IT LOOKS, it has to be said, slightly ridiculous, and just a little perilous. The wide white rump of the XC60 hustles left, then right, as Wheels deputy editor Andy Enright hurls it up the twisting mountain road at ten tenths, body roll and squealing Pirellis doing little to slow his rate of progress.
I’m following closely behind in a Ferrari 812 Superfast, watching in amused silence as next to me, photographer Nathan Jacobs asks in a puzzled voice, “That is a family SUV, right?”
Welcome to the corkscrew-esque piece of tarmac that runs up from the Thomson Dam reservoir in Gippsland, Vic, and to a glimpse into next month’s feature drive of the 812SF.
The Volvo is along as the support car, partly because it has sublimely comfy seats and a big boot to lug camera gear about, but mostly because I wanted to give my trusty long-termer one final drive; a balls-out farewell on some of Victoria’s best driving roads before it heads back to Volvo HQ. That’s right; having occupied these pages for seven serene, incident-free months, this is the last time you’ll read about DQC55W. I’m more than a bit sad about that.
It’s the intangibles that separate the great cars from the merely very good. The fact my XC60 has proven to be a triumph of comfort, packaging and efficiency is no real surprise. It is our reigning COTY after all. What’s set it apart during its stint in the Wheels garage are the things that are harder to measure.
The sense of quality imbued by the cabin, for instance, not just from the materials and how well it’s screwed together, but by the beautiful and uniquely Scandinavian design. It’s also extremely well insulated. Road and tyre noise are nicely suppressed and in EV mode, it verges on tranquil, the silence and comfort rarely troubled by poor road surfaces despite enormous 21-inch wheels (providing you tick the $2500 option for air suspension).
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In many ways it feels the antithesis of its German competitor set. Where a BMW or Audi can feel brash or austere, the XC60 is warm, textural and to my eyes, a deeply attractive SUV, inside and out.
And then there’s its ability to surprise. With Enright turfed out, I climb in for a final blast along the jinking test route, the drive mode switched to Power, this month’s fuel number thrown to the wind. It’s brutally proficient when pedalled hard. Push it right to the edge and there’s no escaping its 2174kg heft, or its breath of bodyroll as the weight transfers, but the steering is accurate (if remote), and its roadholding steadfast. The way it obliterates mid-corner bumps is enormously impressive too, the suspension simply pounding them into submission without upsetting the balance or knocking you off line.
There is an underlying sense that it’s a car you admire more than you enjoy at ten-tenths, but what you lose in ultimate dynamic connection you more than make up in everyday usability and comfort.
It’s an imposingly well-rounded package, this XC60, though no car is perfect. At this juncture it’s normal practise for a Wheels journalist to don their product planning hat and to wax lyrical about what they’d change on their long-termer to improve it.
My only question mark surrounds the value proposition of the T8 powertrain. There’s no doubting its efficiency (see breakout, above left), or the ease and intuition with which it combines a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four with an eight-speed automatic and a 10.4kWh battery-powered motor.
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But is it really worth the $16K premium over a similarly specced T6 R-Design, which uses the same high-output four-pot, sans the electric gubbins? Even if the T6 uses twice the fuel, it’d take more than six years to recoup the initial outlay at the bowser. As much as I’ve enjoyed the battery pack’s thriftiness and effortless muscle, if it was my money, I’m not sure I’d spring for the range topper.
Still, seven months with our reigning COTY has done nothing to undermine the argument that Volvo has created the best premium mid-size SUV you can buy. If anything, it’s galvanised it.