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Refined, handsome and upmarket family 4x4

Our Verdict

Volvo XC60
The Swede's XC60 compact SUV is a rival for Range Rover's Evoque

Volvo is justifiably proud of its different approach, and the usable, attractive XC60 is good enough to stand out in a very able compact SUV crowd

19 September 2008

What is it?

This is Volvo’s all-new ‘crossover SUV’. To all intents and purposes it’s the Swedish car-maker’s answer to the Land Rover Freelander, BMW X3 and Honda CRV, and a smaller sibling for the successful XC90.

But it’s also a more interesting and different car in its own right than that would suggest; a real breath of fresh air for anyone considering an upmarket, small soft-roader.

What’s it like?

To look at, it’s pretty – and pretty unusual. Although it occupies the same space at the kerb as a conventional medium-sized 4x4, the Volvo XC60 doesn’t resemble one.

From the belt line upwards this could be a sporty estate car, such is its cabin-rear profile, the sleek shallowness of its glasshouse and the steep rake of its windscreen.

But sporty estates aren’t this tall; they don’t have so much metal between the door handles and the door sills, and they don’t ride so high off the ground.

Neither are Volvos usually this bold and assertive of appearance. That’s because the XC60 represents the beginning of a new chapter for Gothenburg’s design team.

This is the first production car by recently appointed design boss Steve Mattin and, judging by its swollen badges and features, its wedge-like bodyside and its dynamic and sculptured surfaces and lines, he’s determined to drag the brand’s hitherto conservative metal aesthetic kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

The XC60’s cabin feels solid, airy and upmarket. There has perhaps not been as much innovative thinking invested in creating this interior as there has for the car’s exterior, but it’s all very pleasant, well-appointed and well-built.

The car’s driving position is good – and typically high – and there’s enough room for full-sized adults to travel in the back seats in comfort.

There are three engines to choose from for prospective XC60 buyers – a 281bhp turbo six-pot petrol and two five-pot diesels (a 161bhp 2.4D and a 183bhp D5). We tested the D5, in six-speed manual form.

The car’s performance isn’t what you’d call fast, but it’s certainly brisk enough to make for easy overtaking at cross-country speeds, accompanied by the Volvo diesel’s characterful but workmanlike thrum.

There’s just enough urge to propel this car down the road briskly, but not so much that it becomes too thirsty. Volvo claims 37.7mpg and 199g/km of CO2.

The car’s performance is abetted by the fitment of a positive, chunky-feeling six-speed manual gearbox, which allows the driver full control over gear changes in a way that never seems possible with Volvo’s ‘Geartronic’ automatic ‘box.

The car’s steering isn’t quite as impressive. It’s accurate, but there’s almost no communication coming though the helm to the XC60’s driver, which is regrettable, if not unpredictable from Volvo.

Like all other XC60s offered at launch, ours had Volvo’s tried-and-tested Haldex multi-plate clutch-equipped four-wheel drive system.

It’s been updated for this application with a non-return valve in the hydraulic set-up, which makes it faster-acting once wheel-slip is detected at the front wheels, but in normal driving conditions it sends 95 per cent of engine power to the front wheels.

This is a 4x4 system you won’t even know is there until you really need it then, and for that reason its effect on the car’s driving experience under all-but-the-slipperiest conditions is undetectable.

Should I buy one?

If you like setting trends rather than following them, and you’re looking for a handsome, upmarket and refined family 4x4, we’d say so.

Just as it did with the XC90, Volvo has come late to an established zone of the 4x4 segment with a car that seems totally fresh and appealing.

If you’re concerned that the XC60 won’t be as pleasing to live with as it is beguiling to look at, don’t be.

This is a car whose build quality and practicality could withstand comparison with any medium-sized 4x4 on the market. Put simply, this is the best-executed £25k ‘crossover vehicle’ the market has produced.

It seldom feels entertaining or agile to drive, but Volvo’s priorities have always lain elsewhere, and if you’re one of those family people who values safety, comfort and a certain amount of alternative style higher than driving appeal, the Volvo XC60 will be right up your street.

Join the debate

Comments
47

24 September 2008

The 199 g/km figure is quoted as being something to be proud of - it's actually the equivalent of two Mk6 Golf Bluemotions, which offers similar internal room for passengers and luggage, and pretty similar performance.

24 September 2008

Great comment. How about comparing like with like. That comparison was rather like saying that my missus is ugly, bacause she doesn't look like Kate Moss. The car needs comparing to other vehicles of its type, X3, Freelander, Q5 not a Golf Bluemotion. With accurate and insightful comments like that, i'd be suprised if you weren't a Daily Mail reading cretin, who supports the Green Party and thinks that the way to save the world is to live in the Outer Hebrides and eat raw fish. Sort it out.

