2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review

2009 Volvo XC60 – First Steer

“Not only does it look the goods but Volvo’s newest arrival, the XC60 crossover, is arguably the world’s safest car”

Driven: Volvo XC60 D5 – $57,950 / XC60 T6 – $64,950

If I told you to drive at 15km/h towards the slower moving car in front of you, and not to brake if you see the car stop, you would have me committed for psychiatric evaluation before being confined to a padded cell.

Well that’s precisely what we did this week on a closed track under instructions from a senior Volvo technician. He even told me to look at him and not the road, as I drove Volvo’s new XC60 towards the bright orange blow up car.

Miraculously, the XC60 came to a dead stop albeit suddenly, and way beyond my comfort zone some 40 centimetres or less, from the blow up car.

This same scenario can happen to anyone driving in stop/star peak hour traffic. A millisecond lapse in concentration. The car in front slams on its brakes …

2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review

But if you’re lucky enough to be driving a Volvo XC60 at around 15km/h give or take, and not watching the road ahead as the car in front stops suddenly, chances are you won’t crash.

A few years ago this was pure science fiction, not any more. It’s a world first for Volvo and it’s called “City Safety”. Equally impressive, is the fact that it’s a standard feature across the entire XC60 line up.

Its quite ingenious, there’s a laser sensor integrated into the top of the windscreen that can sense if a vehicle within 6-8 metres in front is moving slower or at a standstill. If the speed differential between two cars is less than 16km/h, then “City Safety” will brake the XC60 to a standstill, thus avoiding a nasty shunt.

If the speed differential is greater than 15km/h the system may not stop the car fully, but will at least reduce the speed and therefore, the severity of the impact.

We tried this at just over 20km/h as we drove towards a giant airbag attached to a boom on a moving vehicle and again, with my foot on the accelerator “City Safety” braked the car and avoided a crash.

The New South Wales motorist’s organisation, the NRMA, is impressed too, with premiums for XC60 said to be up to 20 percent cheaper than it would be if it didn’t have the technology.

My test car was armed with every bit of high-tech safety wizardry that Volvo could squeeze into this mid-size crossover, but none impressed me more than their Lane Departure Warning (LDW). This piece of technology could save you and your passenger’s lives.

2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review

You’re punting along at speeds over 65km/h and for whatever reason; the car starts to wander into the lane next to you, its happened to all of us at one time or another.

Volvo’s system uses a digital camera to monitor lane markings and the car’s position on the road. If your car strays out of its lane, three audible beeps will alert you before a potential incident occurs. It’s a brilliant system, which works exactly as described.

If someone mentions ‘safety’ and ‘car’ in the same sentence, you think Volvo; they own automotive safety, outright, but with the XC60 – they may well have made a clean sweep for the best-styled, mid-size SUV too.

Coupe-like in appearance, and very close to the stunning XC60 Concept car it was based upon, it’s the first Volvo penned by British born Steve Mattin, who’s achievements include the original Mercedes-Benz A-Class and the first version of the current Mercedes-Benz SL.

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Pages: 1,2,3,4

It’s an impressive looking vehicle with its sweptback design, muscular stance and low roofline.

It was another Brit, Peter Horbury, who dragged Volvo away from the “boxy” look with cars such as the V70, S80 and more recently, the stylish C30.

2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review

Mr Mattin has done a superb job with the XC60, which pushes the design envelope beyond that of Volvo’s brand evolution, while there’s absolutely no mistaking it for, well, a Volvo.

I have no doubt that the overall styling of the XC60 will be equally as important to the buyer as it’s class-leading collision avoidance systems. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that this new Crossover will become Volvo’s biggest selling model in a very short time.

It drives well too, as we clocked up over 500 kilometres on the launch program, with equal time spent in both the diesel powered D5 and the high performance turbocharged petrol engine T6.

I can’t say that Volvo’s five-cylinder, 20-valve, turbocharged, diesel is a class leader in terms of refinement and torque curve, but it more than gets the job done with 136kW and 400Nm. The problem being, peak torque is only available between 2000-2750rpm, so it sort of runs out steam a little too early for my liking.

