If you're thinking of buying a premium badged mid-sized SUV, you might not be thinking of buying a Volvo XC60. Perhaps you should be. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Think of a premium-badged mid-sized compact SUV and you probably think of something German - an Audi Q5 perhaps, or maybe a Mercedes GLC or BMW X3. We'd also suggest though, that you should be looking at the car we're going to test here, Volvo's second generation XC60. It's a rejuvenated proposition with the option not only of Plug-in hybrid tech but also mild hybrid diesel engines.
The original XC60 was the car that established Volvo in the minds of buyers in the mid-sized SUV segment. In nine years of production, it became the best selling car in its class in Europe, will nearly a million units sold annually, and accounted for 30% of Volvo's total global sales. Hence the crucial importance of this second generation which, along with the smaller XC40 model, is a key part of the Swedish marque's future SUV strategy.
This MK2 model XC60 shares its platform with its larger XC90 stablemate but isn't quite such a revolution in terms of its design as that model was at launch. Nevertheless, there's ground-breaking safety tech and smart looks that'll eat into the sales of key rivals like Audi's Q5 and the Mercedes GLC.
Volvo is offers a choice of various powerplants virtually all of which are in some way electrified - there's plenty of choice. All use the brand's advanced kinetic energy-recovery braking system and all are mated to automatic transmission. Most will want the diesels, possibly the conventional 190hp D4, which only comes in front-driven form. This unit has been joined by two mild hybrid diesel powerplants, the 197hp B4 and the 235hp B5, both of which only come with AWD. With the B5 diesel variant that many will choose, you get an ingenious system called 'PowerPulse' which is used to overcome turbo lag - that momentary delay in response you sometimes experience with powerful turbocharged diesel engines. It uses compressed air which is stored in a small tank in the engine bay and automatically replenished to spool up the turbocharger so that the car responds as soon as you press the accelerator.
Petrol people also have various electrified options: either the mild hybrid B5 petrol unit with 250hp, which comes with the choice of front or AWD. Or the mild hybrid petrol B6, which offers 300hp and comes only in AWD form. Beyond that, you step into one of the top Recharge Plug-in hybrid AWD auto models, all of which use an 87hp electric motor mated to a 2.0-litre petrol engine. The Plug-in hybrid Recharge XC60 variants come in three flavours: there's the T6 variant (based around a 253hp engine), the standard T8 model (based around a 303hp engine) and the flagship 'Polestar Engineered' version (based around a 318hp powerplant).
On the move, refinement and ride quality remain XC60 strongpoints, whichever of the engines you decide to choose beneath the bonnet. This isn't the driver's choice in the premium SUV 'D'-segment but if you judge driving enjoyment based around the lowering, not the raising of the heartbeat, then you'll probably like it very much.
Design and Build
This second generation XC60 features a more upmarket, cohesive look. It shares the same Scalable Product Architecture platform as we've seen in most of Volvo's recent models, including its larger XC90 sibling. This mid-sized premium SUV is 62mm longer, 12mm wider and 14mm lower than its predecessor and the 91mm-longer wheelbase means there's more legroom in the rear.
At the wheel, you sit lower than you would in an XC90 and the muscular-looking door creases, extended 'Thor's Hammer' headlights and revised grille give this model a sportier look. There's a longer bonnet than a rival Audi Q5 - and a longer roofline too. As you'd expect, there are plenty of cabin resemblances to the XC90, especially when it comes to the dashboard, seats and upholstery, plus the same 9.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital dial displays feature.
In the back, two adults should be very comfortable and there's also a really unique touch - concealed storage compartments under the rear seat bases which are just the right size to store electronic devices, like a tablet, out of sight. Out back, there's a 505-litre boot, extendable to 1,395-litres once you fold the rear bench.
