Volvo XC60 D4 R-Design 2014 review

Verdict on new Drive-E D4 diesel heading engine revolution in Volvo XC60 R-Design

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Volvo XC60 R-Design has played second fiddle to more powerful and efficient competitors in the past, but this excellent new D4 engine propels it right back into contention. It’s smooth, quiet at low speeds and – unlike the V60 Drive-E we tried abroad – comfortable, too. The six-speed manual box isn’t the best shifter, but Volvo has introduced a new eight-speed auto that we’ll try in the coming weeks. For now, this D4 is the best XC60 we’ve driven yet.

The Volvo XC60 R-Design is the top-spec model in the compact SUV range, and we've had the chance to drive it with the new D4 diesel engine. There’s lots of equipment as standard on all XC60 models, and the R-Design car we tried has plenty of stylish extras, such as 18-inch alloys, smart scuff plates and badges.

• Full Volvo XC60 review

Big, heavy SUVs are usually the worst offenders when it comes to CO2 emissions, but this Volvo XC60 D4 Drive-E R-Design puts out just 117g/km, thanks to its amazing new Drive-E D4 engine – part of Volvo’s brand new four-cylinder petrol and diesel engine family.

This is the first time we’ve tested a car with the efficient new drivetrain in the UK, and on paper it’s not only cleaner than any of its premium rivals, but also more powerful. All the Drive-E engines share the same 2.0-litre capacity, yet the D4 produces an impressive 179bhp and 400Nm of torque, which is sent to the front axle.

By the end of next year, Volvo will offer a whole line-up of Drive-E engines, with diesels delivering between 118bhp and 227bhp, and petrols ranging from 138bhp to 300bhp-plus in a twin-charged flagship T6.

The D4 starts this engine revolution because it'll be one of the most popular choices, and in this guise it makes the XC60 more potent than the equivalent BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Land Rover Freelander 2. That means it’ll go from 0-62mph faster than any of these rivals – in eight seconds flat – despite being cheaper to run as a company car.

Best 4x4s and SUVs

The secret behind this impressive efficiency is that the all-aluminium engine uses Volvo’s i-Art injector system to carefully monitor the amount of fuel needed for every combustion cycle, resulting in a big drop in consumption and emissions.

Out on the road, what really stands out is the muscular in-gear performance. Push the throttle and you’re met with a broad spread of torque, and the engine is very smooth and refined at low revs and tickover.

However, as the revs build, the diesel soon becomes noisy and strained, intruding into the cabin. Smooth, steady driving gets the best out of the XC60’s dynamic set-up, too – this is a pleasant car to drive as long as you’re not too demanding. And with the engine spinning at below 2,500rpm, it’s an excellent motorway cruiser.

Combine that with a large fuel tank, and the XC60 has a theoretical range of nearly 1,000 miles – making it an ideal car for family holidays. But that’s not to say it’s perfect. The ride could be smoother, with motorway expansion joints sending jolts right through the steering column and seats, while the steering is rather slow and vague.

At £32,385, the Volvo is quite expensive as well – although it feels like a high-quality product, thanks to its well made cabin and supportive seats. New optional digital dials help lift the overall design, and you can choose between different themes varying from sporty to ‘elegant’.

The boot isn’t the biggest in the class, and as we know the XC60 is capable off-road, it’s a pity this new engine isn’t offered with four-wheel drive. Still, as the all-new XC90 will combine this diesel with the looks of the XC Coupé, Volvo could have a new class champion.

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