The Volvo XC60 is the XC90’s slightly smaller crossover SUV sibling, 180mm shorter in length and 71mm shorter in height. The width of the two vehicles is more or less the same, give or take a few millimetres. Launched five years into the XC90’s life, the XC60 sought to take on premium mid-sized SUVs like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Land Rover Freelander 2, which it actually shares its platform with. Friends and family of mine thought that the XC60 still looked almost as large in the flesh as its big brother, but unlike the XC90, only five seats are on offer here.
Design wise, I think the XC60 looks very sexy indeed. Volvo intended it to have much more of a dynamic, kinetic look to it and in my book, they succeeded. The pronounced belt line rises up towards the boot purposefully, giving that impression of sporty movement, which is reinforced by the trapezoidal shapes, angular lines and creases. From almost any angle, the XC60 is attractive and desirable – and it certainly did attract many admiring glances. This isn’t the type of car which will experience that much off-road use, but the matte aluminium side scuff plates, rear skid plate and front and rear bumpers add to the car’s quality, capable, tough appeal. The LED DRLs (daytime running lights) are imaginatively integrated in a unique vertical design at the front, while at the rear, effective and stylish LED brake lights are again the order of the day.
Little details like the ‘XC’ etched into the side scuff plates and alloys shows that Volvo have thought carefully about producing a refined, quality car. The car’s broad shoulders and big wheel arches, beefy 19” alloy wheels and raised up stance combine into a design which appeals to both Volvo’s ‘young urban professionals’ target market and a good smattering of older customers who appreciate a safe, capable and stylish vehicle which offers great visibility. I’ll go into this in more detail later, but in terms of its exterior appearance which I obviously really rate, I feel the XC60 perfectly blends traditional Volvo values with their new design ethos and abundant technological advances.
The Theme Continues
Of high quality modernity, that is. The interior of the XC60 SE Lux Premium is a very nice place to be indeed. Okay, Volvo seats have always been known for being supremely comfortable, so what makes the XC60’s interior so special? Whereas the XC90’s centre dashboard console featured large buttons which could be operated whilst wearing gloves, the XC60’s have been to follow the ‘modern is small’ philosophy. Remember that the XC90 is used by some owners as a proper 4×4 for towing farm equipment and trailers in all weathers, whereas the XC60 isn’t meant to be that kind of car – so using smaller, trendier buttons and switchgear is perfectly in harmony with the car’s intentions. The floating centre console which debuted on the V50 some years ago is now standard across most of the Volvo range and is integrated very tastefully into the XC60, the main Volvo ‘Sensus’ infotainment screen along with the buttons and dials for the climate control, heated seats, telephone, sat nav and so on, all angled towards the driver.
The combination of off-black and soft beige leather worked beautifully and gave the car a real air of class and sophistication, although lighter colours will inevitably pick up blemishes faster than dark interiors – and I found that the aluminium trim finish picked up fingerprints and other similar marks quite easily, which was a bit annoying even though they could be wiped off quickly.
Keyless entry made climbing into the XC60 less bothersome when I was laden down with bags, coats and other bumph. It’s just embarrassing if you’re the kind of person who, like me, occasionally double-checks that the car’s locked and, hey presto, it opens again! Oh, on the subject of convenience, the boot opens up automatically if you hold down the button on the key fob. And to close it, you just need to press the button and it does it for you. Cushy!
When I first sat in the XC60, it felt a fair bit smaller than the XC90, but after living with it for a week, I came round to thinking that the ’60 is probably the perfect optimum sized car for many people, with a fairly commanding driving position and plenty of space, but without the feeling you’re trying to manoeuvre the Ark Royal.
The switchgear all felt high quality and durable and the whole interior has been put together really rather well. Well done, Volvo. Everything from the leather steering wheel and chunky gear selector to the concealed cupholders and expensive-feeling remote control really does feel premium in the XC60. All the controls are fairly straightforward to get the hang of, although the sat nav isn’t the most instantly friendly system, and as per the XC90, there don’t seem to be any green symbols to tell you the sidelights or headlights are on. Then again, the XC60’s daytime running lights are sure to be on, so no great issue. Voice recognition worked well from the start, especially with the sat nav, which displays the speed limit on the main screen.
The DAB radio is easy to operate and the sound quality dished up by the wonderful audio system is very good indeed. At the end of extremely long journeys, one is sure to come out of the XC60 feeling refreshed. The climate control was slightly noisy at times, I thought, but it does adjust the temperature impressively efficiently.
Room for the Labradors?
Legroom is very good in the back and it goes without saying that the seats are very comfortable. The floor is nice and flat so would be fine for five adults on a medium-length journey, the rear centre armrest has two cupholders and two compartments available and the rear headrests slide up and down to suit. With the rear seats raised in position, the Volvo XC60’s boot is definitely not pokey at 495 litres. The back seats fold 40:20:40 meaning you can configure things to suit many situations, from carrying a large item of furniture with all the rear seats folded flat, to carrying some kind of long garden tools or planks of wood, whilst still providing seating for one or two rear passengers. The 495 litres of ‘normal’ boot space and 1,455 litres with the seats folded are less than in the Audi Q5 (540 / 1,560 litres) and BMW X3 (550 / 1,600 litres), though. And just to throw in a rather blingy comparison, the smaller Evoque has a Tardis-like boot which offers 575 / 1,445 litres.
