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Volvo aims its reinvigorated crosshairs at the medium-sized SUV ranks with a premium offering

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The Volvo range is getting there with its maker's ambition to be electric-only, but for now, the Volvo XC60 remains popular in showrooms with its 'old' technology.

How quickly things seem to change. It only feels like five minutes since the new era of big Volvos launched under Geely ownership, starting with the Volvo XC90 with all new engines and underpinned by the same sparkly new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) technology.

Until Volvo ditched diesel, it had two versions of there XC60 confusingly called B5 - one petrol and one diesel - with nothing obvious to link then

Yet Volvo's pivot to electric cars has been quick. With the demise of the Volvo S60, Volvo V60, Volvo S90, Volvo V90 - yes, Volvo no longer makes any saloons or estates - and soon-to-be XC90 itself when the Volvo EX90 replaces it, only the XC60 remains of the SPA cars.

That's no bad thing because it's always been the best of them. It sits right in the heart of the premium family SUV segment, going up against the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X3 and Audi Q5. Indeed, even seven years after its launch it still sits in the top five of our best family SUV list.

Yet with Volvo being a very different brand to 2017, the XC60 range also looks very different to then. As it nears the end of its life, engine and trim options have been reduced and the range is now solely all-wheel drive rather than the option of front-wheel drive with prices now starting at closer to £50,000 to sub-£40,000 when it first launched. 

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For the 2024 model year, there is a B5 petrol version and T6 and T8 plug-in hybrids alongside three trims: Core, Plus and Ultimate. Wash your mouth out at the thought of a diesel version.  

VERSIONPOWER
B5 AWD MILD HYBRID248bhp
T6 AWD PLUG-IN HYBRID345bhp
T8 AWD PLUG-IN HYBRID449bhp

DESIGN & STYLING

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Volvo XC60 side

The ’60-series compact 4x4 uses the same platform and many of the same engines that power its bigger sibling, the Volvo XC90, and so in many ways it is exactly what it looks like: a boil-washed XC90.

That's a good thing, as it oozes class inside and out, even more so after its most substantial refresh in 2022. 

The driving modes affect the brake pedal feel, throttle response, damper settings and, if fitted, air suspension's ride height.

The XC60 shows flashes of resemblance to its bigger XC90 sibling – like the Thor’s Hammer headlights – and as mentioned in the above section sits on the same SPA platform, but the XC60 manages to carve out enough of a difference to be distinguishable in its own right.

It’s longer, wider and lower than the previous-generation XC60, but has a higher ground clearance and isn’t any heavier.

It’s also nicely proportioned to allow it an airy, spacious cabin inside while striking a sleek, understated, Nordic-chic exterior that isn’t particularly flashy, but neither is it emotionless and bland like many of the snoozefest SUVs in the class.

As standard the XC60 gets all-wheel drive and a double-wishbone front suspension with a rear multi-link arrangement.

Like the XC90, it gets a transverse composite leaf spring in the rear axle, allowing a light, compact design with, in theory, a smoother ride and improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) compared with what you’d get with a regular coil spring set up.

Height-adjustable air suspension (which allows an additional 60mm of travel) is available on range-topping Ultimate models and our test car was equipped with it.

All ‘SPA’ Volvos benefit from the lightweight and strong qualities of the modular platform and get the same power-assisted electromechanical rack and pinion steering system, the characteristics of which can be personalised through the different drive modes available: Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-Road, Individual.

INTERIOR

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Volvo XC60 interior

Volvo has given every reason for potential XC90 buyers to talk themselves into its more affordable relation as much of the larger car’s aesthetic appeal, usability and material quality has been ushered into the latest offering.

The pair are closely related enough that even seasoned commentators were forced to find the differences in side-by-side comparison.

The cabin is of a high perceived quality and excellent comfort

The differences, then, are subtle: vents have been remodelled and switchgear swapped out, but essentially all the important fixtures are transferred, including the portrait-orientated infotainment screen that dominates the dashboard.

This is to the smaller car’s benefit; we rightly lauded the Volvo XC90’s take on an SUV cabin, and its downsizing has done nothing to dilute the impression of sitting in a well-thought-out space.