But it’s relatively quiet and for a vehicle that weighs a hefty 1880kg, fuel consumption over a 190 kilometre run, at the speed limit, was a reasonably frugal 9.0-litres per 100 kilometres.

Volvo quote ADR combined fuel consumption for the 2.4-litre D5 at 8.3-L/100km, and I’m quite sure that would be achievable during a normal weekly driving pattern. We were pushing the XC60 quite hard at times and weren’t overly concerned with economy.

2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review

Volvo’s six-speed adaptive Geartronic is a smooth enough gearbox, although I find it to be rather slow shifting.

That may not be much of a concern in the future, as I have it on good authority that a dual-clutch sequential gearbox is under test and frankly, it can’t come soon enough.

Given much of the terrain on our drive was both winding and undulating, I favoured the manual shift option over much of the route, which allowed me to get more out of the engine by shifting higher up in the rev range than would normally occur in auto mode.

No such tactics were required behind the wheel of the XC60 T6, not with 210kW and 400Nm on tap across an exceptionally wide torque curve  from 1500-4800rpm.

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With almost no turbo lag when you punch it, the T6 will run down 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds whereas the D5, while not exactly slow, needs 9.9 seconds for the same sprint.

It’s a 3.0-litre, in-line, six-cylinder with forced induction via a twin-scroll turbocharger that spools up under minimal exhaust gas pressure thereby improving throttle response at all revs.

Naturally, it’s thirstier than the D5, using up to 15L/100kms if driven with a moderately heavy right foot. That said it might well achieve the published 11.3L/100kms ( ADR combined) when engaged in light urban duties.

2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review
2009 Volvo XC60 Review

Both engines have a throaty engine note under load and comply with Euro 4 emission standards.

If the XC60’s performance can be considered good, the ride and handling package developed for the vehicle is outstanding.

More sports car than a mid-size SUV is how I would describe this vehicle’s ability to attack multiple bends and tight corners at considerable pace, without any discernible body roll.

You can feel the stiffness in this chassis, and that’s been the case with most of the Volvo range of the past few years, but the handling dynamics built into the XC60 have had some extra attention, with even higher levels of torsional rigidity and an almost perfect suspension calibration for the variable road conditions in Australia.

We covered a fair few kilometres on some hard packed and bone dry dirt roads, and it was just as stable on that surface.

Equally, it’s not like the D5 I drove was fitted with anything special in the wheel and tyre department. Shod with the standard package of 17-inch alloys and a set of 235/65 series tyres, which aren’t exactly low profile and yet, the grip under load through some snake like bends was mighty impressive.

With this level of roadholding you could be forgiven for expecting the XC60 to deliver a firm ride, but it’s quite the opposite. The chassis and suspension package eliminate any hint of harshness, making for a comfortable if not luxurious experience.

You can option 18-inch wheels with a set of 235/60 series tyres on the D5, they’re standard on the D5 LE and T6, and despite feeling slightly more planted on the road than the 17s, ride comfort did not appear to be compromised in any way.

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I’ve heard some rumblings about Volvo steering systems being numb and not direct enough but then again, I’ve heard the same criticism about Audi too.

It’s mostly unfounded as far as I’m concerned, and the XC60 proves the point. There’s plenty of meaty feel through the steering wheel even from dead centre, and the electro-hydraulic set-up is quick to respond.

You can also opt for the speed-sensitive power steering across the XC60 line-up for $800, which provides various levels of power assistance dependant on your speed at any given time. Obviously the quicker you are travelling, the less assistance required.

Like all Volvo’s I’ve driven in recent years, which includes the S40, XC90, S80 and C30, the build quality surpasses one or two of the German marques.

It’s the same story with the interior styling, superb materials styled in an uncluttered manner with the piece de resistance being the floating console that is now angled towards the driver – it’s absolutely first class.

My only issue is the extremely comfortable Volvo seats, which never seem to have enough side bolster to hold you firmly in the seat when cornering at highway speeds. Whilst the leather is beautifully soft, I found myself sliding around too often.

Switchgear is well laid out and in easy reach of the driver, while materials and plastics are all high grade.