Market and Model
Prices start at just over £40,000 and range up to just under £65,000. AWD and auto transmission features on all models and there are seven main levels of trim - base 'Momentum', then 'Inscription Expression', 'R-Design', R-Design Pro', 'Inscription' and 'Inscription Pro', plus there's a unique 'Polestar Engineered' version of the T8 Plug-in hybrid. Every version of the XC60 is very well equipped. As standard, even entry-level variants come with leather-faced upholstery, LED headlights with active high beam, two-zone climate control with a 'CleanZone' air-filtration system, heated front seats, a powered tailgate and 18" alloy wheels.
Volvo's Sensus infotainment system is also standard. This brings a 9" portrait-style touch screen, satellite navigation and an intuitive voice-activation system. It also provides access to the internet and a range of cloud-based apps such as Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and Yelp. Volvo's City Safety system is fitted to every XC60. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, and the world-first application of Steer Assist. This feature helps to avoid or limit the severity of collisions at low speeds by assisting with the steering in an emergency, such as when swerving to miss an obstacle.
Pilot Assist, Volvo's innovative semi-autonomous drive feature, is an optional extra on every XC60. It assists with the steering (up to 80mph) and takes care of the acceleration and braking required to keep the car within lane markings and at the desired cruising speed or distance from any vehicle in front.
Cost of Ownership
If you haven't checked out this MK2 model XC60 SUV recently, you might not be familiar with Volvo's latest mild hybrid diesel B4 and B5 engines. These mild hybrids offer customers Volvo's advanced kinetic energy-recovery braking system, which is coupled with its existing internal combustion engines to create a new integrated electrified powertrain. This powertrain, electrified via brake-by-wire energy recovery, offers drivers up to 15% fuel savings and emission reductions in real-world driving. The unit's brake-by-wire system interacts with the energy-recovery system and reduces fuel consumption and emissions by recovering kinetic energy under braking.
Let's get to the figures, which are all WLTP-rated. Both the B4 and B5 AWD diesel models are capable of achieving up to 45.5mpg on the combined cycle and up to 161g/km of CO2. For a front-driven petrol B5 mild hybrid, the figures are up to 37.1mpg and 174g/km. The B6 mild hybrid AWD petrol variant manages up 33.6mpg and up to 192g/km. We'll also quote you the figures for the sole conventional engine in the range, the front-driven diesel D4, which manages up to 47.0mpg and up to 158g/km.
What about the Recharge plug-in variants? These achieve an all-electric driving range of around 35 miles. The standard Recharge T6 Plug-in hybrid manages up to 122.7mpg and up to 54g/km. The standard Recharge T8 Plug-in hybrid manages up to 117.5mpg and up to 56g/km.
Service intervals are every year or 18,000 miles. Three or five year pre-paid servicing packages are available to help you budget ahead. If you pay extra for the useful 'On Call with App' remote connectivity system, this Volvo can be programmed to autonomously realise when a service is due, then automatically book it for you at a dealership of your choice. Finally, we'll tell you that the warranty is the usual three year, 60,000 mile package.
So, what do we think overall? It's certainly true that other rivals will offer a sharper driving experience than is on offer from this Volvo. And of course this XC60 won't suit if you're going to be regularly venturing off the beaten track. But neither of these issues will bother many potential buyers, people more likely to value the cruising comfort, solid build quality and standard-setting safety that this car offers.
Our advice would be to get yourself a potent mild hybrid B5 diesel model with the clever engine and smile smugly every time you see a Q5, an X3 or a GLC drive past. In this form, this XC60 is probably the best kept secret in this segment. Probably best to keep it to yourself.
Volvo's second generation XC60 shows this premium mid-sized SUV's softer side. June Neary reports.
Will It Suit Me?
Some SUVs are all about the rough and ready image, the tough looks and the chrome. Volvo's recent efforts have come at the market with slightly gentler sensibilities. The XC90 has been a big hit with its comfort, safety credentials and family-friendly interior, while the MK2 model XC60 that we look at here aims to squeeze similar attributes into a more compact package. On the face of it, the plan seems a good one.
