Volvo aims higher

The XC60 is spa­cious and safe, ag­ile and fru­gal

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - JOHN CAREY

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.

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