2017 Volvo XC60 T5 R-Design review

Rating: 7.0
$63,990 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
  • ANCAP Rating
There's an all-new version around the corner, but the 2017 Volvo XC60 remains a solid option for buyers in the market for a premium, family-friendly SUV.
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The 2017 Volvo XC60 will be the last of its generation before an all-new model arrives later this year.

That car, 2018 Volvo XC60 (review here), will be new in nearly every way: there’ll be new engines and gearboxes, a new interior, new architecture and a new look. But the current model – aged as it is – remains a solid, family-friendly SUV with plenty of likeable attributes.

We recently had the 2017 Volvo XC60 T5 R-Design through the CarAdvice garage as a sort of reconnaissance revisit ahead of the new model’s international launch in a few months time. We'll have a first-drive review of that new-generation XC60 this week, so it seems fitting that we take a last look here at the current model.

The list price of the T5 R-Design is $63,990 plus on-road costs, which is a $2000 premium over the T5 Luxury model. Being at the end of its life-cycle, we’d expect you’ll find fairly strong deals in Volvo showrooms around the country.

For the extra spend on the R-Design, you get an array of R-Design-specific parts, including leather sports seats, floor mats, a leather steering wheel with metal inlay, illuminated shift knob, black headlining, and sports pedals. The exterior is differentiated by 20-inch wheels (as opposed to 19s on the Luxury), silver sill trims on the windows, and an R-Design body kit.

While the game has certainly moved on in terms of styling in the segment – exhibits include the new Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Range Rover Evoque and upcoming Velar, and Jaguar F-Pace – there are reasons you could consider snapping up one of these first-generation models.

If you can get a deal, you’ll be able to choose from the T5 and T6 petrol versions, or a D4 or D5 diesel. The higher the power output, the higher the number in that alphanumeric combo.

Both petrol models are powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, in differing states of tune – in the T5 tested here there is 180kW of power (at 5500rpm) and 350Nm of torque (from 1500-4800rpm). All the petrol models have an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and every XC60 on sale features permanent all-wheel drive.

It's a peppy engine, and it gets you away from a standstill relatively rapidly, provided the stop-start system hasn’t kicked in. If it has, you might notice a slight stumble on re-fire, but if it hasn’t you might see yourself hit highway pace in about 7.2 seconds flat.

You’ll need to have the gear-shifter in Sport mode to make that happen, as it makes a massive difference to forward progress. If that’s not your thing, the XC60 will saunter along without hassle, with the eight-speed auto doing a good job of selecting gears appropriate to the situation: we only caught it out once or twice, where it was eager to hold a higher gear to seek better fuel consumption.

On that topic, the brand claims the T5 will use 7.9 litres per 100 kilometres, but we saw no lower than 10.9L/100km during our time in the car.

The XC60 isn’t just heavy on juice – it’s also hefty on the road. It feels heavy in corners, and it certainly isn’t a driver’s SUV, no matter how sporty the R-Design looks. It lacks the deftness of the best SUVs in the class in terms of dynamism, with the car’s heavy steering also showing up kickback over bumps.

The steering has reasonable feel to it, it just lacks the intrinsic accuracy and control of, say, a BMW X3 or Jaguar F-Pace. The tyres – Pirelli Scorpion Zero 255/45/20s – didn’t encourage much confidence on a damp mountain road during our test, either.

At urban speeds the suspension can be clumsy, lacking subtlety over broken surfaces and crashing down into potholes. That’s not such an issue at higher speeds, though.

When it launched back in 2009, the XC60 was lauded for its comfort, cleverness and interior fit and finish, and over its time on sale it has been updated and upgraded, but the core competencies have remained. Its competitors have caught up, though, and indeed overtaken on some fronts.

The seat comfort up front and in the back remains very good, and the quality of the materials used throughout, not to mention the way everything is put together, is excellent. Some elements have aged notably: the old button-laden media interface is simple enough to use, but the new tablet system (as seen in the 90 Series models) will be a revelation.

We had no issues with the Bluetooth, which connected and reconnected quickly, and the audio streaming was fine. Another new addition we can expect in the next model is Apple CarPlay, which is absent in this version, and a couple more USB ports – there’s only one in the centre console of this XC60.

The driver information screen remains a highlight – its bold, clear digital speedometer is excellent, though the 5km/h increments for the cruise control may get on your nerves if you do a lot of distance driving.

Volvo remains the only brand on the market with the very clever integrated booster seats in the second row, which are – by all accounts – a godsend for parents: no need to shuffle the booster from car to car, just pull the toggle under the seat base and a section pops up and locks in place. If the little ones are in child seats, there are dual ISOFIX anchor points and three top-tether attachments.

There are rear air-vents in the B-pillars, meaning the middle-seater might miss out on air-flow – the model, in some specs, has both pillar and console vents.

For adults, the amount of rear seat space is adequate but not excessive: toe room is fine and so is knee room, though the shape of the front seats means shin-room is a little tight. Headroom is good, and while there is a slight tunnel intrusion in the floor pan, three across isn’t as much a squeeze as you might think.

Storage is good throughout the cabin: the rear seat has a fold down armrest with a small storage box and cup-holders, while the rear door pockets are big enough for two 600mL bottles per door. There are dual map pockets in the back, while up front there are large cup-holders between the seats, a shallow storage area behind the ‘bridge’ console area, and large door pockets, though they don’t have sculpted bottle holsters.

The boot of the Volvo XC60 is 495 litres in capacity, with access via an electric boot release. The cargo hold itself is a decent size – deep and wide, with a low load-in lip making it handy for prams and pushbikes, with four tie-down hooks to keep things secure. There’s a temporary spare under the floor, and a boot-mounted 12-volt port, too.

If you’re shopping for a Volvo, there’s a chance safety is high on your list of priorities. The brand’s City Safety low-speed autonomous emergency braking system is standard, and so is blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, as well as a rear-view camera (with a strange 1:1 square display) and front and rear parking sensors. Airbags tally six: dual front, front side, full-length curtain.

Our car also had the optional $1500 Driver Alert System with lane departure warning, automated high-beam control (which worked decently on dark country roads), forward collision warning and road sign info (which showed up 130km/h on a 100km/h stretch of Sydney motorway). Another safety option fitted to our test car was the $3000 adaptive cruise control system with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

If you’re shopping cars that are already in stock locally, make sure this stuff is included, and aim to get it for as little as you can on top of the standard retail price. The game has moved on, and competitors are increasingly offering this sort of equipment at no cost.

Volvo offers two forms of its pre-purchase servicing packs for its cars: the more affordable SmartCare and the more comprehensive SmartCare Plus. For SmartCare on the petrol XC60 you get oil, oil and air filters, brake fluid, and sump plug washer included in the servicing, and you can choose cover spanning three years/45,000km ($2180), four years/60,000km ($3295) or five years/75,000km ($4025).

The more comprehensive SmartCare Plus cover adds wiper blades, pollen filters, brake pads and brake discs as required, and wheel alignments – across the same intervals, it costs $2915, or $6800, or $8275. Hey, if you need a further bargaining chip, considering asking for a service pack as part of the price…

The 2017 Volvo XC60 T5 R-Design is certainly ready for replacement. It is still a good SUV with some family-friendly charms that others just can’t match, and if outright driving panache isn’t that big a deal to you, and you can get a bargain on one, you should certainly consider it. You could do a lot worse.

Click the Gallery tab above, or here, for more images by Sam Venn.

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