The larger XC90’s cabin ambience, which manages to seem vaguely Scandinavian without lapsing into the appearance of an IKEA kitchen, is well translated, as is the high-quality fit-and-finish of predominantly premium materials.

It doesn't feel as fresh or innovative as more modern rivals with its material use now but it's still a nice place to be.

As standard, there is an eight-inch digital instrument cluster which, when combined with the nine-inch touchscreen, is still there or thereabouts with the class on technology but it does now feel a bit dated, perhaps through familiarity as much as anything else.

The previous 'Sensus' operating system was replaced with a Google-based system, and while an upgrade it is still a long way from perfect. Using it requires your eyes to be off the road too often, with too many button presses for even the simplest of tasks.

Even switching between driving modes has become a three-stage process, first selecting ‘Settings’, then ‘Dynamics’ and only then being able to move between the Hybrid, Power, Pure, Off-Road and AED modes. The scroll controller previously used to move between these has been removed, making it impossible to change them without taking eyes from the road; in usability terms a definite retrograde step.

Some other settings were buried even further, to the extent it seems unlikely that many owners will ever discover them. For a company as safety-conscious as Volvo, this is an oversight. 

You sit obligingly high in the car, on leather-upholstered seats that offer a decent enough compromise between comfort and support, and without any doubt that the surrounding space is of a capacious sort.

The rear quarters follow suit: they’re usefully more roomy than those of the model being replaced, though nothing exceptionally spacious for the class, but adults of all sizes should find themselves being made comfortable.

The focus on passenger contentment has penalised boot space a wee bit, though. The XC60’s 505-litre capacity is respectable but not quite on par with the amount offered by most of its big-name rivals, like the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC, both of which offer 550 litres.

That’s a mild deficiency each buyer will have to rate for themselves; for us, the impressively square, flat loadspace seemed ready for most big family tasks. 

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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Volvo XC60 plug in hyrbid engine 2

This is where the weakest part of the XC60's armoury rears its head. Volvo has made a stand by getting rid of diesel but it creates a glaring hole in the range of a car like the XC60 where the alternatives lack the performance and the economy to do an effective job of replacing it.

The B5 is a 48V mild hybrid unit with 247bhp and while acceleration is impressive - 0-62mph takes 6.9sec - it doesn't half make a racket under heavier acceleration loads. Economy at barely 30mpg means frequent trips to the petrol station, too. 

Stability and traction control systems remain fairly unobtrusive in ‘Dynamic’ mode

The eight-speed gearbox it is mated to feels hesitant both away from a standstill and when swapping ratios under load.

There’s an elastic feel to the way the transmission slips before fully engaging as you apply middling amounts of power; it can be bothersome when you’re in a hurry or looking for any meaningful driver engagement in manual mode, but somehow it seems to make more of the engine’s torque when you’re just punting around with the transmission in 'Drive' mode.

The two plug-in hybrid versions are a T6 with 345bhp and a T8 with 449bhp. Both use a 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is turbocharged in the T6 and then also supercharged in the T8, to power the front wheels and a 143bhp motor to power the rear wheels.

The T8 is the most powerful Volvo yet produced. An 18.8kWh battery provides an electric range over 40 miles.

In the T6, the switch from electric to petrol power is seamless and the engine is smooth at low revs. If you floor it, you will hear a slightly gruff combustion noise, be shoved forward by the instant torque of the electric motor and then carried through by the 2.0-litre petrol unit.

The 0-62mph sprint takes 5.7sec – 0.2sec quicker than in the previous XC60 Recharge T6. 

The T8 powertrain is certainly impressively rapid when both combustion and electrical sides are working together. The XC60 launches hard and accelerates at a vigour that makes the fitment of Volvo’s corporate 112mph speed limiter seem like a cruel curtailment. There is little doubt an unconstrained T8 would be able to easily attain the 155mph that Volvo used to restrict its cars to.

Refinement is generally very good in the T8, although the petrol engine does become vocal under hard use. Choosing the pure electric ‘Pure’ mode trims the level of performance, but turns the powertrain almost entirely silent.

Performance is more than adequate when running as an EV, although pressing too hard on the accelerator pedal will fire the combustion engine into life again. The one-pedal mode also works impressively well; as in the fully electric Volvo C40 Recharge, it allows the XC60 T8 to be brought to an almost imperceptible stop.

