The Volvo XC60 has been designed to feel confident on the road
Volvo's chassis chief Stefan Karlsson with Richard Bremner and the XC60
The Volvo XC60 has been designed to feel confident on the road, and it’s easy to reckon that this goal has been achieved when you’re doing 80mph through a long, g-force-building sweeper and your driver is demonstrating the car’s responsiveness by zig-zagging through the curve.
The driver is Stefan Karlsson, Volvo’s head of chassis development, and he’s providing XC60 passenger rides on a variety of tracks at the company’s development ground at Hällered, near Gothenburg. Apart from being the first chance journalists have had to experience the XC60 in motion, even if it’s not behind the wheel, Volvo’s objective is to demonstrate what it claims to be a considerable improvement in the car's dynamic abilities.
"There’s a lot more mechanical grip from the front end," says Karlsson, "this the result of a new double wishbone front suspension that allows the roll centres of each axle to be identical front to rear" - in contrast to the previous XC60.
"So we avoid pitching when the car is rolling, and damper tuning is much easier because we don’t have to control the body with the dampers," he says. That front-end grip certainly seems evident on the track, with Karlsson applying relatively modest steering angles even through tighter turns, especially given that his entry speeds appear to be on the bold side of brisk.
What is effectively multi-link suspension all round provides other benefits too, not the least of them the rear-end precision needed to provide that high-speed, mid-curve responsiveness. If the car is geometrically unbalanced and its rear axle less precisely located, turning the wheel at high speed tends to produce more roll from the rear rather than producing the adjustment in line that you’d hoped for, Karlsson explains.
"We also wanted the car to steer straight over crests and dips," he says while demonstrating this at stomach-sinking speed, and "the multi-link rear suspension really helps with the ride compared to a trailing arm set-up," he adds. It also provides more longitudinal compliance over bumps, which certainly seems evident from the way it deals with a series of protuberant manhole covers. How good the ride really is will emerge when we try it on UK roads, but it ought to be good because Volvo carries out all its final tuning on roads in Yorkshire.
According to Volvo's R&D boss, Henrik Green, this XC60 has been developed to provide more driver entertainment than we’re used to from most Volvos, and while the mainstream D5 diesel version we’ve experience is no sports car, it certainly comes across as a satisfyingly capable and responsive machine, as well as being quiet, comfortable and very pleasant to sit in.