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Our XC60 and the state of modern Volvo

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Month 7 living with a Volvo XC60: gadgets and automatics ahoy

A mild Volvo overdose elicited by time in an XC40 in the heart of M1 roadworks en route to a drive of the new V60 got me thinking... 

Firstly, having finally swapped a foothold for a stronghold in the premium automotive arena, where does Volvo design go from here? And, secondly, does this newfound security of status automatically dictate that every Volvo should be an automatic?

On the basis that the company has only recently got all its ducts in a row and that there must now follow some years of gentle tweaking and fine-tuning before there’s any danger of inadvertently inhaling a Bangle-like design irritant, the second question is, perhaps, more interesting.

R8 aside, I can’t remember the last time I drove a manual Audi. The same applies to Mercedes, and even quick iterations of ‘the Ultimate Driving Machine’ spurn the lever these days. I mention these other premium types because unlike the transmission in our XC60, the XC40 I drove boasted a gearlever attached to just three cylinders, and I was also cornered into sampling a manual V60. In both cases it didn’t feel seemly changing gear. Perhaps I’m getting old. Certainly Volvo is growing up.

In less danger of ageing much further are the disgusting local sparrows and their errant ablutions. Mercifully, the evil-looking poo mentioned last month left no marks on the XC60’s metallic carapace. But, short of installing tiny Armitage Shanks loos throughout the capacious clematis in which the colony bickers, and teaching the birds to use them, I can see no end to this ongoing, um, issue. Thank God geese don’t live in trees.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant


Month 6 of our Volvo XC60 long-term test review: bird poo on the paintwork

Back in the day, Wandering Hand Trouble – a mobile discotheque run by two chums – disbanded after Chum A sprayed an extremely naughty four-letter word on the roof of Chum B’s Renault 5 with an aerosol of fake snow. The snow washed off okay. The word, never.

Volvo XC60 long-term test review

Learning that bird poo can have the same indelible impact on car paintwork leaves me fretting for the Volvo. Our resident house sparrow population clearly went out, en masse, for a curry the other night, and I haven’t yet plucked up the courage to find out if the aftermath of the resultant pebble-dashing is permanent.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Logbook: Volvo XC60 D4 AWD inscription Pro

Price £45,655
As tested £49,535  
Engine 1969cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm 
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive 
Performance 8.4sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 136g/km CO2 
Miles this month 381
Total 4238
Our mpg 31.8
Official mpg 54.3  
Fuel this month £67.68 
Extra costs None


Month 4 living with a Volvo XC60: jean blues

Just over 3000 miles in the XC60 and the leather of the driver's seat base is taking on a perceptible blue tinge. I believe I know why – I just can't believe it's really happening.
After absolutely no musing with magnifying glass and deerstalker whatsoever, I've determined the effect may be attributed to the denim legware purveyed to both the missus and me by one Mr Levi Strauss from California.

Now – having not specified the XC60 myself – I would indubitably not have opted for the brown hue of the upholstery out of choice. I am, nonetheless, somewhat tempted to remonstrate with Mr Strauss via my solicitors, Fawn, Fleece & Longlunch. Then again, given that Mr Strauss's jeans are barely even size-fast, there's bound to be a diminutive colour-fast rider written into the yardage of label sewn to the waistband. And surely we can't be the only Volvo drivers to ever wear Levis; did the upholstery team really not prepare for this eventuality?

Volvo XC60 front tracking

All of which brings me to the sickening realisation that, while clotted cream seat leather can lift a Ferrari interior like no other, the same cannot be said for brown in a Volvo XC60. Best to stick to something duller and darker.

In other news, when did six minutes of air suddenly cost a quid? I swear the last time I wrestled a recalcitrant pressure hose to all four corners of a car it was a mere 10p for as many minutes, but my local garage 'n' barbecue briquette emporium seems to have switched to a pricing policy more appropriate for a dive centre in a seaside tourist trap.

I mention this because, after voyages to Cornwall and Wales – both equally wet and miserable – the Volvo has decided to warn me, in a relentlessly hectoring manner, that there is insufficient air in the tyres. Unhelpfully, though, it refuses to say which one(s), or give me a psi read-out.

Ramming air in and pressing the recalibrate icon to shut it up is one thing, trying to make sense of the extensive table of options on the door frame quite another...

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Logbook: Volvo XC60 D4 AWD inscription Pro

Price £45,655
As tested £49,535  
Engine 1969cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm 
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive 
Performance 8.4sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 136g/km CO2 
Miles this month 706
Total 3048
Our mpg 30.9
Official mpg 54.3  
Fuel this month £118.51  
Extra costs None

Month 3: swipe left on Sensus

Like the most inept of Camden cutpurses, I clearly need to work on my swiping technique. How come the elder hooligan can flick free of the home screen, locate the auto stop/start function and stab it to death with an outstanding irritating insouciance while, when I try, I simply garner a vast list of DAB radio stations I shall never, ever listen to? If I am to avoid inadvertently administering a screen-distracted punt up the luggage to the car in front, there is clearly work to be done.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Price £45,655
As tested £49,535  
Engine 1969cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 8.4sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 136g/km CO2
Miles this month 734
Total 2342
Our mpg 30.6
Official mpg 54.3
Fuel this month £131.16
Extra costs None

Month 2 of our Volvo XC60 long-term test review: it's the car everybody likes

When, in an earlier round of voting, m’learned colleagues of the UK Car of the Year jury took it upon themselves to award the Performance Car gong to the most muscular iteration of the Kia Stinger, I was tempted to see just how far my toys could actually be thrown from the automotive pram. Don’t get me wrong; the Stinger’s no stinker, but a better performance car than a McLaren 570S? Seriously?

