The Volvo XC60 is arguably the best mid-sized SUV on the market, with its case strengthened by a string of international accolades including the 2018 Wheels Car of the Year.
Much of the focus is on the hero variant, the very swift T8 Hybrid range-topper, but even the relatively sedate diesel versions provide an enjoyable drive, along with the comfort and safety levels you expect from the Swedish brand.
Read next: Volvo XC60 range review
The Volvo XC60 range has two diesel powertrains, the 140kW/400Nm 2.0-litre D4, and its gutsier twin-turbo D5 sibling that produces 173kW and 480Nm of torque. After spending plenty of time with the state-of-the-art petrol-hybrid T8, we decided to hit the road in the D5 R-Design to see if twin-turbo diesel power still provides a viable, and enjoyable alternative.
The D5 is only available in the sporty R-Design spec that tops the XC60 range, with a corresponding heftier price. If you want the most powerful diesel, you’ll have to fork out for the more generous features that it’s supplied with as standard. The retail price starts at $75,990 before options, which is considerably more than the D4 in entry-level Momentum, and Inscription spec which start at $61,990 and $68,990 respectively.
The XC60 D5 R-Design we tested starts at $75,990 had a few optional extras including the $2500 Lifestyle Pack with heated front seats, panoramic sunroof, and tinted rear glass, along with powered front seat side bolstering ($450) and Crystal White Pearl premium paint ($1900) – only one colour, Ice White, doesn’t attract a premium. All this brought the retail price up to $80,840, which still represents good value against similarly equipped and performing rivals such as the BMW X3 xDrive20d and Jaguar F-Pace 20d R Sport. AWD.
The D5 powertrain is economical, with official combined fuel consumption rated at just 5.6L/100km, which is excellent for an almost 2.0-tonne luxury SUV. Our real-world driving saw that stretch to a still-respectable 7.5L/100km according to the trip computer.
The XC60 requires servicing every 15,000km. There is no capped servicing, with pricing varying between dealer networks. Hourly labour costs apply, with each service taking between 1.5 and 2.1 hours.
The R-Design spec brings a scrolling list of standard features to the Volvo XC60 D5 starting with active safety suite that includes autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, driver alert, and adjustable speed limiter and cross traffic alert.
Step inside and you’ll find a 12.3-inch portrait orientated touchscreen, Nubuck leather upholstery, metal mesh décor inlays, power adjustable front seats with cushion extensions, three-spoke R-Design leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, four-zone climate control, and ambient lighting.
You also get front and rear parking sensors, a 360-degree reversing camera, rain-sensing windscreen wipers with integrated washers, LED active bending head-lights that help you see into corners, LED daytime running lights, puddle lights, high-pressure headlight washers, hands-free powered tailgate, keyless entry and plenty of sporty R-Design interior and exterior embellishments.
The Volvo XC60 is a five-seater medium SUV.
Measuring 1.66m long and 1.90m wide, it’s deceptively big with its gangly 1.9m height and 21.6cm ground clearance making it look narrow – which you realise it isn’t the case when trying to park, though the 360-degree parking camera does make things easier.
Inside there’s plenty of leg and shoulder room, and the boot space is 505 litres, which is average for medium SUV, but there’s a wide opening that helps fit bulky loads. Fold the rear seats flat and capacity expands to 1432 litres.
The Volvo XC60 D5 weighs in at 1918kg and has a decent braked towing capacity of 2400kg.
The second-generation Volvo XC60 took the Swedish brand’s excellent reputation for safety a step further when the European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP) awarded it the highest crash rating in 2017. It excelled with “almost-perfect 98 percent” for the way it protected adults in a simulated crash. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) also gave the Volvo XC60 the maximum five-star safety rating in October 2017.
It has seven airbags: two in front of the driver and front passenger; side airbags to protect front occupants from side impacts; a driver’s knee airbag; and head-protecting curtain airbags down each side that protect even the third-row passengers. There are also ISOFIX child seat anchors for the outward rear seats.
Among the active safety aids on every XC60, there’s autonomous emergency braking that detects other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals. As well as stopping, the system will help try and steer around the object ahead of the vehicle.
Driver fatigue alert, lane-keeping assistance, blind Spot information, and cross traffic alert are also standard, as is rear collision warning that detects if you’re about to be rear-ended and tensions your seatbelts and applies the brakes after impact.
The XC60 is very comfortable, with a quiet, roomy and uncluttered cabin that looks more premium than many pricier German rivals. Front seats provide excellent support on long trips. The driver is treated to a comfortable seating position, forward vision, and pleasant touch points including the leather gear shifter and steering wheel, with the latter featuring intuitively laid out controls for phone, audio and cruise control.
The control and infotainment system has multiple layers and modes via the swipe-and-push 12.3-inch portrait touchscreen. It’s is a little confusing at first, but once you’re accustomed you’ll find it is a decent mix of functionality and design. Most vehicle and climate control settings can only be operated via the screen. While, this has reduced clutter around the dashboard and centre console, it can prove troublesome on rougher roads where you’ll be wishing there were more physical buttons.
Second-row seating is also very comfortable but legroom is limited for taller people who’ll find their shins touching the front seats. The low window line and good forward vision helps children feel less hemmed in.
The rear has its own digital climate dual-zone control display with air vents situated on the door pillar, and there’s a 12v socket for charging devices or powering auxiliary equipment.
The cabin refinement is undermined a little by standard steel suspension springs that, along with the big 21-inch wheels, lead to a ride that’s firmer than you’d expect, or want, from a luxury SUV.
ON THE ROAD
Apart from the raised driving position, the Volvo doesn’t make you feel like you’re behind the wheel of an SUV.
Apart from some inevitable turbo lag, the twin-turbo D5 has plenty of shove, with excellent acceleration, particularly in the Dynamic driving mode. It sits comfortably at higher speeds, with plenty of power in reserve to make quick overtaking a doddle.
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The steering can feel a little disconnected though. It’s accurate and consistently-geared but doesn’t offer much in the way of feedback which can sap confidence a little when entering tighter corners.
You also feel every pothole with the standard steel suspension, not helped by the wagon-wheel 21-inch rims with skinny rubber. The ride is choppy on country backroads, but reasonably composed on freeways or around town. If there’s one option box you should tick on any XC60 it’s the Active Chassis with Air Suspension, which offers a far more complaint ride and adapts to different road and driving conditions.
The XC60’s all-wheel drive helps it maintain drive on snowy or otherwise slippery sealed roads, on gravel roads and reasonably intact tracks. That said, if you were to get a flat tyre while off the beaten track, you would have to struggle home on the skinny space-saver spare.
There’s a reason the Volvo XC60 has a bulging trophy cabinet. It does almost everything well and has managed to steal the luxury SUV benchmark away from the Germans.
The Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design is one of the stand-out variants, ticking most premium SUV boxes including elegance, safety, build quality, economy and performance. The ride and handling remains vacant though, but this can be ticked off by investing $2490 in the Active Suspension Air Suspension option that transforms this very good luxury SUV into a great one.