It’s always a pleasure to get back in a Volvo fitted with their Premium Sound System, comprising 12 high end Dynaudio speakers that produces an astonishing sound with full range clarity at any volume.

There’s also plenty of room for five adults with a massive load area when all other seats are folded flat, meaning you can fit your three metre Malibu inside the cabin.

“Steve Mattin’s first car at Volvo is a winner. The XC60 pushes the brand way beyond safety and onto the podium for class leading style, functionality and driveability”

  • HAL

    Absolutely love it – I think I may have finally found my next car. Still looks very S40 at the front (am I mistaken or has the S40 been around in it’s current shape for a very long time now?), while the rear window looks very C30.

    The comments about the torque of the disel engine are slightly disappointing though, as are the auto gearbox comments. Given the apparent finish standards and safety systems, $57K seems a relative bargain, when compared to what the Q5 will likely cost. But as I haven’t seen any specs on the Q5, I’m only guessing that these will be competing in roughly the same market.

  • HAL

    oh, and I saw these in Scandanavia at Christmas. My brother-in-law lives right around the corner from a volvo dealer in Oslo, and these are simply stunning in the flesh.

  • TonyB

    I’m looking to replace my 3-4 year old XC70 this year and this XC60 and Audi’s Q5 are on the top of my list. As I’ve stated elsewhere I think the XC60 looks better than the Q5, both on the outside and inside. Its with its engines that the Q5 will have the edge. If I end up settling on the XC60 I think I’ll be waiting for the new D5 diesel to make its way into XC60 – probably for the 2010 model.

  • riceboy

    when are they going to stuff the Yamaha V8 in it?

  • Cupid Stunt

    Class act. Although the D5 engine is getting on a bit now. I would ecpect 150Kw from that size of engine nowadays. Euro 4 is old hat now with many diesel donks already meeting Euro 5 two years ago.

  • pious

    I’d be very interested in one if the new s60 wasnt coming out next year. We have had an s40T5 for nearly 5 years (came out in June 04, HAL), and (after some teething issues) it has been a great car. I drove it in a D5, and I thought that was a brilliant engine, except for the engine note, which was horrible. The Q5 is the obvious competitor, but strewth it is one ugly car. I would have expected the XC60 to be a little quicker in the T6, but I think that Volvo tend to understate specs a little now, because their published specs on the s60R were somewhat enthusiastic, so it could be that it is fractionally faster.

  • TonyB

    Cupid Stunt – thats exactly what the new D5 engine is – Euro V compliant with 151kW/420Nm. And with slightly improved fuel economy. Volvo say it will be in the FWD S80 by mid-year but have been quite on when they will match to an AWD. As I say, hopefully by the 2010 model.

  • KC

    Hellloooooooo best new family car.

  • NotTheStig

    As much as I love my (new) XC70, I wouldn’t buy a XC60.

    Although they have great new technology (which will filter down to other models), I just hate the dashboard. Don’t like the “pod” on top and the blank area if you don’t get Nav.

    The XC60 also weighs the same as the 70 and gets the same economy etc but you get less space (for almost the same cost).

    The rear quarter view with the small high up windows won’t be great either…

    Not impressed with any part of it apart from the new tech. I would buy a Q5 over one of these…

  • Buck

    Its a class act but then again it has to compete with the new Audi Q5 which has the thoroughly likeable 3.0 diesel with 170KW and 500nm through a seven speed DSG gearbox, good for 0-100 in 6.5 seconds and using only 7.7 litres per 100km.

    Now if only you could have the Audi engine and gearbox technology, combined with the Volvo’s safety equipment and arguably slightly more stylish exterior….

  • t39

    Q5: 7 speed DSG, doubl-wishbone virtual pivot front suspension, high proportion of Aluminium and Magnasium parts, advanced & economic diesel and petrol engines.

    XC60: 6 speed traditional auto, simple strut front suspension, steel Mondeo platform, choice of fast but thirsty petrol or moderately econimical but gruff older generation diesel.

    Volvo strategy = use a safety gimmick and nice styling to mask the lack of true premium components in the car.

