Car of the year ticks all boxes, and then some

LONG-TERM FLEET/ Our Volvo XC60 SUV is prov­ing to be a con­sum­mate travel com­pan­ion as we dis­cover its many gad­gets, writes Ler­ato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Irecently prised the keys to our Volvo XC60 from the for­mer Ed, Mark, who has heaped noth­ing but praise on this Swedish SUV since it ar­rived in our garage in June, so it was my turn to see what all the fuss has been about and whether the ve­hi­cle is worth its salt as the reign­ing 2018 World Car of the Year.

As sub­jec­tive as styling might be con­sid­ered from some quar­ters, I think the model has a great deal of flair and is a far cry from the pre­vi­ous XC60, which was ar­guably not the best­look­ing model in its seg­ment, de­spite its global pop­u­lar­ity.

In con­trast, the lat­est model is a swan among duck­lings and I feel that Volvo has fi­nally found its de­sign mojo and is pen­ning rather at­trac­tive cars as seen in the XC90, S90 and V90 CC. The new gen­er­a­tion S60 will con­tinue on this tra­jec­tory when it launches in SA later this year.

But back to the XC60 and its myr­iad stan­dard equip­ment that we re­ported on last month. My wife re­cently dis­cov­ered the front pas­sen­ger seat mas­sage func­tion and, as you can imag­ine, it has proven a hit with her. It of­fers a num­ber of mas­sage modes and I feel she has be­come a much calmer and more ami­able pas­sen­ger since her eureka moment, which has left me to dis­cover and en­joy some of my favourite as­pects of the ve­hi­cle.

MIN­I­MAL­IST

I am huge fan of the min­i­mal­ist, Scan­di­na­vian de­sign of the XC60, par­tic­u­larly how wellthought out the cabin lay­out and re­spec­tive switchgear is. For in­stance, the golf club shaped gear lever is de­signed to rest your left hand on while se­lect­ing menus on the in­fo­tain­ment screen, which can at times be a bit slow to re­spond to in­puts.

Be­ing some­what of an au­dio­phile, I’m also thor­oughly rel­ish­ing the thump­ing Bow­ers & Wilkins high-per­for­mance sound sys­tem that seems to am­plify some el­e­ments of your favourite tunes that you pre­vi­ously might have not dis­cov­ered on other sound sys­tems, such is its clar­ity and def­i­ni­tion.

The stan­dard air-sus­pen­sion is a great boon on daily com­mutes as it man­ages to fil­ter out most road im­per­fec­tions, but on the flip­side the nose of the ve­hi­cle does tend to dive some­what un­der sud­den brak­ing ma­noeu­vres, es­pe­cially in ei­ther of its soft­est modes — Com­fort or Eco. Sure, you can opt to switch to Sport mode, which stiff­ens the sus­pen­sion, but it also sharp­ens the throt­tle and de­lays up­shifts in the trans­mis­sion.

I feel that an in­di­vid­ual mode where you can con­fig­ure the sus­pen­sion, gear­box, en­gine and steer­ing wheel weight­ing separately would be a great ad­di­tion.

I do, how­ever, en­joy the self­lev­el­ling sus­pen­sion, which low­ers when you turn off the ig­ni­tion al­low­ing for eas­ier exit out of the car and is par­tic­u­larly use­ful when load­ing or of­fload­ing stuff from the boot. There are also man­ual but­tons in the boot to lower or raise the rear sus­pen­sion should you hitch a trailer or even a horse­box.

The en­gine is slowly loos­en­ing up with our fuel con­sump­tion fig­ure this month fi­nally dip­ping be­low 9l/100km with a best fig­ure of 8.9l/100km so far. I feel a num­ber in the high sevens can suf­fice on much longer jour­neys, so we will put that to the test in the next few weeks.

DARKER HUE

The tan colour seats are great in el­e­vat­ing the over­all am­biance of the cabin, but I find that the driver’s seat squab is al­ready look­ing slightly tat­tered up from daily use, so per­haps a slightly darker hue would be a bet­ter op­tion in­stead.

That aside, as an over­all pack­age the XC60 ticks all the right boxes as it con­tin­ues to feel like that favourite driv­ing loafer ev­ery time you slip be­hind the wheel. It is good look­ing, com­fort­able, well equipped and one of the safest ve­hi­cles in its class.

Lit­tle won­der it is the cur­rent World Car of the Year and I have a dis­tinct feel­ing it will be a strong con­tender in the 2019 SA Car of the Year com­pe­ti­tion.

Stan­dard price: Joined fleet: Mileage at start: Mileage cov­ered: Long-term con­sump­tion:

8.9l/100km

Prob­lems in past month:

None

The Volvo XC60, left, is eas­ily one of the best-look­ing mod­els in its seg­ment. Be­low: The er­gonom­i­cally de­signed gear lever dou­bles as a wrist/hand rest.

The Bow­ers & Wilkins pre­mium sound sys­tem will ap­pease au­dio­philes.

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