After several days I was still looking for something discordant. Our fuel economy was to improve from the mid-30s to reach 52mpg on motorways and 45mpg on a regular mixed terrain commute route.
The car can be run in various modes, from Eco to Dynamic. I left it in Comfort, subtitled “everyday use”. There is also an off-road setting for speeds up to 25mph which helps with slippery surfaces by adjusting the drive systems, and brings in hill descent management. It also shows a compass and altimeter which could be vital in some regions. Serious all-weather users would want a more focussed tyre than the 235/55/19 Ecocontact treads supplied for everyday use.
Volvo doesn’t need any lessons from its German or British peers about design. The S60 saloon is possibly its finest looker, subtle and appealing. This is the car built in America’s deep south and the first modern Volvo not to have a diesel engine.
But it is the XC60 which continues to excite buyers.