On the move engine refinement is excellent
R-Design chassis gets stiffer dampers and anti-roll bars as well as a sprinkling of styling chintz
On-paper figures build this XC60 up to be a sporting car but it doesn’t live up to it
Revised version of Ford's Ecoboost motor produces 237bhp and 236lb ft
Ride quality is a bit lumpy at low speeds
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
What is it?
On paper, it looks as though this new Volvo XC60 T5 R-Design Powershift could solve the shortage of entertainment and enhance the existing merits. Which would be good news because we like the Volvo XC60. We know it doesn't offer the level of driver reward that some might expect but its cabin is amongst the most aesthetically appealing in the class and it is generally an easy car to live with.
A new turbo'd 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol motor (a revised version of Ford's Ecoboost motor) putting out 237bhp and 236lb ft sits in the nose and sends power to all four wheels through a six-speed dual-clutch gearbox – a manual is not available with this engine. We tested the new powertrain in an XC60 complete with the R-Design chassis, which gets stiffer dampers and anti-roll bars as well as a sprinkling of styling chintz.
What's it like?
The result of all these changes is a car that does enhance the XC60's existing strengths. On the move engine refinement is excellent (though wind flutter can be a mild irritation) and the free-revving motor provides easy and swift progress. But for all that the on-paper figures build this XC60 up to be a sporting car, it doesn’t live up to it from behind the wheel.
The Powershift 'box is as responsible for this as any chassis shortcomings. It shifts smoothly and has well-chosen ratios but it can be slow to respond if you’re tackling the journey with gusto. In fact the whole powertrain works best if you just surf along on its muscular mid-range, and there is nothing wrong with that. The XC60 was never going to be sharp and poised so it is better off being comfortable and relaxing, even in this 237bhp guise.
Ride quality lives up to that, too. It's a bit lumpy at low speeds but more often than not it isolates occupants well whilst body roll is kept adequately in check.
Should I buy one?
As is so often the case with Volvos, the XC60 comes unstuck when it comes to price. In all but its cheapest spec the XC60 T5 is more expensive than the BMW X3 xDrive20d Auto, and yet - by every objective measure – it's not as good.
Subjectively, however, many people simply don't want a BMW. If you're one of them and you like the XC60's 'not a BMW or Audi' brand of premium, then this is one of the more pleasant models. Our money would go on the identically priced D3 for its better running costs, but if performance and refinement matters more to you, this won't disappoint.
Volvo XC60 T5 R-Design Premium
Price: £34,775; Top speed: 130mph; 0-62mph: 8.1sec; Economy: 33.2mpg; Co2: 198g/km; Kerb weight: 1759kg; Engine type: 4cyl, turbocharged, 1999cc; Power: 237bhp at 5500rpm; Torque: 236lb ft at 1800-5000rpm; Gearbox: 6spd dual-clutch auto