Up next:

Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review and videos

Published:24 September 2008

Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review and videos
  • At a glance
  • 3 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

London motor show video

Now, what was that movie wherein Dudley Moore played the advertising man whose copy simply told the truth? Can’t remember… But having promoted an airline on the sole basis that it ‘crashed less often than any other’, he went on to immortalise Volvos with the strap-line ‘They’re boxy… But they’re safe’.

Now swallowed whole by Ford in America, it was designer Peter Horbury who, in his own inimitable style, began the process of putting the ‘boxy’ tag to the sword. Nor was he afraid to take a tilt at the company’s legendary functionality: standing by the open tailgate of a freshly launched XC90, we were discussing the practicality of loading assorted stuff on board. ‘Oh, you wouldn’t want to do that’ he said. ‘It would make the carpets all muddy…’

Safety, however, is something on which the company has consistently failed to compromise, no matter how sexy it isn’t. And Volvo is billing the new XC60 as the safest car they’ve ever made.

So where does the XC60 fit into the Volvo line-up?

Not being one of their standard road cars in plastic nappies, like the XC70, it has more in common with the XC90. It’s based on the S80 with 200mm cut out of it, and is the same dimension shorter than the XC70.

The next step up the ladder of current design director Steve Mattin’s determination to alter the perception of Volvo design DNA from ‘Do Not Abandon’ to ‘Dramatic New Approach’, it’s really quite a handsome thing. In profile, the pinched, ‘Coke bottle’ sides that first appeared on Horbury’s S80 are even more exaggerated, whilst the SUV-ubiquitous rising belt-line is here so exaggerated that views out for small people sitting in the back are less than wholesome, incurring the B-road risk of more than mud on those carpets.

Nose and rump receive the most dramatic treatment, with a more confident grille treatment complimenting the next-generation stylisation of Volvo’s signature tail lamp cluster, now incorporating running lights like a drizzle of lava flowing over those matronly hips. Not so successful is the rear bumper, which is in danger of becoming an upturned bridge too far.

Overall, however, the effect is pretty pleasing, and makes the XC60 a worthy stylistic adversary for the likes of Audi’s Q5, BMW’s horrid little X3 and the impending gleam of Mercedes’ GLK.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Volvo XC60 first drive

Scroll down to page to the embedded player to view video of the Volvo XC60 in action     

London motor show video

And is the interior V50, or all new?

All new, and a fine place for drivers to be. Volvo continues to vie with Mercedes for the most comfortable long-haul seat honours, and the company’s floating centre console theme takes a further twist with a driver-oriented slant here. I’m still not convinced, however, that they make the best of this design, since the fresh air behind the console is crying out for some sort of netted storage function over and above the notional shelf on which not even a mascara pencil would stay put.

Nor are the engineers thrilled (said a little bird, yesterday) with this design, since all the stuff that usually crams in behind the centre console has to go elsewhere, making under-bonnet packaging a nightmare. You can see they’re already furtively stealing space back as the hole between driver and passenger wells diminishes with every generation. I understand the engineers are also fighting back on the ever decreasing size of Volvo’s legendarily big buttons, telling the felt-tip fairies that they’re not prepared to let them get any smaller.

A chunk of that S80 wheelbase reduction appears to have come out of rear seat legroom which, but for considerable divots carved out of the front seatbacks, would verge on the snug. But rear seat folding is a doddle, with adjacent seat-top levers, folding headrests and seat backs to give a respectably sized flat floor loadspace.

What’s under the bonnet?

A choice of 2.4-litre, 182bhp 5-cylinder turbodiesel or 3.0-litre, 282bhp straight-six turbocharged petrol units, both offering permanent all-wheel drive via six-speed transmissions favouring automatic boxes, manual only being available in diesel guise.

And should you opt for the diesel, I must recommend manual transmission. Not only is the diesel surprisingly noisy, with perceptible vibration making its way through helm, seat and pedals, but it’s also report-to-the-headmaster’s-office late in responding to the throttle, only acknowledging kick-down requests long after the moment has passed. In the absence of a ‘sport’ button to sharpen up the throttle mapping, this makes the cornering process far less entertaining than it should be, because Volvo has clearly benchmarked the BMW X3 here, and imbued the XC60 with tidy manners.

Body control is first class, and though the ride is undeniably firm, sufficient suppleness and pliancy still exists to ensure proceedings are never jarring. The steering’s perfectly accurate and, unlike many rivals, appropriately meaty for such a car. I managed a brief thrum in the petrol-engined T6 variant and, even though throttle lag is still there, discovered far more entertainment than I’d been expecting.

Odd that the diesel should prove less than wholesome, then. After all, this unit is hardly new. Interestingly, I have a chum with an identically powered V70, and even his Volvo garage admit that the new model is noisier than its predecessor. Perhaps insulation has been thinned to save weight in the face of increasingly lardy safety features.

Click 'Next' below to read more of our Volvo XC60 first drive

Scroll down to page to the embedded player to view video of the Volvo XC60 in action     

London motor show video

Isn't Volvo claiming this XC60 is the ‘safest Volvo yet’?

Alongside developments in ABS based stability control and anti-trailer snake systems (somewhat ironic given that Volvo dealers were actively dissuading XC90 buyers from horse box towing activities when the car was launched) the new car boasts ‘City Safety’, a system designed to prevent assorted punts up the luggage in urban environments.

Operating at speeds below 18mph, this laser-enabled, in-house technology is designed to minimise the risk of in-traffic collisions. Approach the rump of another car at a relative speed differential of less than 9mph and the system will slam on the anchors - even if you’re accelerating at the time - with sufficient alacrity to avoid a biff. Demonstrations prove unnerving because the laser only wakes up within 10 metres of your victim, but it works. Summoning the courage to try it in the real world is, however, another matter.

Coasting up behind a Swedish police car in traffic, I longed to leave the brakes alone, but simply couldn’t think what I’d say in court if the system didn’t work…

Verdict

A fine piece of work. The XC60’s comfortable, practical, dynamically confident and a good place to spend protracted periods behind the wheel. Diesel noise and throttle response niggles are the only criticisms of import, but on the basis that you have to drive 60,000 hatchback miles to make up for the added purchase price and fuel costs these days, there’s never been a better time to ditch this obsession with Dr Diesel’s dread invention.

Would you take a Volvo XC60 over a BMW, Audi or Mercedes? Click 'Add your comment' below and have your say

Scroll down to page to the embedded player to view video of the Volvo XC60 in action     

Specs

Price when new: £29,550
On sale in the UK: November 2008
Engine: 2400cc, 5-cyl turbodiesel, 182bhp @ 4000rpm, 295lb.ft @ 2000-2750rpm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Performance: 9.9 sec 0-62mph, 124mph, 34.0mpg, 219g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1990kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4628/1891/1713

Rivals

Volvo XC60 Cars for Sale

View all Volvo XC60 Cars for Sale

Volvo XC60 Leasing Deals

Photo Gallery

  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review
  • Volvo XC60 D5 (2008) CAR review

By Anthony ffrench-Constant

Contributing editor, architect, sentence constructor, amuse bouche

Comments