Volvo XC60 T6 Excel (2015) Review

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Originally launched way back in 2010, Volvo’s XC60 has matured gracefully enough to still put up a good fight in the ultra-competitive luxury crossover segment. It received a substantial update in 2013, and recently another round of refinements and upgrades were implemented. Most importantly, perhaps, Volvo has brought to market its eagerly anticipated Drive-E 2.0-litre petrol engine, which powers the topic of this evaluation, the T6 Excel.

Class-leading power

Seeing as the XC60’s design is familiar by now and there’s little change on that front, let’s deal with the new engine first. Volvo is on a major efficiency drive and is moving away from large-capacity engines. At the same time, it does not want the quest for efficiency to impact negatively on performance. With this particular engine, that has certainly not been the case.

The 2.0-litre engine is super- and turbocharged, and develops a meaty 225kW and 400Nm of torque. The maximum torque figure is already available at 2 100 rpm and remains on tap to 4 500 rpm. The purpose of the supercharger is not just to boost overall power, but to rather make sure there’s no lag at the bottom end of the power band. The engine is mated with a slick eight-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels only. Interestingly, the brand’s six-cylinder engine remains on duty in the AWD (all-wheel drive) version of the XC60.

So, how does it perform? Exceptionally well, for short. Consider that the same-price BMW X3 xDrive28i offers a paltry 180 kW and the Audi Q5 even less, and you can appreciate the fiery nature of this Swede. Mash the throttle and the steering wheel will even squirm as a result of the torque steer effect. Drive properly and you should get to 100 kph in less than seven seconds, which is really rather fast for this type of vehicle.

More important, of course, is the flexibility. Generally speaking the transmission is quick to react to throttle input, and once the chosen ratio has been hooked, the result is excellent overtaking acceleration. It is a very swift long-distance family car indeed.

And yet it is also quite efficient. Volvo claims a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 7.3L/100 km and though that is not terribly easy to achieve, a real-world figure of well below 10L/100 km is both achievable and deeply impressive considering the inherent performance capability of the engine. Many vehicles offer so-called “Eco” modes without much noticeable impact during real-world driving, but Volvo’s Eco+ function seems to be quite effective.

Loaded with technology

Volvo is certainly not pulling any punches when it comes to new technologies. You could argue that it simply has to play the tech game aggressively, seeing as its price puts it up against some pretty desirable badges.

Nevertheless, the new Sensus info-tainment system is very impressive, though Volvo needs to – and is, on its latest products – move beyond the cluttered centre stack control interface. The all-digital instrumentation panel is very attractive, and can be tailored by selecting one of the three modes; Elegance (traditional black/white), Eco (green) and Performance (red). A large variety of features are housed within the Sensus system – it can even read your text messages out to you. Another nice touch is free updates to the navigation maps… for the lifetime of the vehicle.

This being a Volvo, safety remains a high priority. As such, the brand’s City Safety feature is standard – when driving at speeds below 50 kph this feature will apply the brakes automatically when a stationary vehicle or obstacle approaches and the driver isn’t responding in time. A large number of optional extras and option packs are offered. Our T6 Excel was fitted with the Premium pack which adds R31 000 to the price and adds features such as; heated front seats, automated tailgate, front/rear park distance sensors, rear view camera, navigation with advanced voice control and a lovely Harman Kardon premium sound system, among a few other goodies.

Comfortable and practical

The rest of the XC60 T6 Excel is more familiar, yet still impressive. At 2 774 mm in length its wheelbase is still class competitive, even against a newcomer such as the (seven seat) Land Rover Discovery Sport. Rear legroom is good for this class. The boot, too, is very big, measuring 650 L. Drop the rear seats and you’ve got 1 450 L of space to work with. It’s not only the sheer numbers that are impressive – the actual shape of the loading compartment makes it a practical mover of bulky/awkwardly shaped items such as mountain bikes (without removing the wheels).

The XC60 is a comfortable daily driver, but ultimately it is most happy on the long road, where it soaks up the miles effortlessly and, in this model derivative’s case, very quickly. The ride is very supple, even on those large 18-inch wheels. There really are only two minor irritations – road noise on coarse surfaces can be a bit high, and the suspension doesn’t like transverse ridges.

Conclusion and Summary

At the price the Volvo XC60 faces a very difficult challenge, no matter how good it is. The allure of BMW, Audi, Lexus and Land Rover badges may simply be too much for most buyers. Yet, if you compare spec-for-spec and especially powertrains, this Volvo looks like a bit of a bargain. You’ll have to pay more than R100 000 extra to get the same power in a BMW X3, and there’s no such option in the new Land Rover Discovery Sport. If resale is of little concern to you, and you’re looking for a family friendly, safe and practical crossover with a bit of a performance streak, we advise you to go take a test drive of this Volvo.

Volvo XC60 T6 Excel Price in South Africa

The Volvo XC60 T6 Excel costs R629 300 and comes with a five-year/100 000 km warranty, five-year/100 000 km maintenance plan and requires servicing every 12 months/20 000 km.

Test Team's Comments

Volvo's offering is tough to beat and it's more than a match for most of its German and British rivals. The engines are all 2.0-litres in displacement and its astonishing to see the power outputs coming from such a small unit. Factor in a solid 8-speed autobox and a classy cabin, and you've got a seriously strong contender in the SUV segment- David Taylor

We Like: Build quality, Ride, Practicality, Standard features, Performance

We don’t Like: Cluttered control interface, Resale worries

Also consider: BMW X3, Audi Q5, Lexus NX

Compare the Volvo XC60 with the BMW X3 and Land Rover Discovery Sport here

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