For a wor­thy SUV com­peti­tor look to the Volvo XC60

South African Country Life - - In This Issue - WORDS STEPHEN SMITH PIC­TURES SUP­PLIED

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.

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