Volvo scales up SUV ef­fort with lat­est XC60

Kapiti Observer - - MOTORING -

Swedish maker’s new­gen de­sign tem­plate makes it to mid-size SUV. By David Lin­klater.

If Volvo’s new XC60 looks like a scaled-down XC90, feels like a scaled-down XC90 and sells at scaled-down XC90 prices . . . well, it’s prob­a­bly a scaled-down XC90.

Volvo doesn’t see it like that, of course. The out­go­ing XC60 was the big­gest-sell­ing SUV in its class in Europe, so its re­place­ment is re­garded as a hero model that doesn’t play sec­ond Swede to any­thing.

But in New Zealand, the larger XC90 seven-seater is cur­rently the brand’s vol­ume-seller. Makes sense: at launch in 2015, the Ninety was a wa­ter­shed mo­ment for Volvo, with a level of de­sign and tech­nol­ogy that made ev­ery­thing else in the show­room seem old-hat.

So a smaller, sportier ver­sion of same can’t be a bad thing, right?

If there’s one area where the XC60 is clearly dif­fer­en­ti­ated from big brother, it’s ex­te­rior styling. There are new-gen cues like the ‘‘Thor’s ham­mer’’ day­time run­ning lights and mon­ster grille, but the Sixty’s roofline and arched rear are ob­vi­ous vis­ual ref­er­ences back to the old XC60.

Un­der­neath, the XC60 has the same Scal­able Prod­uct Ar­chi­tec­ture (SPA) plat­form as the XC90, comes with the same range ofAWDpow­er­trains and has the same sus­pen­sion de­sign and tech­nol­ogy.

Volvo New Zealand is happy to ad­mit it’s over­sat­u­rat­ing the model range at launch, to see what sticks with buy­ers. So pre­pare to be slightly be­wil­dered by five en­gine choices (all 2.0-litre turbo units, with a bit of su­per­charg­ing thrown in) and three spec­i­fi­ca­tion lev­els.

The petrol vari­ants book­end the range, start­ing with the 183kW/350Nm T5 Mo­men­tum at $84,900 (add $5000 for the In­scrip­tion), 246kW/440Nm T6 R-De­sign at $89,900 and the T8 R-De­sign plug-in hy­brid for $117,900. The T8 has the T6 en­gine plus an­other 65kW/240Nm of plug-in elec­tric power on the rear axle.

The diesels open at $86,900 for the 140kW/400Nm D4 Mo­men­tum (again, an­other $5000 for In­scrip­tion) and $94,900 for the 177kW/500Nm D5 R-De­sign.

The fastest XC60 is the T8, with 0-100kmh in 5.2 sec­onds; the slow­est is the D4, at 8.4sec. Set­ting aside the T8’s Com­bined fuel econ­omy of 2.3 litres per 100km (which is not en­tirely real-world given it in­cludes a full bat­tery charge), the most thrifty Sixty is the D4 at 5.2l/100km; the T6 is the most thirsty at a still-de­cent 7.7 litres.

All but the D4 en­gine can be en­hanced with an op­tional Polestar Op­ti­mi­sa­tion kit, which brings ex­tra power/torque, plus sharper throt­tle re­sponse and gearshift speed.

All XC60s come with a 360-de­gree cam­era, nav­i­ga­tion, Park As­sist Pi­lot, key­less en­try, hands-free tail­gate and a nineinch touch-screen with phone pro­jec­tion.

In­scrip­tion high­lights in­clude four-zone cli­mate con­trol, ac­tive cruise with Pi­lot As­sist and 20-inch al­loys. The R-De­sign adds a unique ex­te­rior styling pack­age, sports chas­sis, leather up­hol­stery, 21-inch al­loys and Polestar Op­ti­mi­sa­tion as stan­dard.

The so-called Four-C adap­tive chas­sis with air sus­pen­sion is a $4200 op­tion – or part of the $8000 Premium Pack with other lux­ury kit that in­cludes a high-end au­dio sys­tem, power fold­ing rear seats and tinted glass.

It’s a safe bet that any new Volvo will be a safe bet. The XC60 has upped the ante on ac­tive driver-aids with three new fea­tures, all of which of­fer in­creased au­to­mated-steer­ing as­sis­tance.

City Safety, which recog­nises other ve­hi­cles, cy­clists, pedes­tri­ans and even large an­i­mals, will now ap­ply steer­ing to help the au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing sys­tem avoid an im­pact (range of op­er­a­tion 50-100kmh).

On­com­ing Lane Mit­i­ga­tion will au­to­mat­i­cally cor­rect the car’s tra­jec­tory to avoid an on­com­ing ve­hi­cle, while the Blind Spot In­for­ma­tion Sys­tem (BLIS) can also now steer the car back into the lane if there is an­other ve­hi­cle be­hind (60-140kmh).

Th­ese en­hanced fea­tures are Volvo-firsts for XC60, although they are also be­ing added to the XC90 for the 2018 model year.

Will it sur­prise you if we say the XC60 feels a lot like the XC90 to drive? It’s quicker, ob­vi­ously, and ride com­fort is bet­ter than the big guy. Af­ter brief drives in the D5, T6 and T8, I’d also ar­gue the eight-speed au­to­matic gear­box is smoother in this new car than the XC90 – pre­sum­ably as a re­sult of run­ning changes, be­cause the­o­ret­i­cally the pow­er­trains are pretty much the same across the two model lines.

The XC60 is sup­posed to be the sportier of the two and it is, but it’s not sporty per se. The em­pha­sis is on light-but-ac­cu­rate steer­ing, pre­dictable han­dling and per­for­mance punch. There are plenty who pre­fer a fam­ily SUV to err on the side of sen­si­ble and ac­ces­si­ble on-road dy­nam­ics, and we wouldn’t dis­agree. The XC60 feels right on Kiwi roads, even if it isn’t cry­ing out for a track day. It’s a feel-good thing.

The in­te­rior is dom­i­nated by 90-alike de­tails, such as the tablet­like touch screen and stubby gear se­lec­tor (made from Or­refors Crys­tal on the T8). The cabin styling is more com­plex and less premium-look­ing than the XC90, which is prob­a­bly as it should be.

The XC60 also de­liv­ers ex­actly where you ex­pect a Volvo to: with su­perb seats and a great driv­ing po­si­tion. Er­gonom­i­cally it’s a mat­ter of per­sonal taste, mostly due to that large Sen­sus-sys­tem screen: some will love it and start swip­ing and pinch­ing with glee, oth­ers may won­der whether stab­bing away at tiny touch­menus while you drive is the best way to ad­just the cli­mate con­trol.

There are some clever de­sign touches, too: the wind­screen wipers have the washer jets built into the arms, and there are new ‘‘un­der-wrapped’’ doors that cover the sills com­pletely – which means your cloth­ing stays clean when you open the door to get in or out or a dirty car. You don’t get this stuff in the XC90.

Surely the XC60 will now rise to the top of Volvo’s Kiwi range? That’s the plan, although sup­ply of the in-de­mand T8 is still lim­ited. An­nual range-wide vol­ume of 250 is ex­pected, although the XC90 won’t be far be­hind those fig­ures. And don’t for­get there’s the all-new XC40 small-SUV set for launch here in early-2018.

New XC60 SUV is based on same Scal­able Prod­uct Ar­chi­tec­ture (SPA) as XC90.

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