The Volvo’s second-generation XC60 has mastered the fashionably late, yet beautifully timed entrance.
WHAT IS IT?
Volvo’s second-generation XC60 is a crucial part of the Swedish brand’s desire to expand its foothold in the premium automotive segment. The old XC60 continued to grow in sales volume right to its dying days, so this all-new car – based on the XC90’s fresh SPA platform architecture – really can’t fail, seeing it’s so vastly improved.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT
Because even in blustery winds and bucketing rain, Adelaide is a handy place to point quite a sizeable SUV towards the hills and push hard on some great driving roads. It’s also currently a great place to test ride quality, thanks to the amount of wonderfully patchy road surfaces populating the city as it reinvents its transport network.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The new XC60 has the core DNA to create a deeply impressive premium SUV, not to mention a deeply alluring one, thanks to its delightful interior design and refreshingly individual styling. Superb drivetrains too, in particular the urgent hybrid T8 and the characterful turbo-diesel. But it’s the lack of calibration finesse that undermines the XC60’s German-beating somewhat. With greater attention given to its damping control, throttle response, steering connection and the T8’s regenerative braking feel, this car could be a knock-out.
PLUS: Cutting-edge design details; interior style and finish; excellent powertrains; lush ride on air suspension; shapely seats; individuality
MINUS: Lacking in calibration finesse in a bunch of key areas; lack of steering feel; patchy ride in steel-sprung cars; light-switch regenerative braking response in T8
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IF TIMING is everything, then Volvo’s second-generation XC60 has mastered the fashionably late, yet beautifully timed entrance.
Nine years after the debut of its hugely successful, if rather unrefined and chunky predecessor, the all-new Volvo XC60 lobs at exactly the right moment to divert attention from the Range Rover Velar, BMW’s all-new X3, and Audi’s still-fresh new-gen Q5. But this Swedish SUV’s mission isn’t just about out game-playing the competition. The new XC60 also has the spec, the style, and the substance to carry off a convincing diversion tactic.
If you’re allergic to blending into the SUV crowd, then the new-gen XC60 has your design sensibility scrawled all over its shapely, beautifully detailed form. And if you think the XC60 looks much like an XC90’s younger, sexier sibling, that’s not an unreasonable comparison given that almost half of their components are shared.
Powertrains, electrical and climate-control systems, multimedia, seats, and even the dashboard to front-axle ratio are exactly as they are in the circa-2014 XC90, which debuted Volvo’s new SPA modular architecture. The biggest differences are in wheelbase – the XC60’s measuring 2865mm against 2984mm in for its leggy big bro – and overall length shrinks by 262mm.
On the road, you can feel the benefits of the XC60’s more agile form, and its chassis knows what to do in a corner. According to Hans Nilsson, the XC60’s Global Product Manager, Volvo put “a lot of emphasis on the right geometry” for the double-wishbone front and ‘Integral Axle’ rear with its composite transverse leaf spring. And while the componentry is near-identical to the XC90’s, the suspension tune’s dynamic flavour has shifted from “relaxed confidence” to “inspired confidence”.
On fast, flowing roads, the XC60’s chassis certainly conveys a planted and secure feel, while tight bends prove there’s innate poise in the way this SUV strings corners together. But not all is as rosy as it could be. The steering – while accurate and consistently weighted – has minimal true feel, meaning you rely solely on the seat of your pants when hustling the XC60 at speed. And the damping on the two XC60s we drove with fixed-rate suspension – D4 and T5 Inscriptions, each wearing 255/45R20 Michelin Latitudes – felt unresolved. Supple at times, with mostly acceptable body control, the standard XC60 is prone to over-reacting to potholes and sizeable hits.
Much like the XC90, the air-suspended T8 with adaptive damping does a highly convincing job of making the XC60 feel plush. At urban speeds on some truly rubbish surfaces, the T8’s 255/40R21 Pirelli P Zeros wafted over the calamity raging beneath when set to its Everyday suspension mode. But there’s a lot more pitch and dive than the standard car, especially when asking for everything this 300kW/640Nm lead-sled has to offer.
Nailing 100km/h in 5.3sec sees the XC60 T8 lift its nose and charge seamlessly forward, accompanied by a small amount of torque steer but also seriously urgent forward momentum. It sounds good too – sweetly raspy, but with enough meat to mirror the performance – though the T8’s regenerative braking response requires an almost tantric delicacy of touch. Its stoppers feel laughably over-sensitive on initial acquaintance, especially for other road users wondering what’s going on in the next lane, and why you aren’t wearing your L-plates.
Of the non-hybrid pair, it’s the excellent 140kW/400Nm turbo-diesel D4 that impressed us more than the 187kW/350Nm turbo-petrol T5. There’s something about the D4’s delightfully refined, characterful and torquey nature that suits the XC60’s personality better than the performance-primed T5, especially in Dynamic drive mode. While the sportier mode firms up the steering to an acceptable degree, it turns the T5’s throttle pedal into a virtual light-switch, much like the T8’s braking set-up. But it somehow suits the diesel’s more relaxed delivery and character.
Super-sweet engines and excellent eight-speed Aisin-Warner automatics aside, where the XC60 really nails the brief is inside its cabin. Get your head around its control layout – particularly the multiple layers and modes of the swipe-and-push touchscreen – and there’s a fine mix of functionality and design, such as the trim-insert sweep of the dash and the little Swedish flag on the left-hand side of the chrome centre strip that disguises an expansion joint. Great seats too, especially with optional under-thigh extenders in the front, though Volvo’s trademark built-in rear booster seats won’t be available until early 2018. There’s even laptop holders underneath the front buckets and both rows mix enveloping, supportive comfort with competitive room.
As expected, the XC60’s safety suite is vast, including semi-autonomous Pilot Assist that does a pretty good job steering itself (briefly) on well-marked freeways, though if you need any of this stuff to help you drive then you clearly can’t, or shouldn’t be.
There’s also a swathe of options, with some packages representing pretty decent value, such as the T8’s Premium Pack ($7500), which includes heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, laminated side windows, the aforementioned electric under-thigh cushion extenders, adaptive air suspension and an absolutely cracking Bowers & Wilkins stereo with seriously meaty bass.
And that’s the thing with the XC60 – there’s so much to play with in terms of trim level (Momentum, Inscription, R-Design), powertrain, equipment and trim that by virtue of its aesthetic desirability alone, you can see why punters might flock to Volvo’s chic new premium-medium SUV.
Even the base D4 at $59,990 delivers plenty for the money. It’s just a pity that the finessing of the XC60’s engineering calibrations can’t also be optioned in.
Model Volvo XC60 T8 R-Design
Engine 1969cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo, S/C + battery
Max power 235kW @ 5700rpm + 65kW @ 7000rpm
Max torque 400Nm @ 2200-5400rpm + 240Nm @ 0-3000rpm
Transmission 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h 5.3sec (claimed)
On sale Now