  • Devil666

    T39, I’m gonna have to say you are bang on the money here, although that XC60 is rather pretty inside.

    Can’t believe people are saying it looks better than the Q5 outside…. They must have just gotten off the bong….

    Pitty the new rear ending technology won’t stop you from getting rear ended haha.

  • NotTheStig

    Look at the “thickness” of sheetmetal between the bottom edge of the rear quarter window and the top of the wheel arch – HUGE ! It is ugly both inside and out…

    I forgot to say earlier about the dash – check out all the mismatched angles going in all directions with different curves – just looks a real hodgepodge IMHO. Nothing like the elegant design of the V70/S80 etc.

    BTW. For non sporty driving, the lack of DSG isn’t a huge issue. Have you looking into the service/repair costs ? – It isn’t nice compared to a conventional auto…

  • Richard

    I too am looking at purchasing a new car this year. Seriously will be looking at XC60, Q5 when in dealerships….as well as Murano and Freelander 2… certainly not the X3 though! I agree with T39, but Volvo and Audi are approaching it slightly different ways…Audi: sportier style and drive, Volvo: More of a design statement than anything else…citysafety was bound to be invented sometime but they chose the XC60 to debu it on. Both are well priced…except for some of the options…but that was expected. I’m interested to see how they both fair….

  • Anthony

    I have been fortunate enough to see this car in the flesh albeit wrapt up in plastic. The car looks fantastic inside and out, and it looks like the ideal family car. I have 2 concerns as Im not too car smart. lol

    1. is the diesel luxury or the petrol is a better option. 2. the other concern with this vehicle would be the repair costs, servicing & parts – is it true that volvo are expensive to maintain? Especially with the new technology i.e city safety & lane changing, im assuming this would be expensive to repair if broken.

    Help needed!

  • pious

    Anthony, I have owned 5 ovlovs over a long time – a 760 (crud, cost me a bomb to maintain), s40 1.8 (good car no problems but dreadfully slow), C70T5 (loved it no problems), s40T5 (teething problems fixed under warranty, no issues since, owned 4 1/2 yrs plus), s60R (my baby, no problems ever, though there were a few things fixed under warranty I didnt even know about). Volvo service have been really good with me, but stay away from mods. They have a 3 year warranty that seems pretty good (only issue I had not covered was a burned disc stuck in the console that cost a few hundred to get out). Sometimes it can take volvo a while to come up with software fixes, and just about all of the problems seem to be software related these days. You can buy another 2 – 3 year warranty on the expiration of the 3 year warranty – cost about $1500 from memory, but you get that back pro rata if you sell. I’d buy another volvo in a flash.

    On diesel of petrol, depends on your lifestyle and how far you drive. I wouldnt bother with diesel unless I was driving 500km plus per week, personally. They sound like crud, and they are slowwwwwwww, but that might be just me. Also the diesel pumps are always dirty and oily – yukko for a prissy boy like me! Pro diesel is that the engines tend to last longer, and they are cheaper to run.

  • Bavarian Missile (.)(.)

    Yep good stuff Pious and very helpful.

    I remember having the workshop years ago and what the guys would say when an old Volvo rocked it,they would draw straws on who was going to fix it.

    Times have a changed, at that time I was driving a 535 Executive and could never have seen myself in a Volvo,4 years later I was in an estate wagon. V70 2.5T ,great car gave it heaps ,broke the trans in it {not that expensive to replace,found a good secondhand one for $1800 }Luckily they are now available in AWD ,will be my next new wagon !

    Had some great gadgets I have to say and for the cost of it I thought great value.

    Volvos another brand thats come a huge way in 10 years.

  • NotTheStig

    Make sure you look into if you can qualify for Corp Purchase (I did). Free servicing for 3yr/100,000kms makes running one quite reasonable…

  • *****PRIMO!*****

    Make not a iota of difference that this *may* be the safest-car-in-the-world, ITS TO EXPENSIVE.

    Put 100 females infront of this and a BMW X3 and see which one they will take, BMW, EVERY TIME.

    Needs to be $45k, otherwise its just going to be a small selling orphan…..