Whatever the version of XC60, there is good cabin isolation, keeping the car’s interior laudably muted on the motorway and preventing wind noise from becoming intrusive as it sometimes can in more upright cars.

Volvo’s long-standing preference for slightly over-assisted, isolated-feeling controls makes for a light and slightly spongy-feeling brake pedal which also made hard stops less precise and smooth than they might have been.

That’s as part of the bargain struck to make the more gentle stops less physically demanding, of course – which, you’d imagine, many Volvo drivers would value.

RIDE & HANDLING

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Volvo XC60 side

As we’ve written so many times, what constitutes a great-handling mid-sized SUV is a complicated thing to define.

In outright terms, the answer may simply be ‘a Porsche Macan’, but for someone who wants the comfort, isolation, versatility, space and convenience that most cars of this type afford – and that, in many cases, the Porsche does not – that answer may be as good as useless.

It’s as secure in extremis as anyone could want a Volvo to be.

However you prefer to define that idea, few would expect the new XC60 to set the premium SUV class standard on handling dynamism and so perhaps few will care that it doesn’t. It's quite a limp car to drive and doesn't respond well to any enthusiastic intent from its driver. 

But while in air-suspended form the XC60 doesn't stand out for its handling, it is much improved in its ride quality from when we first tested it back in 2017. It's comfortable to drive at all speeds and is fanatic in particular as a motorway cruiser, even in terrible weather conditions. It's relaxing and almost comforting in this department. 

We’d bemoan the fact that the XC60’s ‘Dynamic’ driving mode doesn’t do a better job of producing much of a sporting driving experience (body control ranges from decent downwards) – admitting the same caveat with which this section started: that, in all likelihood, an owner won’t care. We simply can’t pretend that we don’t.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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Volvo XC60 front lead

As you'd expect, the XC60 of 2024 is a very different beast to the one that launched in 2017. The range starts with Core trim and the B5 is the only model offered with this trim. Mid-range Plus is offered on the B5 and the T6, while the Ultimate range-topper is available with the B5 and the T8.

Standard equipment is generous and it seems diminishing returns in what you get as you go up the trim levels given what you get as standard, heated leather seats, 18in alloys and the full infotainment and connectivity services among them. The real differentiator is the addition of air suspension on the Ultimate model.

Have a D5 R-Design. And if you cover a lot of motorway miles, add the Intellisafe Pro pack

The B5 Core costs just under £50,000, while the B5 Plus will cost just over that. The B5 Ultimate and T6 Plus both command a price tag of over £60,000, while the T8 Ultimate almost touches £70,000. 

Big money, but as the mystery shoppers at our sister brand What Car?'s Target Price have shown, big discounts are offered, too, as much as £3400.

Perhaps the biggest downside of all to the B5 is the terrible economy. A 247bhp petrol engine has never been a good idea for a car of this size and weight, and so it proves yet again. 

The plug-in hybrid models will hold close to no appeal to private buyers given their extra cost for no real obvious gain yet their battery upgrade to 18.8kWh gives them well over 40 miles of EV range and drops the benefit-in-kind rate to just 8%, thus holding appeal for company car buyers unable to go electric and take advantage of even lower BIK ratings. 

During our test of the T6, the predicted electric range of 48 miles was a fair reflection of real usage. Plus, with the sat-nav set, the system accurately plans to most efficiently use the remaining charge. It quite spookily matches the remaining range to the remaining miles to the destination, ensuring you arrive with the battery at 0 miles.

VERDICT

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Volvo XC60 static

In many areas, the Volvo XC60 has aged very gracefully and it is still competitive in several key areas.

It looks great on the outside and its interior can just about keep up in some areas with more modern rivals, while also maintaining impressive levels of comfort and practicality. 

The right product at the right time, but wanting the right dynamic finish

Ride improvements made throughout its life are to be welcomed and the XC60 has found its place as a comfortable car that doesn't over-excite its driver, rather cosseting them.

Yet the engine range badly lets it down and makes it an expensive car to run for a private buyer. It's a shame the diesel engines in the range were axed before their time. 

Still, this XC60 remains close enough to genuinely good as to end up being likeable, but assuredly no nearer to compelling.

Mark Tisshaw

mark-tisshaw-autocar
Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

Volvo XC60 First drives