Volvo XC60 review
The safe and stylish Volvo XC60 is comfortable and practical enough to suit a busy family lifestyle
The Volvo XC60 is the smaller brother to the family-friendly XC90. But while the latter has space for seven, the XC60 has smaller dimensions and sticks with a five-seat layout, although it offers a generous boot. While it rides high, the XC60 is no off-roader – instead, the long-travel suspension gives a soft, comfortable on-road ride. The XC60 was facelifted in early 2013, bringing a more dynamic, classier look to the car’s exterior, plus new interior options aimed at making the car feel more upmarket. However, there were no mechanical changes, as Volvo’s long-awaited new range of downsized four-cylinder engines is still a year away. They can’t come soon enough, as, although the five-cylinder diesel is quite clean, it’s gruff and unrefined compared with the competition, which includes the likes of the BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque. Likewise, the XC60 doesn’t drive as sharply as its rivals, although your passengers will appreciate that the Volvo is built for comfort rather than speed.
Our choice: XC60 D5 AWD Manual SE Lux
The XC60 is one of Volvo’s most handsome models, and easily matches its German rivals for kerb appeal. The latest, facelifted model features more body-coloured exterior trim, modern-looking headlights and a redesigned bonnet. The overall look is understated – even though the Volvo logo on the new grille is bigger than ever. The dimensions of the XC60 give it nice proportions, too, and looks considerably fresher than the XC90, which will be replaced at the end of 2014. The XC60 looks more interesting than the Audi Q5, too, especially if you opt for the sportier R Design model, although it’s no style statement - which the Range Rover Evoque most definitely is. The latest look only changed the exterior design. However, the XC60 has one of the best interiors in its class, with simple controls and an elegant floating centre console design. The XC60 shares the TFT dials with the Volvo V40, while new options include an ambient lighting package and a heated steering wheel.
The XC60 drives best on the motorway, with its excellent refinement and comfortable ride, while the long top gear will help boost mpg. There are two diesel engines to choose from. The D4 uses a 2.0-litre version, and puts out 161bhp, while the 2.4-litre version in the D5 develops 213bhp. The engines are noisier than their rivals but offer reasonable performance. The only petrol option is now the 3.0-litre T6 engine, which isn’t much of a performer. It's best avoided, as is the jerky and uncertain Geartronic automatic gearbox, which is comprehensively outclassed by the eight-speed auto that’s optional on the BMW. There’s plenty of grip and good visibility thanks to the XC60’s high driving position, but the electric steering gives very little feedback on twister roads and feels artificially heavy. The pedals are light, but the weak spring in the clutch on manual models takes some getting used to.
Safety and reliability is another traditional strength for Volvo, with every version of the XC60 coming armed with a full compliment of safety kit as standard. Even SE versions come with five different electronic braking aids, dual-stage airbags, traction control, hill descent control, an inflatable curtain for side impacts and top-notch security equipment. City Safety is also included, which will automatically apply the brakes if it senses a collision and the driver doesn’t react in time, but the system only works at speeds under 19mph. There have been a few minor recalls but overall reliability is good.
Practicality is a strong suit for Volvo and the XC60 is no exception. It's impressively versatile considering its svelte styling. The boot measures 494 litres up to the load cover, or a generous 655-litre boot capacity behind the rear seats if you fill it to the roof. The loading bay is flat so you can slide larger objects in without catching them on the boot floor. A handy 40/20/40 split is standard, too. The rear seats offer enough room for adults to sit in comfort, although headroom is tight for anyone over six foot. There are a decent number of cubbies inside the cabin, too, but for a practical vehicle the door bins aren’t as large as you might expect.
For a big heavy crossover the Volvo is relatively clean, matching rivals like the VW Tiguan for official fuel consumption and emissions figures. Every model powered by a diesel engine, regardless of whether you have the less powerful D4 or more powerful D5, or opt for two- or four-wheel drive, emits 139g/km of CO2. The Geartronic has quite a negative effect on fuel consumption – another reason to avoid it unless you have to have an auto gearbox – while the petrol T6 also slurps fuel pretty quickly. The T6 manages just 26.4mpg and emits a whopping 249g/km of CO2. The cost of servicing and insuring an XC60 will be fairly high, and it has a higher price tag than similarly sized rivals from VW and Audi. That said, base models do come better equipped as standard and Volvo offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals, too. There are lots of accessories to choose from, although some of these come in packs which are quite expensive.