24 September 2008

You know, I stopped posting here on Autocar a little while ago (again) because you couldn't make a measured comment without receiving something like the online equivalent of road rage. And here we go again.

Rob, tell me, if you overhear someone in the pub saying something that you don't believe holds water as an argument, do you tap them on the shoulder and call them a "cretin"?

My argument is this - and it is not a stupid one - the XC60 and the Golf Bluemotion are both cars designed to carry four or five people and their luggage. The level of space, comfort, performance and general ambience they offer is likely to be very similar.

But, by opting to buy the car with afour wheel drivetrain that they are unlikely to ever use in any meaningful way, the XC60 owner will be doubling their carbon footprint. A g/km figure of 199 is just not good enough nowadays for pretty much any kind of passenger car. Things have moved on.

Incidentally, don't bother trying to turn this into a debate with me. I'm only interested in having dialogues with people who do not appear to have anger management issues.

24 September 2008

As ever, i feel that the comment made against the XC60, is symptomatic of the 'anti 4x4' brigades repetetive view on the SUV market. To compare the XC60 D5 Manual with a Golf Bluemotion, again seems misguided. If the individual who buys the XC60, a fairly educated guess is that they have a family and a need for space, safety (City Safe anyone?) and security, probably wouldn't and couldn't consider a Golf Bluemotion, or any other similar cars for that matter, as it wouldn't be capable (105bhp enough to pull 5 and luggage?), certaintly wouldn't produce 99g/km with it fully laden, and if the Golf is driven for 25,000 miles a year (again a likely scenario, as you'd only pay more for a diesel over a petrol if you were doing the mileage, and facts prove you need to do 40,000 miles before recouping the extra spend on buying and fueling the car), and the XC60 is driven 12,0000 miles (again a fact that most SUV's aren't running the same mileages per year on average as Golf sized cars), you'd find similar levels of C02 emitted. As before, both myself and Autocar (the voice of the Professional?), have made comparisons with others cars of it's type, rather than going for a more obvious slight against this well designed and concieved vehicle.

24 September 2008

I think it is entirely fair to compare it to the above mentioned Golf, and also to similar 4x4 competition. Both are valid comparisons. I like the look of the XC60, it looks like a potentially great car.

24 September 2008

[quote RobotBoogie]

You know, I stopped posting here on Autocar a little while ago (again) because you couldn't make a measured comment without receiving something like the online equivalent of road rage. And here we go again.

[/quote]

Maybe you could find a forum that specialises in discussing the climate in a useful way because laying the blame at cars is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. If you behave like a cretin then expect to be called one, I say ! I mean this in the literal sense : your comments are really badly thought through, of low intelligence and sheep-like in their mentality.

[quote RobotBoogie]But, by opting to buy the car with afour wheel drivetrain that they are unlikely to ever use in any meaningful way[/quote]

Why is it that the anti-4x4 brigade assume that the only practical use for four wheel drive is to cross ploughed fields ? There is a reason why rally cars had it and why it has now, for some years, been deployed in cars too. It because it is useful to have and gives you better traction !

[quote RobotBoogie]the XC60 owner will be doubling their carbon footprint[/quote]

Total rot ! As above, if you compare it with a car in a different class. Maybe we should scrap cars and just use bikes instead because [quote RobotBoogie]is just not good enough nowadays for pretty much any kind of passenger car. Things have moved on.[/quote]

24 September 2008

Here's something to consider. If the Golf Bluemotion sells 20,000 cars in the next 2yrs in the UK at least, and the XC60 10,000, and this is a likely ratio, who is pollutiing more? Not the XC60.

24 September 2008

[quote julianphillips]Both are valid comparisons. [/quote]

No they are not. Someone who is the market for a car costing £30k will not look at one costing £15k. Totally different type of car too. Volvo will be much bigger.

24 September 2008

[quote Bruce Wayne]If you behave like a cretin then expect to be called one, ..your comments are ... ..of low intelligence and sheep-like in their mentality... i'd be suprised (sic) if you weren't a Daily Mail reading cretin, who supports the Green Party and thinks that the way to save the world is to.. ...eat raw fish..[/quote]

I think it is wonderful how SUV supporters write like SUV drivers drive - with a total belief in the power and effectiveness of brute force and ignorance and the need to bludgeon ones way through life.

...the band was playing Dixie: double-four time...

24 September 2008

Bluster, misquoting, generalisations, resentment. Its all you 4x4 haters have. If someone wants to drive a car then what does it have to do with you ? Mind your own business !

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