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.
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 on the lightly revised version
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 now a rejuvenated proposition with the option not only of Plug-in hybrid tech but also mild hybrid 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. Now, the car's been embellished with extra media and safety technology.
Volvo offers a choice of various powerplants 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. Some will still want the one remaining diesel unit, the mild hybrid 197hp B4 variant, which only comes with AWD.
The rest of the range is petrol-powered - with various electrified options. There are two mild hybrid conventional ones - the 197hp front-driven B4 and the AWD 250hp B5 hybrid. 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. Those Plug-in hybrid Recharge XC60 variants come in two flavours: there's the T6 variant (with a 350hp output); or the T8 model (with a 455hp output).
If you were to place entertaining driving dynamics as a priority for your premium-badged mid-sized SUV, then let's be honest, this Volvo probably wouldn't be the first model you'd turn to. But you shouldn't gauge from that an expectation that this XC60 will be a complete duffer when the road turns twisty. It's very far from that, this model described as 'confident and predictable', which is what we've found it to be and precisely what most likely buyers will want it to be. There's unruffled poise and exemplary refinement, plus you get supple standards of ride comfort from the multi-link rear suspension. A standard 'Drive Mode Settings' driving dynamics system allows you to tailor throttle response, steering feel and shift timings from the standard 8-speed auto gearbox to suit the way you want to drive.
Design and Build
This lightly revised version of the second generation XC60 isn't visually very much different. Volvo has slightly tweaked the styling of the front new grille and the front bumpers and added fresh exterior colour and wheel options. As before, this mid-sized SUV shares the same Scalable Product Architecture platform as we've seen in most of Volvo's recent models, including its larger XC90 sibling.
At the wheel, you sit lower than you would in an XC90 and the muscular-looking door creases and the extended 'Thor's Hammer' headlights give this model quite a sporty 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.
Key to the changes made with this revised model is the introduction of Volvo's latest Android-powered infotainment system with Google apps and services built in. This intuitive, next-generation infotainment system offers customers unprecedented personalisation and unparalleled connectivity. This is further enhanced through the introduction of a brand-new Digital Services package, the centrepiece of which is access to Google apps and services, which offer hands-free help with Google Assistant, best-in-class navigation through Google Maps and a broad offer of native in-car apps via Google Play.
In the back, two adults should be very comfortable thanks to a relatively lengthy wheelbase. 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 483-litre boot (468-litre with the PHEV version), extendable to 1,410-litres (1,395-litres for the PHEV) once you fold the rear bench.
Market and Model
Prices start at around £45,000 and range up to just under £65,000. AWD and auto transmission feature on all models and there are three main levels of trim - base 'Core', then 'Plus' and finally 'Ultimate'. 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.
Safety-wise, this XC60 now comes equipped with Volvo Cars' latest Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensor platform, a modern, scalable active safety system that consists of an array of radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors. This platform enables the development and deployment of active safety systems in the XC60, such as the detection of other road users, and automatic braking and collision avoidance. It also allows for gentle driver support from standstill up to highway speeds, through the Pilot Assist function.
As before, 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.
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 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. The B4 AWD diesel model is capable of achieving up to 44.1mpg on the combined cycle and up to 167g/km of CO2. For a front-driven petrol B4 mild hybrid, the figures are up to 37.1mpg and 173g/km. Or 35.7mpg and up to 180g/km for the B5 petrol AWD version.
What about the Recharge T6 and T8 plug-in variants? These both achieve an EAER-rated all-electric driving range of around 48 miles, a CO2 reading of around 24g/km and a combined cycle fuel reading of up to 282.1mpg and up to 23g/km.
Across the range, 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.