The Volvo XC60 has lifted the Swedish brand into genuine premium territory.
It didn’t take long behind the wheel of the 2018 Volvo XC60 to understand what all the hype is about. Much lauded since its launch into the mid-sized SUV segment around 12 months ago, the second-generation XC60 has collected a number of gongs, both locally and internationally, making it a very real and very viable alternative to a host of Euro rivals in the premium, mid-sized SUV segment.
Make no mistake, Volvo has unreservedly and unapologetically cast off the shackles of its staid past. Today’s Volvo bears as much resemblance to the Volvo of yesteryear as an apple does to an orange.
And that’s no bad thing.
Aesthetically, certainly, the new XC60 benefits from Volvo’s modern design language. Taking its cues from big brother XC90 (incidentally, the XC60 shares the same platform and underpinnings with the XC90, albeit with a shorter wheelbase), the mid-sized SUV cuts a striking figure. From Volvo’s signature ‘Thor's Hammer’ headlights back, the XC60’s lines are clean and uncluttered, lending the Volvo a contemporary air.
It’s all very Scandinavian – a design movement characterised by simplicity, minimalism and functionality, evident in everything from kettles and chairs, to furniture and interiors. And Volvo cars. All subjective, of course, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks the XC60 is anything but a good-looker.
The Volvo XC60 range is a relatively short seven SUVs long – three diesel variants, three petrol and a plug-in hybrid. Here we have an MY18 Volvo XC60 D4 Inscription, the middle rung on the diesel three-rung ladder. Priced at $66,990 plus on-road costs, it’s powered by Volvo’s Drive-E 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel with outputs of 140kW and 400Nm. Ticking a few options boxes, however, adds around $14,000 to the bottom line, making this an $80,790 (plus on-roads) proposition.
That circa $66K starting price is bang in line with diesel offerings from some of its main Euro rivals in the medium SUV segment. No wonder then, the XC60 has become the brand’s best-selling vehicle in Australia, accounting for almost 45 per cent of all Volvo sales locally year-to-date.
And stepping inside, it’s easy to see why. First impressions count, and sliding into the front row immediately offers a sense of luxury. It’s simple, uncluttered, and the materials are top-notch. The seats are finished in optional charcoal Nappa leather, perforated and ventilated ($2950), while ‘Driftwood’ accents are a little different and oh-so-Scandinavian. There’s a lightness to the interior, despite the charcoal leather, and that’s before you open the $2950 optional panoramic roof.
That minimalism extends to the XC60’s infotainment system anchored by a 9.0-inch vertically oriented touchscreen media system with voice-activated satellite-navigation, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and DAB digital radio.
That tablet-style touchscreen also serves as the hub for the car’s functions, including the four-zone climate control, which presents a bit of a bugbear, certainly for this reviewer. Want to change the temperature settings? That’ll take three submenus, thank you very much. Please, bring back old-fashioned dials for some functions. There is an old-school volume dial, so it’s not all bad. And the whole system features lovely fonts, at once crisp, clear and modern. Don’t laugh, these things matter.
Driver information is delivered via a 12.3-inch digital display and, like its infotainment cousin, is crisp and clear (and those same lovely fonts). The high-res display is also a bit clever, adjusting its brightness on the fly according to ambient lighting. There’s also a head-up display of the windscreen-projected variety and not the slightly cheap flip-up-plastic kind.
There’s an embracing comfort to the interior overall, from the electrically adjustable front seats (both with memory function) with lumbar support, bolstering and under-thigh extensions (all controlled via the touchscreen) to the back row that features its own climate controls.
That back row is spacious too, surprisingly so for a medium SUV, although the middle pew is compromised by a large transmission hump. There are the usual practical accoutrements back there as well, such as cupholders in the fold-down armrest and bottle holders in the doors. Those seats fold flat in 60:40 fashion to free up boot space. Volvo doesn’t offer boot capacity numbers with the seats folded, but with the back row in use, there’s 505 litres available. There’s a space-saver spare under the floor, while a 12V outlet is handy, as are the bag hooks.
But, for all its aesthetic finery, for all those oh-so-subtle Scandinavian design influences, the real test of the XC60 comes on the road. With SUVs – and in particular medium SUVs – now the default family hauler in Australia, they need to offer a level of comfort, space and on-road refinement. Bonus points for driver engagement. And the Volvo XC60 delivers, mostly.
