Volvo’s new compact four-wheel-drive, the XC60, made its public debut at the Geneva motor show this morning. It’s due to go on sale in October and will be a direct rival for the BMW X3 and forthcoming Audi Q5. We expect it to cost from around £25k. A 3.0-litre T6 petrol version with 283bhp will be available at launch, plus two versions of the 2.4-litre D5 diesel with either 184bhp or 161bhp. Front wheel drive, rather than the standard 4x4, will also be on offer by late 2009. Here in the metal, the XC60 is the size of a Land Rover Freelander with a sleek coupe-like roofline. Its muscular lower flanks are similar to the XC90’s, but a more curvaceous profile higher up lends the XC60 a more dynamic stance than its larger sibling. At the front, angular headlights and a prominent, large Volvo badge stand out from the grille. And the XC60 will be instantly recognisable from the rear too, because its LED tail lights and brake lights are integrated, and run right the way around the boot door to provide illuminated ‘shoulders’ when the driver applies the brakes. In the cabin, despite the sleek looks and lower roofline, rear head and leg room is more than adequate. The interior fixtures and fittings are a step up from other XC models. Two-tone soft-touch materials are on offer, along with an enhanced, more user-friendly dashboard design and Volvo’s most recent electronic infotainment systems.
In the build-up to today’s Geneva launch the Swedes had stated that this would be ‘the safest Volvo ever’. Today they outlined the technology to substantiate that claim. The key new feature is a low speed crash avoidance system, which applies the brakes if it detects an imminent collision at speeds below 15km/h. The XC60 will be the first vehicle to offer such a system as standard, and it could mean a lower insurance grouping. There’s also a lane departure warning system, driver alert control, blind spot warning and trailer stability assist. A further auto-brake system takes over at higher speeds to help mitigate against the chances of a collision. If a potential crash is detected, an audible warning is sounded to the driver, the brakes are pre-loaded and will eventually be automatically applied.Volvo wants the XC60’s looks, safety features, practicality and price to appeal to a younger audience than the larger XC models. “It’s certainly aimed at a younger market” said Volvo design director Steve Mattin. “We also expect it to be bought by more women than any of our other XC models.” Mattin didn’t think that the XC60 would “cannibalise” other XC models, if urban dwelling XC90 owners decide to downsize to the XC60. Claimed sales targets for the XC60 are 50,000 models per year and all cars will be built in Volvo’s Belgium factory. Volvo expects to sell 80 per cent in Europe and America, but for the first time is expecting large sales in markets like Russia and China with this smaller model.