TECHNO TRAIL­BLAZER

The mid-size Swedish SUV bor­rows plenty from its big­ger sib­ling

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - MOTORING - PAUL GOVER

VOLVO’S MID-SIZE SUV SETS COURSE FOR THE FU­TURE

Un­veil­ing its XC90 flag­ship, Volvo switched the Swedish em­pha­sis from safety to de­sign. Now there is the XC60, com­pletely new but still with bench­mark safety – and with classy de­sign that could tempt buy­ers away from the big three Ger­man pres­tige brands.

The mid-size SUV has plenty of trick­le­down tech­nol­ogy from the larger XC90, thanks to a shared me­chan­i­cal plat­form.

Start­ing price is up a lit­tle to $59,990, off­set by a claimed value boost. The top-end plug-in hy­brid model takes the sticker up to $92,990.

Op­tions abound on the XC60, with five en­gines and four trim lev­els, as the XC60 be­comes Volvo Aus­tralia’s vol­ume model. It has the bur­den of turn­ing around a sales slump – de­liv­er­ies have dropped by 23.1 per cent in the first nine months of the year.

Volvo has high hopes for the XC60, which was de­vel­oped partly in par­al­lel with the XC90 in Swe­den, with a tight 36-month tur­naound.

“Some­thing be­tween 45 and 50 per cent of the cars is shared,” says XC60 se­nior prod­uct man­ager Hans Nils­son.

“For the cus­tomer that’s re­ally good, as the com­po­nents are de­signed for the XC90 in the pre­mium seg­ment.”

Nils­son says Volvo is tar­get­ing the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, but not the Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Ma­can. “Our cus­tomers want de­sign, crafts­man­ship, fun to drive. Com­fort came be­fore han­dling,” he says.

The new plat­form brings me­chan­i­cal and elec­tri­cal ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing auto city brak­ing with a thresh­old lifted to 60km/h and steer­ing as­sis­tance if the driver swerves.

But de­spite the new lev­els of au­ton­omy, Nils­son says driv­ers still need “hands on the wheel and eyes on the road”.

The car is yet to run through the NCAP safety tests but a five-star score is vir­tu­ally as­sured, with some in­ter­est­ing in­no­va­tions.

“When you go off-road, when it lands from a bump, the seat has en­ergy ab­sorp­tion so all the en­ergy doesn’t go through your spine.”

The body de­sign of the XC60 is far less boxy than the XC90, roomier in­side than the out­go­ing model, with a cabin that has qual­ity fit­tings and what Nils­son de­scribes as a “wave” line across the dash­board that curves around the air vents, in­fo­tain­ment and in­stru­ments.

“We spent a lot of time on the ma­te­ri­als and to get the fit and fin­ish right. Even the ex­pan­sion joints be­tween leather, wood and me­tal are hid­den,” he says.

On the en­try-level Mo­men­tum, the stan­dard equip­ment list in­cludes a nine-inch in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen, 12-inch dig­i­tal dis­play for the driver, leather seats, sat­nav, Ap­ple CarPlay or An­droid Auto and a head-up dis­play.

The Inscription adds adap­tive cruise con­trol, four-zone air­con and im­proved in­te­rior light­ing, while the R-De­sign has a sports steer­ing wheel with pad­dle-shifters and 20-inch al­loy wheels.

ON THE ROAD

The XC60 is a good looker on the out­side, no­tice­ably bet­ter in­side and a re­fined drive.

My drive time in Ade­laide is fo­cused on the ba­sic D4 with 2.0-litre turbo diesel, in Inscription trim level, one up from the bot­tom at $66,990.

It jumps to $80,790 with op­tions in­clud­ing Nappa leather, sun­roof and ex­cel­lent Bow­ers and Wilkins au­dio.

It’s the ba­sics I en­joy, from the large ver­ti­cal in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen to the com­fort and quiet­ness in the cabin. It’s a step up from the pre­vi­ous XC60 in ev­ery area and the sort of re­lax­ing drive that lots of peo­ple will en­joy.

It’s not re­motely sporty in cor­ners but the ride is plush – although jarred a lit­tle by 20-inch al­loys and 55-se­ries tyres over pot­holes – and the diesel has plenty of shove.

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