What is it?
This is Volvo’s all-new ‘crossover SUV’. To all intents and purposes it’s the Swedish car-maker’s answer to the Land Rover Freelander, BMW X3 and Honda CRV, and a smaller sibling for the successful XC90.
But it’s also a more interesting and different car in its own right than that would suggest; a real breath of fresh air for anyone considering an upmarket, small soft-roader.
What’s it like?
To look at, it’s pretty – and pretty unusual. Although it occupies the same space at the kerb as a conventional medium-sized 4x4, the Volvo XC60 doesn’t resemble one.
From the belt line upwards this could be a sporty estate car, such is its cabin-rear profile, the sleek shallowness of its glasshouse and the steep rake of its windscreen.
But sporty estates aren’t this tall; they don’t have so much metal between the door handles and the door sills, and they don’t ride so high off the ground.
Neither are Volvos usually this bold and assertive of appearance. That’s because the XC60 represents the beginning of a new chapter for Gothenburg’s design team.
This is the first production car by recently appointed design boss Steve Mattin and, judging by its swollen badges and features, its wedge-like bodyside and its dynamic and sculptured surfaces and lines, he’s determined to drag the brand’s hitherto conservative metal aesthetic kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
The XC60’s cabin feels solid, airy and upmarket. There has perhaps not been as much innovative thinking invested in creating this interior as there has for the car’s exterior, but it’s all very pleasant, well-appointed and well-built.
The car’s driving position is good – and typically high – and there’s enough room for full-sized adults to travel in the back seats in comfort.
There are three engines to choose from for prospective XC60 buyers – a 281bhp turbo six-pot petrol and two five-pot diesels (a 161bhp 2.4D and a 183bhp D5). We tested the D5, in six-speed manual form.
The car’s performance isn’t what you’d call fast, but it’s certainly brisk enough to make for easy overtaking at cross-country speeds, accompanied by the Volvo diesel’s characterful but workmanlike thrum.
There’s just enough urge to propel this car down the road briskly, but not so much that it becomes too thirsty. Volvo claims 37.7mpg and 199g/km of CO2.
The car’s performance is abetted by the fitment of a positive, chunky-feeling six-speed manual gearbox, which allows the driver full control over gear changes in a way that never seems possible with Volvo’s ‘Geartronic’ automatic ‘box.
The car’s steering isn’t quite as impressive. It’s accurate, but there’s almost no communication coming though the helm to the XC60’s driver, which is regrettable, if not unpredictable from Volvo.
Like all other XC60s offered at launch, ours had Volvo’s tried-and-tested Haldex multi-plate clutch-equipped four-wheel drive system.