Fast good­bye

COTY win­ner bids farväl by chas­ing a Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast

Wheels (Australia) - - Showroom - ALEX INWOOD

IT LOOKS, it has to be said, slightly ridicu­lous, and just a lit­tle per­ilous. The wide white rump of the XC60 hus­tles left, then right, as Wheels deputy ed­i­tor Andy Enright hurls it up the twist­ing moun­tain road at ten tenths, body roll and squeal­ing Pirellis do­ing lit­tle to slow his rate of progress.

I’m fol­low­ing closely be­hind in a Fer­rari 812 Su­per­fast, watching in amused si­lence as next to me, pho­tog­ra­pher Nathan Ja­cobs asks in a puz­zled voice, “That is a fam­ily SUV, right?”

Wel­come to the corkscrew-es­que piece of tar­mac that runs up from the Thom­son Dam reser­voir in Gipp­s­land, Vic, and to a glimpse into next month’s fea­ture drive of the 812SF.

The Volvo is along as the sup­port car, partly be­cause it has sub­limely comfy seats and a big boot to lug cam­era gear about, but mostly be­cause I wanted to give my trusty longter­mer one fi­nal drive; a balls-out farewell on some of Vic­to­ria’s best driv­ing roads be­fore it heads back to Volvo HQ. That’s right; having oc­cu­pied th­ese pages for seven serene, in­ci­dent-free months, this is the last time you’ll read about DQC55W. I’m more than a bit sad about that.

It’s the in­tan­gi­bles that sep­a­rate the great cars from the merely very good. The fact my XC60 has proven to be a tri­umph of com­fort, pack­ag­ing and ef­fi­ciency is no real sur­prise. It is our reign­ing COTY af­ter all. What’s set it apart dur­ing its stint in the Wheels garage are the things that are harder to mea­sure.

The sense of qual­ity im­bued by the cabin, for in­stance, not just from the ma­te­ri­als and how well it’s screwed to­gether, but by the beau­ti­ful and uniquely Scan­di­na­vian design. It’s also ex­tremely well in­su­lated. Road and

tyre noise are nicely sup­pressed and in EV mode, it verges on tran­quil, the si­lence and com­fort rarely trou­bled by poor road sur­faces de­spite enor­mous 21-inch wheels (pro­vid­ing you tick the $2500 op­tion for air sus­pen­sion).

In many ways it feels the antithesis of its Ger­man com­peti­tor set. Where a BMW or Audi can feel brash or aus­tere, the XC60 is warm, tex­tu­ral and to my eyes, a deeply at­trac­tive SUV, in­side and out.

And then there’s its abil­ity to sur­prise. With Enright turfed out, I climb in for a fi­nal blast along the jink­ing test route, the drive mode switched to Power, this month’s fuel num­ber thrown to the wind. It’s bru­tally pro­fi­cient when ped­alled hard. Push it right to the edge and there’s no es­cap­ing its 2174kg heft, or its breath of body­roll as the weight trans­fers, but the steer­ing is ac­cu­rate (if re­mote), and its road­hold­ing stead­fast. The way it oblit­er­ates mid-cor­ner bumps is enor­mously im­pres­sive too, the sus­pen­sion sim­ply pound­ing them into sub­mis­sion with­out upset­ting the bal­ance or knock­ing you off line.

There is an un­der­ly­ing sense that it’s a car you ad­mire more than you en­joy at ten­tenths, but what you lose in ul­ti­mate dy­namic con­nec­tion you more than make up in every­day us­abil­ity and com­fort.

It’s an im­pos­ingly well-rounded pack­age, this XC60, though no car is per­fect. At this junc­ture it’s nor­mal prac­tise for a Wheels jour­nal­ist to don their prod­uct plan­ning hat and to wax lyrical about what they’d change on their long-ter­mer to im­prove it.

My only ques­tion mark sur­rounds the value propo­si­tion of the T8 pow­er­train. There’s no doubt­ing its ef­fi­ciency (see break­out, above left), or the ease and in­tu­ition with which it com­bines a tur­bocharged and su­per­charged 2.0-litre four with an eight-speed au­to­matic and a 10.4kwh bat­tery-pow­ered mo­tor.

But is it re­ally worth the $16K pre­mium over a sim­i­larly specced T6 R-design, which uses the same high-out­put four-pot, sans the elec­tric gub­bins? Even if the T6 uses twice the fuel, it’d take more than six years to re­coup the ini­tial out­lay at the bowser. As much as I’ve en­joyed the bat­tery pack’s thrifti­ness and ef­fort­less mus­cle, if it was my money, I’m not sure I’d spring for the range topper.

Still, seven months with our reign­ing COTY has done noth­ing to un­der­mine the argument that Volvo has cre­ated the best pre­mium mid-size SUV you can buy. If any­thing, it’s gal­vanised it.

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