Can we really class a 1,854kg car measuring 4,644mm in length and 1,891mm in width as a 'mid-sized' 4x4? Volvo's marketing department says we can, so we'll go with them on that one. The suspension of disbelief is made easier by the way the XC60's exterior styling disguises its bulk. This isn't an SUV from the super-aggressive chrome-spangled school and that will please buyers wanting to maintain a low profile about town. That's not to say that this isn't a handsome car. There's some attractive detailing around the bodywork and Volvo's latest styling cues are put to good use but the look from some angles is more that of a jacked-up estate than an SUV.
Like Volvo's XC90, the XC60 places a lot of emphasis on the interior and its practicality. It makes sense really. The rear seats, which offer generous quantities of legroom by the way, are split 40/20/40 and each can be folded down at the release of a catch. Parents will go all gooey over the integrated child booster cushions that are available as an option. These simply fold out of the seat base and can be set at one of two heights. Under the boot floor, there's a secure storage area that can't be opened without the tailgate being lifted, making it a great place to keep valuable items safe when the car's parked.
The general quality of the interior is also well up to snuff. The dashboard, seats and upholstery will all be familiar to recent Volvo buyers; the same 9.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital dial displays feature as in the larger XC90. Build and materials quality is tough to fault, however, and the 'Scandinavian Design' on which the manufacturer prides itself sets the XC60 apart from rivals that slavishly ape cold Germanic themes.
And so we come to the XC60's secret weapon; safety. The features on offer here include Lane-Keeping Assist, which uses a stereo digital camera, and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) which prevents low-speed rear-enders. Attention Assist Estimation sounds audible alarms and visual warnings signal if it thinks the driver is showing signs of drowsiness.
Behind the Wheel
The XC60 may be a 'mid-sized' SUV but 'mid-sized' isn't a phrase that immediately springs to mind when driving it. The vehicle feels (and is) on the large side. The 235bhp B5 mild hybrid diesel engine we tested copes very adeptly with its bulk however and the big Volvo also corners with a surprising degree of composure. Volvo also offers its own 197hp 2.0-litre diesel B4 mild hybrid unit, along with a conventional 190hp D4 diesel variant. Plus there's a T8 Twin Engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid.
Petrol people also have various electrified options: either the mild hybrid B5 petrol unit with 250hp, which comes with the choice of front or AWD. Or the mild hybrid petrol B6, which offers 300hp and comes only in AWD form. Beyond that, you step into one of the top Recharge Plug-in hybrid AWD auto models, all of which use an 87hp electric motor mated to a 2.0-litre petrol engine. The Plug-in hybrid Recharge XC60 variants come in three flavours: there's the T6 variant (based around a 253hp engine), the standard T8 model (based around a 303hp engine) and the flagship 'Polestar Engineered' version (based around a 318hp powerplant). Every XC60 comes with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard
Some of Volvo's past SUV efforts haven't been very at home in an off-road environment, but the XC60 promises to be the best of the lot. Its 216mm ground clearance is superior to some rivals, there's a 23.1-degree approach angle and a 25.5-degree departure angle. This still isn't a vehicle you'd want to tackle serious obstacles in but with torque automatically distributed between all four wheels by the Intelligent Traction 4x4 system, it should trundle down muddy tracks and take pesky gravel driveways in its stride.
Value For Money
The XC60 is priced competitively in the premium-badged SUV segment. The mainstream line-up sells primarily between £40,000 and £50,000, but it's possible to go further still if you want the kind of electrified technology that Volvo's apparently doing so much to build its future around. You (or more likely your company) will need to find a budget of between £55,000 to £65,000 to get the tax advantages of the brand's 'Recharge' Plug-in hybrid technology.
Could I Live With One?
I've driven a lot of SUVs that have left me distinctly under-whelmed. Lots of models come across as brash and overbearing but can't back that up with the comfort and practicality that family buyers need. The XC60 was a different proposition. It still retained the chunky 4x4 looks and the high driving position, which I must admit to having a soft spot for, but the practical interior and comfort factor were impressive. The fact that so many safety features are included as standard is a massive plus point too.