    Good for us that buy 2nd hand!!

    N/A V6 stripped model to follow, *could* reach $45k??



  • *****PRIMO!*****


  • Hjalle

    If they sold this for about $45K it would be competing with the V50 which is a smaller car so it wodulnt make any sence they would just be shooting themselves in the foot but marketing it along side the xc70 makes sence becuase this is more stylish and city orientated, so if you want the crossover look for the city youd get this if you want a good offroader you would get the XC70.

    I think it is a nice handsome looking car and looking forward to seeing it at MIMS. I think that the price is fine, and i think it would make a great family car it is just abit small for me.

  • freddy

    Buck said:
    Now if only you could have the Audi engine and gearbox technology, combined with the Volvo’s safety equipment and arguably slightly more stylish exterior….

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ll probably opt for the Q5 (still waiting a little anxiously for prices on options – never enjoyable with Audi), but if I do I will always wish the Audi could be a little better looking …

  • http://fordnewsblog.wordpress.com Ben

    Hmm… Sounds like a great vehicle… Will have to look into it…

  • http://caradvice.com.au Alan

    Yes Freddy – Q5 has the engineering AND the looks over the XC60. Q5 prices are on the Audi.com.au website – $60k start……..but it’s the price of options that stings.
    Also worth a look at the Tiguan – a little smaller, but considerably cheaper, and a pretty good car, judging by the numerous rave reviews.

  • http://sunshinevolvo.com.au Will

    Forget Q5 guys! The D5 in this is better than XC70/90. BTW, the Q5 that it comets with is the weezy, 2.0 TDI which is $2,000 more with less kit. And thats not even bringing in the fact Volvo has the only safety feature of its kind fitted. Before you say gimmick, test it first before you make any judgement. I have just been 3 days away training on this car with Volvo, and after spending 3 years with both BMW and Audi, i will tell you, they have plenty to fear about this car. Just google XC60 and see that Audi Q5 appears topof the list. The Germans know how good this car is. Do yourself a favour, do not buy a competitor without first driving the XC60!!! Don’t say you weren’t told.

  • TonyB

    Will, of course a 2.4l 5-cylinder diesel is always going to be better than a 2.0l 4-cylinder diesel. On the issue of price, where the Q5 2.0 TDI is much more competitive is the fact that its options list escapes the 33% LCT up to the $75,000 mark while the XC60 is paying the LCT on all options. Even a moderately loaded Q5 3.0l diesel is looking at over $90,000 OTR. Subject of course to test drives of both, my heart is still with the diesel XC60 but if need be, I’m happy to wait 12 months for the new D5 engine to come along.

  • http://caradvice.com.au Alan

    I disagree Tony – not ‘better’ – just more powerful. The 2.4 litre is 20% greater in capacity……yet only delivers 12% more power & 14% more torque…..and the Q5 torque delivery is more usable (ref the attached test). 2.0 TDI is not at all ‘weezy’ Will – in fact it’s quite sophisticated……and imminently drive-able. Maybe the 2010 upgraded D5 will be better than this one.
    The XC60 is substantially heavier than the Q5 – and correspondingly much thirstier. That’s a result of the superior engineering. The XC60’s pre-collision warning is no gimmick – it’s very worthwhile……but is it enuf to turn me to the Volvo?……it’s not enuf to overcome that rear end styling. Q5’s attributes & looks are in front. We’ll see what the test drive reveals.

  • WQN

    You guys are mad to think that the XC60 styling can be beaten by the Q5. Audi’s Q5 is an ugly duckling version of the lumpy Q’E’7. In the flesh the Volvo is an awesome design. Be very intersting to see the drive comparison with the Q5, as the Volvo is said to be the best handling ever. Volvo has to be one of the coolest sleeper brands in the world – i’d have one in an instant!

  • TonyB

    Hello, knock, knock – is anyone home there at Volvo Aust. They have a product here in the XC60 which is getting rave reviews (as far as reviews of Volvos go), I saw the first TV add for it during Top Gear on Monday night (as silly as the ad was), and yet there is still no information on prices and options on the Volvo Aust website. By contrast, despite the fact that Audi is not releasing the Q5 for another two months or so, they already have all the pricing and option information for the Q5 on their website. Yes I know you can piece together the XC60 prices and option cost from the various on-line reviews and the options are pretty much in line with for the XC70 D5/LE & V70 T6, but it would be useful to have the official information for comparison with the Q5.

