Although a premium compact crossover has been described as being unfaithful to Volvo’s DNA by some commentators, the reality is that such a vehicle perfectly fits the company’s long-standing focus on quality, practicality and safety. In fact, it’s a natural evolution for a company that has spent decades developing hiked-up station wagons for more rural folk. The fact that this type of vehicle has now become fashionable as well is just pure luck, and judging by first impressions of the brand’s new Volvo XC60, the accountants at HQ in Sweden must be rubbing their hands together in anticipation.
Attractive design for Volvo XC60Boasting curves in all the right places and a particularly sexy rear-end, the Volvo XC60 exterior design could not be further removed from the boxy wagons of the past. It’s a very striking car, with a contrasting silver front airdam and rear skid plate adding to the classy appearance. Those who see the Volvo XC60 for the first time often commentate that it’s bigger than they had anticipated. At 4 627 mm in length, and measuring 1 888 mm in width and 1 713 mm in height, it certainly casts a substantial shadow. Considering its heavy on-road bias, the 230 mm ground clearance represents another welcome surprise.
The generous dimensions (2 774 mm wheelbase) have allowed Volvo’s designers to create a very spacious cabin packed with goodies and upmarket materials. Cabin space all-round is impressive, with particularly rear legroom raising an eyebrow or two. The boot is also well-sized and shaped, and overall utility space (with the rear seats folded down), probably best in this class. The only negative from a packaging point of view is the adoption of a space-saver spare wheel.
Where the Volvo XC60 really hits a rival such as BMW’s X3 for a six is in its facia execution. Boasting the most handsome interpretation yet of Volvo’s free-standing “centre stack” design, the big news is the adoption of some very high-class materials, including a number of different wood trims and leathers. Whatever is chosen, the appearance is classy, subtly sporty and “premium”. Where it perhaps falls slightly short is in the ergonomics department – there are a multitude of buttons and although they’re always neatly grouped, hitting the right one on the move does not always come easily. With so many new features to discover, perhaps it is time that Volvo considers a rival system for BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI?
That said, comfort levels for everyone but in particular the driver are high. The driver’s chair is electrically adjustable (including height) and boasts three memory settings, as well as manual lumbar support. Dual-zone climate control is standard, and rear passengers have their own ventilation outlets. Also included on the standard features roster are; cruise control, six airbags, sound system with auxiliary support, auto-dimming interior mirror, park assist and auto wipers. The optional extras available are mind-boggling in their sophistication and include the likes of collision warning with automatic braking and lane departure warning systems. City Safety is another interesting safety feature – it limits the likelihood of city-speed (30 km/h) fender benders by automatically applying the brakes if the driver doesn’t respond in time.
Hot-hatch performanceThis Volvo XC60 3,0T model is powered by a turbocharged version of Volvo’s in-line six-cylinder, 3,0-litre engine. It delivers class-leading outputs of 210 kW and 400 Nm of torque, giving it real live-wire performance. The 0-100 km/h sprint is completed in a hot-hatch rivalling 7,5 seconds, accompanied by a nice snarl from the engine. Unfortunately there is a price to pay for this performance at the fuel pumps – a figure of close to 13 litres/100 km is realistic.
The engine is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission which offers a Sport mode and manual shifting, but even in its default position delivers smooth, considered shift points. The Volvo XC60 utilises a permanent all-wheel drive system and a Haldex coupling to shift power to the wheels that have the best traction. There is no low-range or Land Rover-rivalling Terrain Response system, but nevertheless the Volvo XC60 is a competent off-roader, with the high ground clearance, good low-down torque and smooth transmission playing important roles. Limiting adventures off the beaten track to some extent is the long front overhang.
On the road the Volvo XC60 is simply superb. There’s a feeling of refinement and smoothness that greatly contribute to a comfortable cabin environment. Multi-link suspension is used at the rear, with anti-roll bars fitted at both ends to keep body movement in check. Consequently the Volvo XC60 corners with great composure and deals with road imperfections with confidence.
Volvo XC60 - VerdictThe first problem the Volvo XC60 faces is market resistance to expensive Volvos. It is an undeniably good car, but its high price will be difficult to swallow for South Africans who are well aware of the poor resale value of past pricey examples of this brand. It’s an unfair reality, because the Volvo XC60 is a convincing new segment leader, at least until Audi joins the party with its eagerly anticipated Q5.
- Safety focus
- Attractive design
- Spacious interior
- Fuel thirst
Engine: 3,0-litre, six-cylinder, turbopetrol
Power: 210 kW @ 5 600 rpm
Torque: 400 Nm @ 1 500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 210 km/h
0-100 km/h: 7,5 seconds
Fuel economy: 11,7 litres/100 km
- BMW X3 xDrive30i Steptronic: Recently upgraded and as good as ever, but can’t match the Volvo’s refinement and high-tech new gadgets. Dynamically still the best in class (on-road).
- Land Rover Freelander II HSE Automaic: Slightly smaller than the Volvo XC60, but boasts superb off-road ability, more than enough power and a long standard specification list even though it is not as sophisticated. The Land Rover badge also has considerable appeal.
- Volkswagen Touareg 3,6 FSI Tiptronic: A bigger vehicle at a similar price. The Touareg may not have a premium badge on the bonnet but hits back with an enviable on-/off-road balance and spacious, well-made cabin.