That 2.0-litre twin-turbo diesel is certainly punchy enough, if not breathtaking. With an eight-speed auto sending drive to all four wheels, the D4 Inscription hustles to 100km/h in 8.4 seconds. Not Earth-shattering, but certainly enough for most people and most applications. Its party trick, though, is rolling acceleration, with that 400Nm of torque available from 1750rpm being plenty enough to propel the XC60 on with greater urgency when the need arises.
Acceleration is nice and linear too, the D4 effortlessly reaching cruising speeds with minimal fuss. And noise. It really is a very quiet SUV, even with a diesel under that stylish bonnet. There’s no telltale diesel clatter, just a soft thrum. You actually forget it’s an oiler, such is its quiet and refined nature.
That eight-speed auto is seamless too, effortlessly rifling through the gears in the hunt for efficiency. Gear changes under normal acceleration – i.e. city driving – are imperceptible, while asking the tough questions of it under hard acceleration, like during overtaking or climbing a decent hill, results in an equally as effortless and intuitive application.
That marriage between the turbo-diesel and eight-speed auto is said to return a claimed 5.4L/100km on the combined cycle.
That refinement is transferred to the XC60’s road manners, almost dreamlike in its application. There’s a suppleness to the ride that oozes comfort. There’s no fussiness over poorly surfaced roads, while the usual impediments to happy motoring, like speed humps, are dispatched with ease, the XC60 riding up and over with nary a ripple. It’s quiet too, on the road, underlining its premium aspirations, and that’s despite running on standard 20-inch alloys with 255/45 R20 Michelin rubber all ’round.
You won’t care about (the very) minimal road noise anyway, once you fire up the optional 15-speaker Bowers and Wilkins Audio System ($4500), which, taking its cues from the rest of the interior, fills the cabin with its crisp sound. It just adds another dimension to the already sophisticated interior.
Of course, this being a Volvo, safety is at the front and centre of everything it does. Remember when safety was ‘uncool’, and with that preconception, so too Volvo? Those days are long gone, with safety now a vital ingredient of any new vehicle on the market.
Unsurprisingly, the XC60 delivers with a suite of driver-assistance systems dubbed IntelliSafe, further split into three distinct areas. IntelliSafe Assist includes adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist, basically semi-autonomous driving. There’s also Driver Alert, which reminds you to take a break from driving if it senses fatigue, lane-keeping assist, and oncoming lane mitigation. That last feature steers the car out of danger if it senses a collision with an oncoming vehicle.
IntelliSafe Surround adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear collision warning, and steering assist that nudges you back towards the middle of the lane if it determines you are too close to the car alongside in the next lane. There’s also a 360-degree camera, Park Assist Pilot, emergency brake assist, and the usual array of airbags protecting front and rear occupants.
Finally, City Safety is the XC60’s party trick. That system detects a host of objects in front of the Volvo – other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals – and sends a warning to the driver. If the system then detects a collision is imminent, it will brake automatically and, if necessary, help steer the XC60 around obstacles.
There’s also steering support that detects if you are about to hit something. If you then start to steer to avoid the collision and the system deems your steering inputs are inadequate, it will increase those inputs while also applying brake pressure to both inner wheels.
Along with the XC60’s impact protection systems, it’s little wonder the Volvo earned itself a five-star ANCAP rating, including 37.3 out of a possible 38 for adult occupant protection. Safe indeed.
One area the XC60 falls down is in owner surety, with a rapidly below-par three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. While that might match key Euro rivals in the segment, five-year terms are now becoming the new standard. Servicing costs can be prepaid with Volvo’s SmartCare package that will set you back $4230 for the first five years and/or 75,000km of ownership. Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km.
Volvo has for a long time fancied itself a player in the European luxury vehicle segment, and not always with success. But with this, the XC60, Volvo finally has the tools to play confidently in that segment against rivals from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Jaguar/Land Rover. It’s at once a triumph of modern design and technology. And when married to its accomplished, if not thrilling in this particular specification, performance on the road, it’s easy to see why the XC60 has won the plaudits it has.