For a worthy SUV competitor look to the Volvo XC60
Usually if I have to compare my wife to a movie star it is Zooey Deschanel or perhaps Andie MacDowell. She’s a glamorous woman. But the other day she reminded me more of Charlton Heston, thankfully not because of the way she was looking. She had commandeered the Volvo XC60, and when I asked her for the key she responded negatively in a deep voice. I don’t recall the exact words, but her sentiment was much like Heston’s famous statement in favour of the American NRA (National Rifle Association), ‘I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands’.
Emily’s not prone to violence, but in that moment I glimpsed how she would react if her child was threatened. Needless to say, I drove my own car to work that day. When I did get to drive the XC60, I could fully understand her feelings – it is the sweet spot in a trio of formidable, sexy SUVs that Volvo has recently brought to the market.
The XC40 is quite brilliant, but a tad small for families like us, as a primary car anyway. And it has an irritating gearbox where you need to move the gear selector twice to go from Drive to Reverse. Weird.
The XC90 is superb, but a little big and not far off pretentious, but with almost no flaws. The XC60 slots in between these two, and is one of the best SUVs currently available in its size, at virtually any price point.
The price is always a talking point though, and the XC60 range starts at R664 000 for the D4 Momentum and proceeds up through the seven hundreds, peaking at R779 000 for the D5 R-Design model.
A bigger talking point with Volvos has traditionally been resale value, which has in the past been poor, but with the popularity of these new model ranges, resale value should pick up dramatically and match the Germans, if not the Japanese. But before you even contemplate selling it, you will have realised that this is a car to revel in, a car that is as wonderful to live with as it is handsome – and it is very handsome.
I love the lights, front and rear, particularly at night when the LED design elements shine brightest. The ‘Thor’s Hammer’ pattern in the front headlights is fun and heroic, while the back lights are suggestive and sensual – easy to delight in. Other than the lights, the masculine XC60 borrows a number of styling cues from the other XCs for a result that is classy and modern.
Inside the XC60 is a place where serenity meets technology – what a fabulous cabin. Premium materials have been intelligently used to great success, and I loved the little touches of knurled aluminium that were used where you touch the car with your hands – the start switch, the drive mode selector, the airvents… I remain underwhelmed by the huge
touchscreen around which everything revolves – it’s distracting, even if it is impressive and very well done. I just don’t know what’s wrong with buttons and dials. Anyhoo…
Our test vehicle was the D4, which is the entry-level model with a 2-litre turbodiesel engine that produces 140kW and 400Nm. Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would go with the D5 (a more powerful turbodiesel) or either the T5 or T6 petrol models – the D4 goes beautifully with the XC60, and the drive is so comfortable, if not as engaging as some of its peers.
Safe though. When tested by Euro NCAP in 2017 it received the highest score of all new vehicles tested, with a near-perfect 98 per cent in the Adult Occupant category. So it stands up to the Volvo cliché. The technology is incredible, and it’s hard to fathom how effective it can be.
Volvo’s City Safety Autonomous Emergency Braking system has been enhanced with steering support for when automatic braking alone might not help avoid a potential collision. In addition, Oncoming Lane Mitigation with Steer Assist (which helps mitigate head-on collisions) and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Steer Assist functionality, has been added to reduce the risk of lanechanging collisions.
Pilot Assist, Volvo’s advanced semi-autonomous driver assistance system, which takes care of steering, acceleration and braking on wellmarked roads up to 130km/h, is available in the new XC60 as an option. But it is not just under the bonnet that the new XC60 delivers healthy performance. The new CleanZone air quality climate system removes harmful pollutants and particles from outside the cabin to deliver Scandinavian-fresh air on the inside.
After my happy experience with the Volvo (and Emily’s passionate affair with it) it came as no surprise to hear that it has already won the 2018 World Car of the Year competition, and should be a strong contender for the various local awards. It’s certainly my car of the year, but only a little ahead of its little sibling, the XC40.
A final note: the XC60 accounts for a third of all global Volvo sales, and is the most popular Volvo model in South Africa. All XC60s come standard with a 5-year/100 000km warranty and maintenance plan.
TOP: The XC60 is safe even for pedestrians who happen to wander in its path – it can detect them and avoid them. ABOVE: The interior is quite simple, but very elegant.
ABOVE: A decent boot and loads of passenger space make the XC60 a great family SUV. RIGHT: The XC60 has no off-road pretensions despite all models being all-wheel drive.