Volvo aims higher
The XC60 is spacious and safe, agile and frugal
AROUND the world, as in Australia, the XC60 is Volvo’s bestseller. And the completely new model scheduled to go on sale here in October is sure to be even more popular.
Compared to the current version of the Swedish company’s medium-size fiveseat SUV, the secondgeneration XC60 is better looking inside and out, more spacious and fuel efficient, and safer than ever.
Much of the XC60’s vital anatomy is shared with the larger, seven-seat XC90 SUV, which arrived in 2015. Both are built on Volvo’s newest and most versatile vehicle platform, known as SPA (for Scalable Product Architecture, in case you were wondering).
What this means in practical terms is a super-strong body, with high-class suspension, steering, braking and electrics.
But what first grabs your attention are the new XC60’s clean-cut good looks. This is a well-proportioned SUV with a solid stance. Details, such as the large grille with its vertical bars, “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights, and hip-hugging tail-light cluster are distinctive, not fussy or contrived.
It’s even better inside, especially in high-grade models, the decor enriched with leather, wood and polished metal.
Lesser models may lack these touches but they’ll come with the same brilliant basics: curvy, minimalist and userfriendly dash with a big, portrait-oriented central touchscreen; one of the niftiest steering wheels in the business; and seats that look — and are — very comfortable.
The XC60 is the latest in a line of lookers from the Swedish company, incorporating many of the design touches first seen in the XC90, then the V90 wagon and S90 sedan.
The new visuals are the work of a team led by Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo’s design chief since 2012. The German-born Ingenlath previously shaped cars for Volkswagen and Skoda.
Power comes from Volvo’s still-young Drive-E family. All are 2.0-litre fours with at least one turbocharger.
The petrol and diesel versions are closely related, sharing some parts. Volvo adds a supercharger or upgraded turbo to boost power of the T6 petrol and D5 diesel compared to the T5 and D4.
Topping the range is the T8, a plug-in hybrid that combines an electric motor driving the rear wheels with the potent T6 petrol engine, connected to the front wheels. This is both the quickest and the most fuelefficient XC60 of all.
At launch, the Australian XC60 line-up will consist of D5, T6 and T8 variants with allwheel drive. They’ll come in the same trim grades as the XC90 — basic Momentum, luxury Inscription or sporty R-Design.
Less costly models, including some front-drivers, will arrive later to expand the line-up.
With the XC60’s arrival still five months away, Volvo Cars Australia isn’t talking prices. They’ll cost more, for sure.
There’s no equivalent of the T8 in the current line-up. Plugin hybrid tech is becoming more affordable but still isn’t cheap. The T8 is likely to cost $80,000$85,000, or $5000-$10,000 more than today’s top-line T6.
The D5 and T6 will probably start in the vicinity of $75,000. Also likely are rises at the bottom of the range, currently $57,000 for a basic D4. Expect the most affordable XC60, when it eventually arrives, to be about $60,000.
Volvo bought only heavily optioned D5 and T6 versions to the international presentation of the new XC60 in Barcelona. They were fitted with extras that may be optional instead of standard in Australia, among them air suspension, Bowers & Wilkins audio and Volvo’s semi-autonomous driver aid, Pilot Assist.
Volvo packs the new XC60 with a very impressive standard array of active safety gear. It introduces three new features, each designed to enhance the ability to avoid or mitigate impacts.
Further improvements will be made during the life of the XC60 and Volvo’s safety engineers say some will involve simple software upgrades that can be easily installed in earlier versions.
To drive, the D5 turbo diesel — expected to be the most popular variant in Australia — and the T6 twin-charged petrol are quite impressive.
Volvo doesn’t try to turn its SUVs into sports cars (not bothering to fit paddle-shifters, for example) and the XC60 is the better for it.
The 173kW D5 and 235kW T6 engines deliver ample performance, if not the smoothness of a larger engine with more cylinders. Backing both is an eight-speed Japanese-built automatic that could, if you’re picky, be a little smoother and more decisive,
It’s more agile than the seven-seat XC90 but the XC60 is still a high-riding family wagon that’s built more for comfort than speed.
Its only obvious weakness is a not-so-large cargo compartment; at 505L, capacity is similar to a big sedan.
Its high and mighty-spacious cabin has excellent and easy-toaccess seats and a beautifully designed interior. Add to these a handsome exterior, frugal fourcylinder engines and superb safety credentials.
This is one medium-size SUV that makes a large amount of sense.