Happily, said jury has now redeemed itself by agreeing with me that the XC60 is a sufficiently Jolly Good Thing to take this year’s top slot. Moreover (and wonders will never cease), the missus is – as a motoring TV presenter who shall remain nameless insists on putting it – in ‘agreeance’, summing it up with the same enthusiasm that the baddy in RoboCop demonstrated for the Cobra Assault Cannon: ‘I LIKE it’.

Indeed, such is her overall enthusiasm that, to date, the missus’ only gripe concerns the keyfob, which has been dismissed as ‘An ugly custard cream... And the buttons are far too small.’ Happily, a quick lesson in the joys of keyless entry and start (I know, I know) have gently torpedoed the latter gripe, if not the former.

The hooligans, meanwhile, have complained of not being able to fade the sound system output more strongly towards the aft accommodation. Turns out you can do this, but not using the permanently on-screen sound adjustment panel that pertains specifically to the delicious B&W stereo installation. 

Rather than straightforward bass, treble, balance and fade adjustment, the B&W controls are dedicated solely to offering a range of enthrallingly diverse environments for your listening pleasure: studio, concert hall, jazz dive, Minack Theatre on Cornish cliffs, motorway underpass reeking of wee…

Turns out Volvo’s own sound adjustment platform, which does subscribe to the more traditional tweakage techniques, is buried deep within some sub-menu that requires a fair degree of swiping and prodding to unearth. Mercifully, being entirely au fait with an iPhone, the missus has pronounced the infotainment screen a veritable piece of piss to live with.

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Logbook: Volvo XC60 D4 AWD inscription Pro

Price £45,655
As tested £49,535  
Engine 1969cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 8.4sec 0-62mph, 127mph, 136g/km CO2
Miles this month 741  
Total 1608  
Our mpg 30.2
Official mpg 54.3  
Fuel this month £67.45  
Extra costs None


Month 1 living with a Volvo XC60: the start of our long-term test

‘Ahhh – that’s better’ sighed the missus, waving goodbye to the Car of the Year-winning Peugeot 3008 as she settled into what, by rights, should have a fair-to-middling shout at the shortlist for the next one. Yes, we're now living with the new Volvo XC60 SUV.

This is the car which confirms that Gothenburg has finally got its eider ducklings in a row on the premium pond. By which I mean that the only reason to go out there and buy an XC90 instead is for want of a bigger car; all the good stuff which heralded the arrival of the former now putting in an appearance here.

There was no opportunity to tailor this XC60 to specific ff-C family requirements (somewhere for the missus to stow her ruddy handbag other than the front passenger footwell, rear-seat central sandbag barricade, disposable earplug dispenser, gas masks, etc) merely a choice of two cars, one sporting the R-Design specification, the other Inscription Pro. 

Volvo XC60 long-term test review by CAR magazine UK

In truth, however, even an entry-level XC60 boasts more than enough bells and whistles to keep the customer satisfied; the tailoring of the artfully wrought Sensus multimedia system to individual preferences alone capable of accounting for lengths of time spent in a stationary car more usually associated with the average dogging site.

CAR lives with a Volvo XC90: read our long-term test here

Use of the 9-inch centre console touchscreen feels fast enough for mere mortals and is largely intuitive, though the cleaning cloth provided in the glove box is clearly going to earn its keep until precisely the moment it is sufficiently grease-saturated to serve merely as a smear re-arranger. In an effort to combat this, I do promise to explore the use of voice-activated control.

Ultimately, then, it came down to a choice of undercarriage, the Inscription Pro’s adaptive air suspension and 20in alloys offering a whiff more in the schmooze department that the R-Design’s firmer set-up, despite the latter sporting 19in wheels. 

Options have upped the price by less than four grand. Happily, over half of that has been splurged on a delicious, 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo, which passed Frank Zappa’s Dirty Love and wax dislodgement test with flying colours. It’s a little surprising to find smartphone integration as a £300 extra on the options list, but I suppose there may still be the occasional Outer Hebridean Volvo owner out there who might baulk at the price of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

The 187bhp generated by 2.0 litres of turbodiesel seems, at first prods of the throttle, adequate to shift 1800 kilos of car, though the XC60 can hardly be accused of yelling off the launch pad. 

Even with Dynamic mode dialled in to sharpen response to the loud pedal, the kickdown at the bottom of accelerator pedal travel appears to serve no purpose whatsoever other than to introduce a hiccup in the last inch of progress towards the Axminster. And, perhaps, account for a gently unwholesome logging of less than 30mpg at this early stage of tenure. Time will tell...

What time has already told is that the XC60 is an altogether classy act. It’s about as handsome as an SUV gets, comfortable, clever and superbly put together. It’s also pleasing the missus from the off, not least because – having become something of a car snob – she’s delighted to be back on what she considers to be premium turf. And who am I to disagree?

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Logbook: Volvo XC60 D4 AWD Inscription Pro

Price £45,655
As tested £49,535
Engine 1969cc 16v turbodiesel 4-cyl, 187bhp @ 4250rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm
Transmission 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Performance 6.5sec 0-62mph, 156mph, 146g/km CO2
Miles this month 322
Total 867
Our mpg 29.9mpg
Official mpg 54.3mpg
Fuel this month £67.45
Extra costs None

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By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

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