Volvo is a European marque with a history of making premium cars for over 80 years. The XC60 is the company's second foray into the SUV market and a 2014 update means this car is dripping with the latest in automotive technologies.
Volvo conjures visions of comfort, safety and practicality and more recently - speed. The model I tested was the XC60 D5 R-Design; which means Volvo finished a perfectly good D5 Luxury model and handed it over to the mad racing scientists at Polestar.
What they do with this car is find an extra 11kW of power and 30Nm of torque over the standard D5 and knock the 0-100km/h time down to 8.1 seconds. The twin turbo 2.4L 5 cylinder diesel isn't silky smooth like others in the luxury SUV class and it's raspy note is something Polestar have done a great job of enhancing with an excellent dual exhaust set up. While not winning ¼ mile drags, the roll-on acceleration is certainly addictive and many times I found myself having to rein in a speedy right boot.
Don't get thinking the extra tuning made this diesel thirsty either, its 70L tank is more than capable of returning over 800km and we averaged 7.8L/100km on a hilly highway drive.
I've never heard a Volvo owner complain after a long drive and I can attest that the R-Design seats are the most comfortable I've tested in a car. The leather is of a high quality and the dash and interior fit and finish are up with the best. The back seats offer a unique Volvo feature with two-stage temporary booster cushions and a centre armrest that contains cup holders and a fold out storage area. This proved invaluable on a country drive with my son arranging his lunch box and colouring materials in the middle for easy access.
When you need to get work done the XC60's rear bench folds completely flat making it ideal for hauling large items. Made even easier with a high opening button activated tailgate. It's no slouch with a trailer either; 2000kg tow rating making it an ideal family solution. The full height taillights are a handy feature in the car park with a light button on the key fob illuminating these and the day-time running lights to help me find my way back with a full trolley.
The XC60 R-Design tops the XC60 range and as such features many of Volvo's state of the art active and passive safety technology. City safety technology prevents the car colliding in low-speed traffic, two rear parking cameras made it so easy to reverse park and bi-xenon headlights use GPS and steering inputs to turn up to 15° to help see around the next bend. Combining this with state-of-the-art ABS, Traction Control and optional extras like lane departure warning and blind-spot information systems you will make no mistake, this is a 5 star safety rated car.
Unfortunately not all R-Design extras impressed. Like the flappy paddles – well placed and beautiful they don't work particularly well with a diesel engine and I found myself instead using ‘S+' with the gear leaver rather than manually working through the 6 gears. The tachometer is entirely digital which means you can change the display to suit your tastes; I'd have liked to see more than the 3 options and was amused by an “Eco” mode that showed a speedo reaching 260km/h!
Infotainment systems have quickly become a make or break item for new car buyers. The XC60 R-Design comes equipped standard with a 5 inch LCD screen and is controlled by a dial in the central binnacle. Reaching over to adjust settings became an occasional frustration as this was one of 4 dials arranged around no less than 31 buttons! The voice and steering wheel controls however are very handy options (have a car reading you a shorthand text message is hilarious).
All in all the Volvo XC60 R-Design impressed all who came near it. Stunning looks (it really is handsome with the optional 20 inch wheels), a quick and economical diesel engine and some of the most comfortable surroundings a travelling family could ask for. I would have liked the entertainment system to join the Android Auto or Apple CarPlay revolution, probably a victim of timing rather than any other constraints during the latest update.
This is the type of model a small family should shop for when opting for a single car. Sporty, luxurious, practical; plenty here for everyone to enjoy.