James realises he can't pull off shabby chic, so takes the Volvo XC60 in search of a good shave.
Life is full of things we have almost done.
I’ve almost been to Japan, I’ve almost got a tattoo, and I’ve almost bought a Volvo XC60 – twice.
Each of these things has eluded me for various reasons (in the case of the tattoo, we’ll call it ‘common sense’). But getting my hands on Volvo’s medium SUV for another weekend was a chance to see if it could be third time lucky for the Swedish brand.
This leads me to another thing I’ve almost done, and that’s grow a good beard.
As I write this, a number of the CarAdvice team are engaged in Movember. It is a chance to let your Y chromosome shine and sport some facial decorations for 30-days, raising money for men’s health. That is, if you can.
Here’s the sad fact of the matter… growing reasonable face fuzz is not a choice, it is a privilege. Some of us can, and some of us just can’t. And I fall squarely into the latter.
A few weeks ago, I had been travelling and found myself too busy (read: lazy) to shave. In fact, I hadn’t shaved for almost a month. I was at a crossroads and decided not to yield and instead made the conscious effort to hit that hirsute path at full throttle. “I can do it”, I told myself. “I can grow a good looking beard.”
But alas, stepping out to the supermarket, I caught my reflection in the Volvo’s window and decided enough was enough. The ‘growth’ had to go.
What in my mind had me looking like a taller but rounder Dan Bilzerian, was in reality a look more befitting the Unabomber. Unkempt and greying, I could have been Tom Hanks from Castaway (assuming there was some solid eating to be had on the island).
Gilette have followed BMW’s path of throwing more and more blades/turbos at their products, but not even the quad-bladed engineering of the Mach 3 Turbo Power was going to help me clear the accumulated fluff. I needed some professional help.
The Volvo and I then set off to find a barber who could provide an open blade shave – on a Sunday.
I’ve always been a fan of the Volvo XC60’s design. The model launched in Australia in 2009 and received a mid-life facelift late last year, scoring a revised nose and some interior refinements.
To be frank, the Swedish style is what almost sold me both times before.
The shape and size are very well proportioned and it always looks smart in a Scandinavian sort of way. It manages to pull off the generic two-box SUV design while being unmistakably a Volvo.
Inside, the XC60 has an excellent driving position and the standard Volvo trait of having tremendously comfortable seats.
Ergonomics are very good, with clear instruments ahead and the floating centre console providing all buttons within easy reach.
The controls on the floating console are reasonably self-explanatory but there are a lot of things going on there and it does take a while to get used to everything – I did hang up on a call instead of backing out of a menu a couple of times.
I have a minor gripe with the dash instruments too. You can select one of three displays – ‘Elegance’, ‘Performance’ or ‘Eco’ – with each being accompanied by different colour schemes and layouts. Eco shows your ‘eco guide’ driving behaviour, Performance your power usage and Elegance a linear tachometer.
However, only Performance will give you a digital speed read out. I know this sounds silly, but in Melbourne where you have to watch your speed like a hawk, a digital display comes in handy. Why should Volvo drivers concerned about their eco driving habits not have access to this feature? Insert appropriate Volvo driver joke here… but you get my point.
The high-resolution seven-inch media screen is recessed in the dash, which protects it from glare, but it does feel a bit small and has dated the interior somewhat.
Crossing town in search of my much needed barber, the Volvo is perhaps a smidge firm for a family hauler and will jiggle a bit on cobbles and big bumps. For the most part, though, it feels solid and reassuringly safe.
Speaking of safe, there are so many safety system acronyms on this car, the spec sheet reads like an IKEA catalogue – ACC, CWAB, AHB, RSI, LDW, BLIS, FCW, CTA and of course ABS and DSTC.
Enroute, the blind spot detection system beeps and flashes, my approach speeds are governed by more visible and audible warnings, and I know that should make a wayward glance out the window at the wrong time, the XC60 will do its best to stop and avoid a collision.
While the ‘City Safe’ Autonomous Emergency Braking system been standard on the XC60 since launch, most of the new safety technology has to be optioned (falling under the $5000 Driver Assistance Package) to give your XC60 the full gamut of road safety tech the brand has worked so hard to become so well known for.
Adding this, plus some of the nicer luxury components such as a panoramic roof ($2650), metallic paint ($1750), heated seats ($300) or bigger 20-inch wheels ($1825), can see the Volvo’s list price increase considerably.
My Bluetooth discussions with directory assistance complete (for the young uns, that’s what we used before Siri came along), I had learned that you need a specific licence to offer a barbershop shave, and most people with such a licence don’t work Sundays.
Thankfully, for me and anyone who saw me pre-shave, the Barber of Seville in Richmond is open and had time to sort me out.
Miss Five, happy on her integrated rear booster seat (another feature that has previously almost clinched the deal for the car), is only too happy to stop and chug back a baby chino while binge watching some TV episodes on her iPad (genetics at work).
I settle into the chair and relax for my cutthroat shave. I’m pretty sure the ‘cut throat’ name alone would quell any need to flinch, but it’s actually a very relaxing process.
Barely an episode of Ben and Holly later, the bristles are gone and my beargryllsian days of looking rugged and ‘cool’ are over. Miss Five crushes any further dreams I had of hipsterdom by saying, “That’s better, now don’t do it again.”
I return to the Volvo XC60 looking less like I stole it and slip back into the conservative dad-zone I’m clearly much better at.
On the drive home, the XC60 continues to feel right… So why don’t I own one?
The first time I almost bought one, I overestimated the virility of my loins and imagined a slightly larger family unit and instead opted for the big brother XC90. The second time was a perfect example of the salesman snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. He was too difficult to deal with, so we went to another brand.
Third time’s the charm? Maybe.
The Volvo XC60 is a very nice family car but it’s by no means perfect. It’s a bit firm on the bigger wheels and does feel a bit old in parts. The 158kW/440Nm 2.4-litre turbo-diesel, though, is quiet and economical and punchy enough for most situations. Personally, I would lean towards the 242kW/480Nm T6 R-Design, but that’s another story…
I can’t help but like the XC60, and a number of friends who have bought them on my recommendation have been very happy with their choice.
It’s car change time next year, and there will be stiff competition from the new XC90, but as a contender, the Volvo XC60 is still in the running. I’m not getting a tattoo and can’t see a trip to Japan but I might yet cross this one off the ‘almost’ list.