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?
Volvo’s long-awaited entry into the booming compact SUV segment. Although it is related to the Land Rover Freelander, the XC60’s gestation has taken over 18 months more.
Although its shares ‘some floor parts’ with the Freelander, the XC60 version of Ford’s C1+ platform is significantly different.
Under the skin, everything from the front bulkhead to the upper structure to the seating position is unique to the Swedish car.
Most UK interest will be in the five-cylinder diesel versions, but there’s also a range-topping 282bhp T6 turbo petrol engine for those wanting one of the most powerful soft-roaders on the market.
The XC60’s standard specification is generous, including climate control, cruise, aluminium trim, roof bars, roof spoiler, front fogs and 17in alloys.
However, the big news is the standard fitment of Volvo’s new ‘City Safety’ anti-collision system, which automatically brakes the car at speeds of less than 15km/h if there’s a risk of a rear-end collision with the car in front.
What’s it like?
This is probably the best new Volvo for some years. Under chief designer Steve Mattin, the last vestiges of Volvo’s formerly boxy lines have been completely wiped away.
The XC60 looks like a Volvo, but its design is more sophisticated and flowing than any model before it. Parked next to it, an XC90 looks remarkably clunky.
The story is even better inside. After the rather square-cut and overly rational S40 and V70 interiors, Mattin has gone back to the more enclosed and driver-centric design last seen on the S60.
There’s no doubt that all the attention to detail has succeeded. All the familiar benefits have been retained (excellent storage space and the class-leading cupholders) but with a much improved ambience and sense of sophistication.
The extremely well judged driving position and supportive, sculpted seats make the cabin a very agreeable place to spend long hours.
On the road the T6 feels far better than we expected – and more than a dynamic match for the V70 T6.
The straight-six turbocharged engine is keen and sounds good, while the latest-generation ‘Haldex 4’ all-wheel drive system delivers a gratifying balance to this heavy car in tight bends.
The upshot is sparky performance and an excellent overtaking ability (partly thanks to an impressively responsive autobox). This XC60 actually quite welcomed brisk driving on winding roads. It was easy to place and body roll was kept in check.
The ride quality was also impressive, with the car soaking up crumbling road surfaces. It’s long-striding gait, power and relaxing cabin make it a plausible luxury car alternative.
Should I buy one?
Despite its impressive spec, Volvo only expects to sell a couple of hundred of the top-spec T6 SE Sport in the UK every year, as most buyers opt for the less refined but far cheaper diesel versions.
However, what the XC60 T6 does a more-than-passable impression of bigger, more expensive premium SUVs.