On the outside, the XC60 is at once familiar and yet obviously new at the same time; a bit like the XC90, in that way. Volvo talks about angling in the windows at the top to narrow the car’s upper profile, and throwing back the windscreen, to make it more car-like and rakish. And while roof and floor are lower, it’s the roof that has gone down more than the floor.
But this is still one of the more traditionally-proportioned SUVs. For all the changes it still feels pretty light and airy inside. Materials choices and colours no doubt help, and they continue the good work done by the 90 models. Fit and finish is spot on, and the design feels more ‘Scandinavian kitchen’ than ‘Japanese hi-fi’, pleasingly.
There’s plenty of space for occupants front and rear, perhaps because Volvo thinks that’s more important than a massive boot which, at 505 litres, is about 45 litres shy of the class norm. The driving position’s good. Lower than before, apparently, but while again Volvo talks about increasing the height of the centre console (necessary for packaging the batteries of hybrid versions) and standing the dashboard upright so it feels more cockpit-like, it’s still pretty relaxed.
Ditto the way it drives. Volvo says the 90 series cars are meant to be ‘relaxed’ and that the 60 should make you feel ‘inspired’, as if the two are differently perfumed shower gels.
Whatever, the XC60 is a way off being the most dynamic car in the class, but despite the fact that you and I enjoy driving, I don’t have a particular beef with that. Confident and predictable is what Volvo has gone for and confident and stable is what it has achieved.
The ride comfort is particularly good, better I think than anything out of the 90 range so far. The XC90, for example, has fine body control for an SUV but a sometimes over-brittle ride as a result; the S and V90 lope along quite nicely but with an amount of float that you couldn’t allow on a taller car, like the XC60, because it would feel dreadfully boaty.
Showing the kind of progress that suggests Volvo’s engineers are learning how to get the best from the SPA platform, then, the XC60 rides both smoothly and yet has decent enough control of its body movements. There are more agile-feeling SUVs in this class – Mercedes and Audi and BMW make them – but if you want an agile-feeling car, I’m generally inclined to think you shouldn’t buy an SUV in the first place. The XC60 makes confident, relaxing progress. It’s as if Theresa May is the chief chassis engineer: strong and stable, lads, strong and stable.