Volvo scales up SUV effort with latest XC60
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.