There’s been a renaissance at Volvo. From a brand point of view, comfort, safety and security is cool again, potentially helped by the rise and hipster popularity of Scandinavian culture in general. Volvo are of course giants in promoting this. Additionally, from a purely manufacturing point of view, they’re now creating cars the quality of which can genuinely rival those from Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Land Rover. Back in 2010, eyebrows were raised at a Chinese takeover, but thank goodness it went through. Volvo came back from the brink of irrelevance and is more than firing on all cylinders again. I travelled to the Peak District to check out the revitalised XC60.
The XC60 is definitely a Volvo. From the beautifully sculptured rear to the grill and daytime running lights that now stretch the horizonal length of the front-end, it’s a sharp looking car that pulls off a wider and more aggressive look than its predeccesors. It’s shorter and lower than its big sister, but slightly wider than Jaguar’s rival in the F-Pace, which means that its super roomy inside. Even without too much thought, the XC60 feels class leading in this respect. The car’s based on the manufacturer’s ‘Scalable Architecture Platform’ and this allows a lot of customisation in the way the car is put together. It shares the engines, lots of the tech and much of the core structure of the XC90.
Volvo likes to use the word ‘confidence,’ and that’s displayed in spades with the new XC60. The outside is sensitive to its roots in the XC90, and there’s no huge surprises, but there’s an argument to say this is a better looking car again than many in the sector. It’s not exactly daring or challenging, but it is attractive and progressive, in a refined Scandi sort of way.
Engines comes in the form of the D4 and the D5 and Volvo have kept it delightfully simple in this department. As in the XC90, there’s a high-performance T8 on the way soon, but most buyers will opt for the diesel variants over the somewhat thirsty petrol T5. Performance is brisk with 188bhp in the D4 and 232bhp in the D5, and although the car’s so big you’ll never feel like you’re setting the world on fire, progress is swift. The 8-speed gearbox is as assured as you’d expect it to be.
Ride & Handling
The air suspension on the XC60 is beautifully composed, but it is quite an expensive optional extra. Standard fit springs are still good, and over good roads Volvo’s traditional supple, smooth ride turns into a positive wafting. There’s the odd jolt on town roads, which can occasionally be mildly disconcerting, but in general over motorway drives the ride and comfort is an absolute pleasure.
From the outside, the diesel engines aren’t the quietest, but inside there’s enough padding around you to reduce them to a whisper and the car holds the road well, even when using the majority of the 232bhp on offer. Like most cars of this size, there is a small amount of roll and it is noticeable when pushing on, but it’s not troubling generally. It doesn’t really feel sporty in the way the relative Audi would, however.
Trim Levels & Living with it
Inside, like the XC60, the cabin has been well thought out and it’s fantastic to see some superb finishing touches, like the Swedish flag, integrated into the stitching on the dash. Volvo have opted for a full touchscreen option, which although it’s great and works well, doesn’t really do it for me when you compare it to the controllers that similar brands have adopted. That being said, nothing causes too much trouble, and the inbuilt navigation is excellent. It’s a tablet style system, so apps can be downloaded and on my test, Spotify worked well and was easy to navigate. There’s a cost-option CD player available, if you’re up for it, too. There’s a focus on rear passenger comfort, and is has meant the boot is now a little smaller. There are still plenty of options though, and the seats fold in all the ways you’d want them to.
There are 3 different trim levels, Momentum, R-Design and Inscription, and there’s now a ‘pro’ option, which is a good idea, and essentially allows buyers to cherry-pick things from higher trim levels rather than going the whole hog. In practise it looks like it’ll work – the sunroof for example is something from a higher trim level I can see people wanting to include on the Momentum. This however does create a small problem for Volvo in that there’s really very little reason to opt for the higher spec models. Momentum should be more than enough for most people, and at this level you still get cruise, automatic everythings, lovely leather, DAB radio and heated seats. Not bad at all. Of course, on all levels there are a host of impressive safety features, including autonomous emergency braking and the rather impressive Pilot Assist, which is Volvo’s contribution to the future of autonomous driving. In good conditions, it seemed to work well.
Attention to detail inside and lovely build quality
Simple trim levels and engine choices. New ‘pro’ element to choose from.
Pilot Assist and motorway comfort
Price – it’s a large step up from the previous car in terms of investment
An occasionally confused ride on tough surfaces
8 speed gearbox is reluctant to change down
The Volvo is certainly good enough to be considered an excellent investment from a brand that continues to impress and perform. I loved the attention to detail, the little touches and the build quality, all of which set this car apart. What I liked less was the lack of true sporty performance and the rather steep price-tag, which starts at just the other side of 37,000 for a D4 Momentum, and quite a way the other side of 48,000 for a D5 Inscription. Expect to pay nearly 60,000 for a performance T8 – although there’s a lot of engine for your money there.
It’s a great car and it’s exciting to see the Scandinavian brand producing cars that put a smile on your face again. It’s reassuring, in an understated, Scandi way.