  • pious

    yeah, like the volvo interactive website they invited me to join which I couldnt find on the web. They really only roll the arm over in Oz, I think because they have such a crap image here they dont really try. I am constantly underwhelmed when I make enquiries of the dealers (local, and with nearby city dealers) – you are hard pressed to even get a call back in response to an enquiry. When I was looking at the XC60 a few months ago (they had a non complied one in Oz) I wandered around it with my wife like a fool for 10 minutes and no salesman even came up to talk to me. I was feral. It’s no wonder you dont see so many of them here.

  • http://caradvice.com.au Alan

    Yep – gotta agree……….Volvo’s always been a bit try-hard. They never quite get the complete package right – it’s either great dynamics with a lousy engine, or the right engine (eg V8) in a sloppy body (XC90).
    If they get some decent engines in the XC60 we might have a contender. And as for the present hype of ‘Australia’s safest car’, how do you reckon S Class owners feel about that title?? A clever 30km/h crash avoidance system does not elevate the vehicle ahead of the game. (…not sure how many injuries are sustained in sub 30km’h front-to-rear collisions.)

  • pious

    Well I just drove on of these in the T6, and I reckon they are hot hot hot. The ride is good (what, a volvo with a good ride?) though it didnt have low profiles, the acceleration is brilliant and right off the mark, no lag at all, and the steering was excellent too. Much, much better than I expected, and the interior (plain black upholstery) was nice. Even a great engine note under heavy acceleration, with good braking. A very good effort overall. Best new volvo since the s40T5, IMO.

  • Anthony

    Has anyone had a chance to test drive the diesel? I went down to the dealer and they have all sold out of stock – next shipment due around June 09

  • TonyB

    Probably wont get around to test driving either the XC60 or Q5 until later this year when I get serious about my next car. But based on sitting in them both and adding up the comparative cost of equally optioned cars, I must say the Volvo is ahead on points at this stage.

    My biggest gripe about both the XC60 and the Q5 is the issue of the spare wheel. Both have got space-saver spares and literally no room for a full size spare. And worse, in talking with both Volvo and Audi there is no option for a full size spare. With the amount of country driving – alot of it at night or at weekends – I simply will not accept anything else except a full size spare. So unless an solution is found between now and when I get around to my next car (and a full size spare strapped to the roof is not my idea of a solution), unfortunelately both these cars will be off my list.

  • Barry

    Anybody thought about waiting for next years X3? I really like what volvo and audi are offering in these vehicles ..but I just wonder if they are both a little pricey for thier respective brands (i’m talking more about the 3.2 volvo and 3.0 TDI audi in this case) …. i hate to think that it would cost me around $90k to put the audi on the road – in this environment you could negotiate your way into an X5 demonstrator …arguably a much better proposition with somebody else having paid for the fancy and expensivce add-on’s (I know the X5 is not everyones cup-of-tea – but just making some realistic pricing observations)

    I want a vehicle like this for family – but I’m not going anywhere near $80 – 90k to make it happen …. that’s seconhand 06 boxster S money 😉

  • Pious

    A matter of taste, I think. I dont like the look of the X3 (or the Q5 actually). I like the X5 but it is a big car – too big for me or the missus. The XC-60 will probably depreciate heavily (like all volvos) although I think all cars will do that. I was massively impressed by the XC60 to drive, after being underwhelmed by it to look at, but I love all things volvo. BTW, I dont think you will fit the family in the boxter!

  • Anthony

    Well im officialy a bloody volvo driver, never thought i would see the day. But after various weekends searching car yards and putting up with uninterested salesman, i decided to go with the XC60.

    I test drove a D5 and thought it was brilliant. The interior is easy on the eye and i got a great deal after adding on the tekpak.

    Wont be ready to pick up until June 09….the wait is killing me!