Volvo XC60 review
The safe and stylish Volvo XC60 is comfortable and practical enough to suit a busy family lifestyle
Designed to build on the success with the Volvo XC90, the smaller XC60 is more of a crossover than a full off-roader, with both front and four-wheel-drive versions available. The five-cylinder D5 diesel was recently given a power boost to 213bhp, and offers an excellent blend of performance and economy. It isn’t quite as sharp to drive as the likes of the BMW X3, but it it does come generously equipped and is very practical, too, if a little on the expensive side. Volvo will give the XC60 a facelift during 2013, with the revised model expected to be revealed at the Geneva Motor Showin March before going on sale later in the year. The changes will be fairly minimal, though, with only tweaks to the front-end, interior and engine line-up. A production version of the XC60 plug-in hybrid concept shown at the 2012 Detroit Motor Show could join the line-up then, too, but only in limited numbers. The concept was powered by a 276bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and a 69bhp electric motor, driving the front and rear wheels respectively.
Our choice: XC60 D5 AWD Manual R-Design
The XC60 is one of Volvo’s most handsome models, and easily matches its German rivals for kerb appeal. It's not as imposing as the seven-seat XC90 but does keep its rugged stance, while borrowing some of the sleek lines from the newer S60 saloon. The XC60 is well proportioned, with neat exterior detailing that sets it apart from conservative rivals like the Audi Q5. ES versions are a little basic inside but still get plenty of safety kit, while SE trim and above get chrome and leather interior finishes. Sporty R-Design models are most desirable, with bigger wheels, aluminium skid plates and pedals, a chunky bodykit and unique blue dials.
The XC60 is best enjoyed on the motorway, where its excellent refinement and comfortable ride make it a relaxing companion. The two diesel engines, especially the five-cylinder 213bhp D5 model, can be a little vocal compared to rival engines but still offer strong performance. The only petrol option is now the 3.0-litre T6 engine, which because of the extra weight, spoils the handling. It's best avoided, as is the jerky and uncertain Geartronic automatic gearbox. There’s plenty of grip and good visibility thanks to the XC60’s high driving position, but the electric steering rack gives very little feedback on twister roads and feels artifically heavy.
Safety and reliabilty is another traditional strength for Volvo, with every version of the XC60 coming armed with a full compliment of safety kit as standard. Even ES 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, with a generous 655-litre boot capacity behind the rear seats if you fill it to the roof, and 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 consmuption and emissions figures. The powerful D5 all-wheel-drive model returns a claimed 50.4mpg and emits 149g/km of CO2, while the smaller D4 engine with four-wheel drive manages 53.3mpg and 139g/km (or 41.5mpg and 179g/km if you opt for the Geartronic automatic gearbox). However, the petrol 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.