► CAR's Volvo XC60 test
► First in new-gen '60' models
► Petrol, diesel & hybrid versions
Even your mum knew this car was coming but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. The rebirth of Volvo’s model range kicked off with the excellent XC90, quickly followed by the smart and distinctive S and V90 models.
It’s arguably the most important of the lot, accounting for 30 percent of the brand’s global sales with close to a million sold. Better not cock it up then.
So it’s just an XC90 with 30 knocked off all round?
Just the badge actually. Like all latest generation Volvos the XC60 is built on the Scalable Product Architecture, but the XC60 is the first one to sit on the Compact version of those bits. Eventually S60 and V60 versions will be spun off it, but for now the XC60 is the first of the breed. If you look at it positively you’re getting big-car quality on something smaller and less expensive.
It looks a lot like an XC90 too…
To be expected of course. If you’re looking for the bloodlines there’s plenty of XC90 silhouette, nose and tail treatment inspired by the V90 and a dash of the old XC60 in the C-pillar treatment.
Something of an obvious mash-up recipe on paper, perhaps, but the reality is it all comes together very tastefully, showing plenty of Volvo’s design maturity. Our test car was finished in a new shade of slightly apologetic Pine Grey and ‘only’ 20-inch wheels but still looked sharp; a white R-Design on 22s is nudging Swedish gangsta.
…and in here!
Yes, true. Given the general excellence of the cabin on the bigger cars you can’t blame Volvo for inserting a slightly shrunken version into the XC60. It feels just as special in here as you’d hope, with a soothing sweep of the dash which is pleasingly clutter-free. Just the bare essential few buttons poke through the fascia, leaving the rest of the functions to be handled by the portrait-oriented nine-inch touchscreen. Tastefully discreet and seamlessly functional; it’s hard not to be impressed.
On the space front the XC60 is also bang on the money. Of course you lose the cat-swinging luxury of the bigger car but there’s very little doubt it would swallow your life quite comfortably. The driving position is excellent, sensibly the seats major on comfort than keeping you upright and the view out is decent, too.
Does that mean it’s dull to drive then?
Don’t go jumping the gun now. On the one hand the XC60’s innards are shared with the bigger cars, but there’s a crucial difference in the tuning. Volvo says the 90 series models are designed to be confident and relaxed, whereas 60 series are intended to be confident and inspired. So now you know.
What that translates to on the road isn’t quite the difference between SE and M Sport on a BMW, but there’s no doubt that the XC60 is a bit more keen to respond should the mood take you.
In this Inscription Pro model with air suspension included, changing the drive modes has a notable effect on its behaviour but it feels significantly more willing and able to change direction than the XC90. Ultimately it’s still not going to be the driver’s choice in the class, but neither does it take home the pine wooden spoon.
There’s good news on the engine front too. The T6 model we tried seemed surprisingly weedy and grumpy considering the quoted performance, but that’s not coming to the UK. Far better was the D5 diesel, which uses the PowerPulse tech to give easily accessible torque and a more natural companion to the XC60’s demeanour. It’s pretty quiet and cruises serenely but is never short of sufficient go. The T8 will be quicker still, but pricey with it.
There's a plug-in hybrid version too, isn't there?
Yes - the T8 Twin Engine range-topper. Of course, it’s not actually twin-engined, instead using a 316bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine to power the front wheels and an 86bhp electric motor to drive the rears. Total power is 401bhp, and the T8 feels just as fast you'd expect - it's like a dragster wearing an XC60 shell.
But if you use that performance, you might see dramatically lower fuel economy figures than the on-paper 134.5mpg. We saw 27mpg on the trip computer after 600 miles and two charges. Shorter trips enable you to make the most of plugging the T8 into the mains, motoring solely on electric power for up to 28 miles. That plug-in-ability also enables tax-friendly CO2 emissions of 49g/km.
At cruising speeds the engine is smooth and the transition to and from electric power is subtle. The brakes aren't quite so smooth, though - they're fiercely over-sensitive, perhaps an undesirable side-effect of the energy recuperation system employed under braking. A little more progression would be welcome.
What else do I need to know?
Expect nothing less than a monumental tech haul as always. XC60 adds some new features like steering support for the City Safety tech; if the car detects you’re panic-steering to avoid an accident it will brake individual wheels to help you turn and even add steering, while Oncoming Lane Mitigation while steer you back in line if it detects a drift into oncoming traffic. But not that kind of drift.
In many ways, the XC60 delivers no surprises and is the shrunken XC90 we all assumed it would be. But there’s nothing wrong with that – a premium SUV of this size is what so many buyers want, and now they can have one that isn’t German to boot.
The XC60 is also refreshingly good to drive, proving that Volvo is listening to its customers (many of whom wanted a bit more dynamism) and it can deliver. It’s big on appeal inside and out, will probably be the best car of its size to have a crash in and is clever too. You can’t ask for much more...