Volvo XC60 (2008-2017) review
The stylish and comfortable Volvo XC60 is an alternative to a BMW X3 and Audi Q5 but it's getting a bit old now
The Volvo XC60 is the smaller brother to Volvo's all-conquering XC90 SUV. And just like the larger car, the first XC60 seems to have been on sale for simply ages. It was launched in 2008, at a time when the premium crossover sector was still in its infancy, while a facelift in 2013 kept the XC60 near the front of the field. But competition in the class has risen significantly in the past couple of years, and as a result, an all-new XC60 Mk2 is due to be launched in 2017.
The XC60 was in development while Volvo was still owned by Ford, so not only does it have the same platform as the Volvo S60 and V60, but it's also shared with the first Ford S-MAX and Galaxy Mk2 and Land Rover Freelander 2, among others.
Volvo has offered a variety of engines in the XC60 over its lifetime, including four, five and six-cylinder units, but the range currently favours diesel over petrol power.
There's a single petrol engine, and it's Volvo's powerful T5 unit. While the T5 used to be a five-cylinder, the current version is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder with 245HP. It comes with a six-speed Geartronic auto, but while it's offered in all trim levels, it can't be had with four-wheel drive - it's front-wheel drive only.
There are two diesel engines in the XC60, the D4 and the D5. Pick the D4 with front-wheel drive, and you get a 190HP four-cylinder engine, but if you add four-wheel drive, this engine is replaced by the 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel with the same output. Both versions get a six-speed manual as standard, while Volvo's eight-speed Geartronic auto is available as an option.
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Go for the D5 and you get the 2.4-litre 220HP five-cylinder engine, while four-wheel drive is fitted as standard. Like the D4, it comes with a six-speed manual, while the Geartronic auto is optional.
All three engines are available in each trim: SE, SE Lux, R-Design and R-Design Lux. Every trim level comes with satellite navigation as standard, while leather, DAB radio, auto wipers and parking sensors are fitted, too. Go for R-Design, and you get a sportier bodykit and wheel designs, while Volvo's range of Polestar styling and tuning add-ons are available across the range. Prices start from about £33,000, and top out at £42,000.
While the Volvo XC60 has been a staple of the premium crossover market since launch, it has a number of talented rivals to compete against. The big three German makers offer the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes GLC, while the Jaguar F-Pace is our current Car Of The Year. Elsewhere, the Land Rover Discovery Sport offers seven seats, while the Lexus NX has hybrid drive if you're interested in lower running costs.
The Volvo XC60 has forged a strong reputation for comfort and safety, while Volvo's latest diesels mean it’s more cost effective to run than ever, although the XC60 has to give second best to newer rivals in this regard. The Volvo’s smart looks turn heads, while the XC60's interior quality is equally satisfying. But Audi and BMW build crossovers that are a step ahead in quality, and they're more satisfying to drive, too.
As with all Volvo models, the seats are supremely comfortable but the XC60 isn't the most spacious family car - there's certainly no space for a seven seat option. 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.
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 it has an efficient range of engines. 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 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 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.
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-litre thanks to the extra weight of the AWD kit and takes 9.6 seconds to reach 0-60mph.
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 D4 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.
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 in 2013 brought the XC60 visually up-to-date with the rest of the modern Volvo range. 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.
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 DAB radio as standard, with USB and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and a rather small five-inch colour display.
Upgrading to the Sensus Connect system gives you a seven-inch screen, access to the Internet, a 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.
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.
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 NCAP’s more 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.