Say “farväl" to your decades old opinion, because the Ghent built SUV from everyone’s favourite manufacturer is laudable in almost every respect.
The 2013 Volvo XC60 T5 Luxury represents as an enormous turning point for the Swedish manufacturer; not only for it’s distinctively handsome, well-resolved exterior shell, but also the XC60’s magical combination of standard inclusions, throbbing 4 cylinder Ecoboost engine and it’s ability to dive into a corner with no less composure than your regular front-drive mid sizer. It is uncomplicated to see why the XC60 is a weapon of choice for families in middle-upper class urban clusters.
Matched with the 6 speed dual-clutch transmission, or Powershift, in Ford speak, and the 177kw/320nm 2.0L four cylinder engine, the front wheel drive XC60 has enough gusto to match many current warm-hatches and embarrass loads of other unsuspecting drivers trying to drive into traffic gaps ahead. Simply, it’s got more than enough power to blow your wide brimmed hat and scarf, if you believe in some old fairytales of the typical Volvo driver. 0-100km in 8.1s and a broad wave of torque to surf make for a bonafide relaxed cruiser in all types of driving - particularly on the highway; punch the throttle and the XC will lift it’s skirt and do the dirty, as you desire.
Whilst the engine is fantastic, the entirety of the drive experience isn’t Guylian smooth. Plant your foot from the lights and you’ve got not only some slight hesitation - characteristic of the transmission type - but also a fair yet manageable amount of torque steer through the front wheels before the Powershift slurs into second gear. Once past this point, brisk progress avails and kilometres of tarmac can be happily eaten away.
The steering is delightfully meaty with some on-centre vagueness, but you can throw it happily into urban-speed corners and there’s a surprising amount of predictability with only minor understeer and body roll. For a 1.7 odd-ton family SUV, I wouldn’t expect any better. If you frequent 3 point turns, it’s also worth testing the turning circle for everyday usability, because it isn’t one of the XC60’s (or any modern Volvo’s) strong points.
As far as utility goes - it’s commendable. I’d allow it full marks if it weren’t for some very minor ergonomic and cabin-space issues. I had approached the XC60 (and recommended it to my folks) because I figured it would have an IKEA-esque level of instant familiarity once you slip in behind the wheel. Only fool’s assume it seems, because there’s an unusual kind of remoteness in the XC - "hop in and go” requires procedural thinking from the push-start button on the left of the wheel, the electronic-handbrake above your right knee, automatically dipping mirror (can be disabled) and the slightly complicated multimedia interface. It would be entirely daunting jumping from a Japanese mid-sizer from only a few years earlier and does take some time to adjust.
Otherwise the electronic tailgate, keyless entry and FANTASTIC cornering bi-xenon headlights with DRL’s built into the bumper are all excellent inclusions that can become inherently necessary once you’ve had a taste. It is a shame that there aren’t more active safety features included as standard; such as Blind Spot monitoring and Radar Cruise control, which are all option as part of Driver Assistance Packages. The adaptive digital instrument cluster with customisable themes is also a welcome and nifty party trick.
Cabin space is also brilliant in the front pews, with electric seat adjustment (heated seats were only a $300 option, as far as i’m aware). Once you jump into the back however, there isn’t a whole lot of foot room and the ride quality is slightly firmer than i’d anticipated for a Volvo. I’d not recommend the 19’s on the R-Design spec models if ride quality is high on the priority list, if the bouncy 18’s on the Luxury are anything to go by. I’d argue that a Jeep Grand Cherokee or an Audi Q5 would be more spacious in the back but the XC still trumps the CX-5 for passenger comfort, especially with the face-level air conditioning vents in the B-pillars.
Hands down, the most interesting and usable feature back there is the in-built booster seats which are entirely sensical and I can not fathom why other manufacturers haven’t followed Volvo down this path. Cabin materials, like the leather stitched dash and delightfully fashionable colour palette are beautifully crafted and provide a simple, refined yet relatively cosseting ambience. I much prefer the light leather option over the black in this model though.
Ownership costs have been NIL, besides comprehensive insurance which is no more than the Mazda6 it replaced. Included in the deal, was 3 years free fuel, servicing and road-side assistance which was a convincing sale-winner over the CX-5; Volvo runs this promotion roughly twice a year, as far as i’m aware. Although once out of warranty, it’s safe to assume that consumables such as brake pads and servicing the transmission will be above the Japanese/Korean rivals. The XC60 is averaging 10.3L/100km in mostly low-speed commuting with a lead-footed lady at the helm, which is also exactly what the Mazda6 achieved whilst she owned it before I did - impressive!
The T5 Ecoboost engine has since been replaced by Volvo’s new generation of Drive-E engines with 8 speed automatics, which should solve some of the minor gripes above, as well as improving economy to a claimed 7.0L/100km. It may also be worth looking into the D5 with AWD for a splendid family tourer, especially if you venture off the black and into the white and brown. Starting at $57,890 for the T5 Kinetic and an extra $5k for the Luxury (a worthy upgrade), it’s hard to think of a better value with a semi-prestige badge on the boot, at least until the V60 Cross Country hits our shores and provides an interesting alternative to the A4 Allroad and Superb Outdoor.