Volvo XC60 review
The Volvo XC60 is stylish and comfortable, offering an alternative to the BMW X3 and Audi Q5
The XC60 has forged a strong reputation for comfort and safety, while the recent addition of a frugal new diesel engine means it’s also cost effective to run. Yet following a recent facelift it’s the Volvo’s smart looks that catch your attention first, and the latest interiors are equally satisfying too.
While quality isn’t quite up to the standards of Audi or BMW, the XC60’s cabin is robustly built and features plenty of soft-touch materials.
As with all Volvo models the seats are supremely comfortable and the XC60 is a very practical family car - although there isn’t a seven seat option on offer. Limited engine choices and a less than engaging driving experience are the downsides, but for all that the XC60 is a comfortable high mileage cruiser.
The Volvo XC60 is a stylish and upmarket SUV or ‘crossover’ that’s aimed squarely at rivals such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque. It was first launched in 2008, and facelifted in 2014 - becoming Volvo’s best-selling car along the way.
In Volvo’s line-up it sits beneath the XC90 which is the firm’s larger and more luxurious Range Rover challenger.
Although Volvo was bought by Chinese firm Geely in 2010, the XC60 was conceived and engineered during Ford’s ownership, so it’s built on a version of the Ford EUCD platform which also underpinned the 2007 Ford S-Max, Galaxy, and Mondeo. Relations of the same platform also sit under the Volvo S80 and V70, the 2007 Land Rover Freelander, Range Rover Evoque and 2015 Discovery Sport – among others!
With its muscular shoulderline, rising waistline and sloping roof, the XC60 certainly stands out from the crowd, and the slick design treatment continues inside. The most recent revamp extended to the adoption of Volvo’s neat TFT instrument display, while other highlights include the brand’s trademark ‘floating’ centre console and intuitive climate control graphics.
As with its upmarket rivals, the Volvo is available with either two or four-wheel drive, plus there’s the option of a new eight-speed automatic in place of the standard six-speed manual.
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There’s a limited line-up of four- and five-cylinder diesel engines, and petrol models are no longer available. The pick of the bunch is the 2.0-litre D4 powering the entry model, which delivers 179bhp yet emits just 117g/km of CO2.
There are four trim levels to choose from – SE, SE Lux, R-Design and R-Design Lux. All models can be specified in 'Nav' guise, which adds sat-nav and an onboard internet browser that can be connected to a compatible smartphone.
As long ago as 2012 Volvo showed a hybrid concept of the XC60, which shared the V60’s plug-in powertrain. Expect to see it join the line-up in due course.
Engines, performance and drive
While supremely comfortable, the Volvo XC60 can't really be called a driver's car – the best place to drive it is on the motorway.
The Volvo XC60 is very comfortable and quiet inside, and its efficient range of engines will keep your bank manager happy. Unfortunately, the Volvo XC60's electric power steering feels artificially heavy and gives very little feedback on twisty roads, but the 4x4 version is surprisingly capable off-road.
While it may not be able rival a Range Rover Evoque for go-anywhere ability, the AWD Volvo XC60 is more than capable of tackling muddy country lanes and flooded roads thanks to its four-wheel drive system, high ground clearance, strong diesel engine and hill descent control.
The Volvo XC60's new eight-speed automatic gearbox is a big improvement on the old transmission, which was jerky and slow to respond. However, it's still not quite as slick as the automatic gearbox in the BMW X3.
The Volvo XC60's high driving position gives great comfort and visibility, and grip is good, too. The pedals are light, but the weak spring in the clutch on manual models takes some getting used to. The steering is oddly weighted at times and when the XC60 is fitted with larger alloy wheels, bumps and motorway expansion joints can send big judders into the cabin.
All the engines deliver decent performance, but the newest 187bhp 2.0-litre D4 diesel provides the best blend of pace and efficiency – although you can only have it with two-wheel-drive running gear. It feels particularly strong in the mid-range, where it benefits from a muscular 400Nm torque output. However, it’s not the most refined engine, clattering noisily at idle and sounding strained when extended. Still, it settles down to a background hum at speed and will crack 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds. It’s flat out at 130mph.
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The all-wheel-drive cars can be had with two versions of a larger 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel engine. The cheapest option makes 187bhp like the 2.0-litre (and even more confusingly is also dubbed D4), but has a little more torque at 420Nm. That said, it’s a fair bit slower than the 2.0 thanks to the extra weight of the AWD kit and takes 9.6 seconds to reach sixty.
The range-topping diesel is the 217bhp D5 version of the five-cylinder 2.4, which makes 440Nm of torque and will dash from 0-60mph in 8.1 seconds on its way to 130mph, so performance is on a par with the 2.0-litre two-wheel-drive car.
While the D5 is noticeably the stronger engine of the two five-cylinders, it does feel a bit rough when compared with the smooth engines in the BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Despite its size, the Volvo XC60 is generally good in terms of running costs, and there will be especially few complaints about the 2.0-litre D4’s efficiency.
The newest engine in the XC60 line-up returns 62.8mpg and emits just 117g/km of CO2. If you want the added security of the all-wheel drive system with the five-cylinder D4, then the CO2 emissions jump to 139g/km and fuel consumption increases to 53.3mpg.
The Volvo XC60 with the diesel D5 engine is only available as a 4x4, but thanks to start-stop technology – which is fitted as standard across the range - and the six-speed manual gearbox, it returns 139g/km and 53.5mpg. With the automatic gearbox, it returns 44.1mpg along with 169g/km of CO2.
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The XC60 is quite expensive with a starting price in excess of £30,000. However, Volvo offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals, and the XC60 is well equipped as standard. There are lots of extras to choose from too, including a Polestar performance pack, which offers performance, suspension and styling upgrades at reasonable cost.
