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Volvo XC60 long-term review: swipe left on Sensus

Published: 31 August 2018

► New Volvo XC60 extended test
► Living with D4 AWD Inscription Pro
► Month 3

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.

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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