What is it?
A facelifted version of Volvo’s soft-roading Volvo XC60 SUV. The latest round of model updates in the Volvo range gives the XC60 a new protective plastic trim below the front bumper, plus a re-styled front grille provides the XC60 with a sturdier, more rugged stance on the road.
As with the outgoing model, this updated XC60 is based on the Land Rover Freelander Mk2 platform. It makes sense, then, that Volvo has set its sights on both that and Audi’s Audi Q5 as rivals.
The Audi enjoys the same premium SUV style, but suffers from short gearing – while the Freelander is too adorned with go-anywhere tech for some. That means that there should be space in the market, then, for the updated XC60 to appeal to both sets of drivers by addressing those issues with this new model.
What's it like?
Inside, the cabin retains the premium feel of its predecessor, with plenty of soft-touch furnishings and brushed aluminium on show. There’s the same button-operated infotainment system, too, which to some might seem dated next to touch-screen options on offer from other manufacturers. However, the addition of a digital dashboard is a nice touch, with selectable themes changing the look and functionality of the dials.
On to the engine, and the 2.4-litre diesel unit we tried is very quiet at low revs, and picks up speed well from low-down in the power band. At cruising speed it feels refined, but higher revs cause the unit to sound strained.
A six-speed automatic gearbox seems like the right choice for the XC60, as the transmission does a good job of managing the engine’s output. It’s sometimes a little keen to seek out a higher gear in order to achieve better fuel economy, but otherwise ratios are well spaced, with changes feeling fluid and fast throughout.
The main downside to this updated XC60 comes with its steering. A car of this size is never going to win a tightest turning circle contest, but we would have expected more from the XC60. Even in relatively empty car parks the big Volvo feels cumbersome to manoeuvre. That’s not helped by a wheel that is weighted at low speeds. On the motorway, the setup is perfect, but on our urban runs it felt out of place.
Another downside to the XC60 is its ride. The car can be specified with the £1000 optional Active Four-C chassis control system, similar in function to Audi’s Driver Select. It was missing in our test car, however, and its absence means that a ride that is very well suited to the motorway feels too firm around town. That said, the worst bumps and potholes are softened by the 18-inch wheels fitted to our test car.
Overall, however, these latter comments are minor issues. The XC60 is a very competent cruiser and offers a genuinely engaging drive in most situations.
Should I buy one?
The XC60 fits into this market well, and it solves many of the problems presented by its rivals. Wind and road noise, which were big problems we found in the BMW X3, are non-existent in the XC60’s well-insulated cabin. Likewise, whereas the Range Rover Evoque feels somewhat fidgety at speed the XC60 is reassuringly planted.
It isn’t a perfect car by any means – we struggled to reach the claimed 44.1mpg, and the host of on-board safety systems can be overly cautious around town – but as a premium, compact SUV it seems the XC60 will retain its place on our list of the top cars in this segment.