With insurance groups from 28 to 31 the XC60 range is more costly to insure than the Audi Q5 which is grouped from 22 for ‘cooking’ models, although the 300bhp-plus 3.0 TDI Quattro takes you up to group 41.
The BMW X3 groups start at 30 though, and the lowest group for the Discovery Sport is 33.
The XC60 is a reasonably costly proposition, but if you’re thinking of a business lease then contract hire rates are better than for many of its rivals. That fact is not unconnected to the likely availability of worthwhile discounts for private buyers too. Depreciation is only average for the class, so any savings you can haggle for up front will be valuable.
Interior, design and technology
Volvo's revamp brought the XC60 visually up-to-date with the rest of the modern Volvo range as it was updated at the same time as other models in the Swedish manufacturer's line-up. The main design improvements Volvo made to the XC60 were at front end with the bonnet, grille and front-end getting a sleek new look.
Overall the effect it to turn the XC60 into a surprisingly stylish looking SUV, which favours curves and subtle creases rather imposing straight lines and lots of rugged plastic body cladding which was more the look that the pre-facelift model wore.
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The Volvo XC60's interior is also neatly designed, with simple controls and an elegant floating centre console design. All the switches feel sturdy and built to last, and the seats are incredibly comfortable. One neat feature is the Volvo’s climate control layout, which uses an intuitive pictogram for the air distribution control.
The customisable TFT digital dials also look great, while the options list includes an ambient lighting package and a heated steering wheel for cold winter days.
The flagship XC60 R Design also gets a chunky, sports orientated bodykit and a stiff sports suspension set-up.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The XC60 comes with 45W DAB radio as standard, with USB and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a 5 inch colour display.
Upgrading to the Sensus Connect system gives you a 7-inch screen, access to the internet, DVD player and hard drive for music storage – as well as sat-nav with lifetime updates. It also brings the top-of-the-range DAB sound system engineered by Harman Kardon. Called Premium Sound, it has a 130W amplifier and digital ‘sound stage’ technology.
The award-winning Sensus system also has voice activation and works with a range of mapping and communications apps, as well as allowing engine remote start, and remote controlled pre-heating or cooling of the cabin.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
While Volvo's 2013 facelift of the XC60 refreshed its looks, it certainly didn't sacrifice practicality.
Jump into the front seats and you’ll immediately appreciate the spacious surroundings, and even very tall drivers are accommodated on comfortable seats with plenty of headroom. Visibility out is great, as you would expect from the raised driving position.
You might also notice that the Volvo XC60's door bins are a little small, but overall the cabin has plenty of places for a family to store their odds and ends. There are also numerous cupholders, plus a handily sited USB socket located in the lidded armrest between the front seats.
There are three seats in the back, but a third row isn’t available. You’ll have to upgrade to the Volvo XC90 for that. (Or buy a Nissan X-Trail.)
The Volvo XC90 is 4,627mm long and 1,888mm wide, so very similarly proportioned to cars like the BMW X3 and Nissan X-Trail. However it’s significantly longer than the Range Rover Evoque, which is 43,55mm, albeit the Volvo is not quite as wide. Like all its rivals it enjoys a raised ride height which is so much part of the class appeal.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
It's worth noting that headroom isn't great for taller passengers in the rear, but there's plenty of legroom and it doesn't feel cramped, either. Three can sit abreast quite comfortably, and the rear seat is noticeably wider than that in the BMW X3, for example.
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Isofix points are standard, and there’s also an optional family pack which adds integrated child booster cushions (and power child locks) for a reasonable £245.
The Volvo XC60's boot is a large 494 litres and that's just up to the load cover. If you cram it with stuff to the roofline, that'll increase to 655 litres. When you fold the seats forward, the boot-space further increases to 1,455 litres.
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The XC60's 40/20/40 split rear seats are handy, and they fold flat so sliding objects in and out through the big tailgate is no problem.
Towing capacity is decent too, with the 2.0 2WD models able to pull up to 1600kgs, while the 5-cylinder powered AWD models can tow up to 2,000kgs. However, bigger-engined rivals like the BMW X3 30d can pull up to 2,400kgs.
Reliability and Safety
Volvo is a firm that's always been renowned for its strong reliability and safety, so a five star Euro NCAP rating should be no surprise. Even though the test was carried out in 2009 before more NCAP’s stringent regime was introduced, we’d expect the XC60 to do similarly well if retested today.
The Volvo XC60's Safety equipment is superb, with entry-level SE versions getting five different electronic braking aids, dual-stage airbags, traction control, hill descent control, an inflatable curtain for side impacts and a range of security features. Volvo's City Safety system is also included, which will automatically apply the brakes if it senses an impending collision and the driver doesn’t react in time. It is, however, worth noting that the system only works at speeds less than 19mph.
Other safety-related features include adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera and park-assist, active high beam headlamps, blind spot warning and lane-keeping aid – the XC60 really does have all the safety angles covered.
In spite of a great early performance – in the top 10 – the XC60 has been slipping in recent Driver Power Surveys. It ranked 66th overall out of 150 cars in 2014, and 107th in 2015 – placing only 139th for reliability. However the car has been around for a while, so a drift down the rankings is not unexpected. The facelift may well improve the overall scores when it makes it into the survey, too.
The Volvo XC60 comes with a standard three-year, 60,000 mile manufacturer warranty which is OK, but not exceptional. Extended warranties are available at extra cost, but Volvo is certainly not at the head of the curve.
Servicing costs should be reasonable for the class of vehicle, and Volvo offers fixed cost plans for vehicles up to six years old. If you choose that route you can split the cost into monthly payments, and Volvo will throw in breakdown assistance for the period you pay for too.