Anyway, back to the XC60 and there’s no boot lip to get in the way when loading objects in, and there are even two secret, lockable compartments under the floor of the boot. Volvo intends that one of the hidden compartments is for personal items, the other for soiled or wet items. So although the XC60’s boot isn’t the biggest in its class, it’s still a very capable and practical car in this department. The SE Lux Premium version I tested came with the aforementioned button for closing the boot with a single press. Some may deem an electric powered boot (‘tailgate’ for more precise people and ‘trunk’ for you Americans!) unnecessary, but you quickly get used to it!
One thing the XC60 has definitely nailed is safety – something Volvo has always excelled at. The XC60 comes with plenty of safety acronyms: Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), Hill Descent Control (HDC) for steep inclines, Continuously Controlled Chassis Concept (FOUR-C), Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), Roll Stability Control (RSC), Roll-Over Protection System (ROPS), Side Impact Protection System (SIPS), and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA) for car and trailer stability, plus child booster cushions in the rear.
A large chunk of the settings behind the ‘My Car’ button on the floating centre stack is devoted to the XC60’s safety and driver aid settings. For a start, Pedestrian Detection certainly worked, as the first time I took the XC60 out for a spin, I drove past a group of yoofs walking half on and half off the pavement, and the strip of red lights on the dashboard in front of me started going berserk. In cases where the car has detected one or more people walking in the road but the driver hasn’t responded, it will automatically apply the brakes. The car’s raft of safety technology also comprises a rear collision warning system which works pre-emptively, along with the most talked about feature called City Safety. This uses a laser system to monitor traffic in front at slow speeds, thinking ahead and braking automatically to minimise or even completely avoid collisions. Fancy stuff indeed! I was slightly puzzled whenever I tried to test the safety features, as they never seemed to detect pedestrians when I was heading for them intentionally, nor did it warn me I was drifting across the lane lines on the motorway. But then suddenly, the red light strips would go off along with the alarm sound – somewhat randomly at times, if felt. But hey, even if systems like City Safety don’t work absolutely perfectly, it’s immensely reassuring to know they’re present in the XC60 compared to other cars without such technology. My XC60 also came with front and rear parking sensors and cameras, with handy lines to guide you.
Last but not least – what’s the XC60 like to drive?
Having stepped into the XC60 for a week immediately after the XC90, the ’60 certainly didn’t feel as high up or butch. This will no doubt suit a lot of people who want a car which successfully blends practicality, safety and a modicum of off-road ability with a more car-like feel.
I didn’t like the XC90’s old fashioned, foot-operated parking brake, which requires releasing manually – so I was pleased to see the XC60 equipped with a simpler hand-operated parking brake. Push it to apply the brake, pull it to release. Or in this case, it auto releases if you shift the lever into D or R and accelerate gently.
The revised five-cylinder, 2.4-litre D3 engine immediately struck me as a wee bit noisy, not just compared to rivals like the X3 and Q5, but even the XC90. Even when it had warmed up, the D3 still emitted a bit of clatter. In some cars, slight lack of refinement from the engine can be made up for by a nice beefy kick-down note, but nope, booting the D3 never really brought a smile to my face. At times, it felt like driving one of the ubiquitous 2-litre diesel saloons out there. The 163bhp engine in the XC60 compares to the BMW X3 xDrive 20d which has 184bhp and the Q5 2.0 TDI Quattro S-Tronic with 170bhp. The immensely comfortable interior does dilute the few criticisms I have over the D3 powerplant and once you’re locked into motorway speeds, things quieten down and the XC60 makes for a very good coast-to-coast stormer. This particular XC60 press car was plagued by an annoying rattle in the passenger door, but we will forgive it. Emissions wise, the D3 163PS puts out 179g/km of CO2. From the 6-speed automatic (Geartronic) version I tested, Volvo claim an average combined economy of 41.5mpg. I didn’t get the chance to take the XC60 on a very long motorway run, but this was good as it allowed me to assess the fuel economy after a week of very mixed driving encompassing town, motorway and country. I achieved 36mpg in the end, which is ok considering it’s a fairly big and heavy AWD car. Audi quote similar combined figures for their Q5, but BMW quote much higher MPG figures for the X3. I covered just over 200 miles during the week with the XC60, which included a lot of town driving and spirited country lanes, and handed it back with over half a tank still left. So although I felt a bit sheepish about the 36mpg displaying on the computer, it’s still pretty good, as hardly any cars achieve their brochure figures.
Whereas the XC90 was at times a heavy old tank to steer and manoeuvre, the XC60 with its much more estate-car-like feel was lighter and easier to pilot. The steering is reasonably responsive but certainly not as good as an X3’s, meaning that despite its looks, the XC60 is the least sporty in its immediate class of rivals, on a par with the Freelander 2 perhaps, but not the Audi and BMW. Sportier small SUV competitors have better suspension too, the XC60’s ironically thumping over potholes and other uneven surfaces. Maybe smaller alloy wheels would have helped soften the ride a bit, but then some of the aesthetic appeal would be lost. So the XC60’s ride and handling are satisfactory but not that fun. Still, as I’ve said before, if you’re after a small lounge on wheels with a relatively high driving position, the XC60 SE Lux Premium spec’ car’s lack of sporty feedback and agility might not matter as much to you.
On the motorway it proved to be nice and smooth with not that much wind and road noise, and the raised driving position obviously translated well onto country roads too. The turning circle of the XC60 felt pretty good and because of its compact crossover size, it’s not daunting to drive in tightly packed urban environments either. It does what it says on the tin as far as the ‘SE Lux Premium’ spec’ is concerned, but if you’re after a bit more B-road excitement, perhaps look at the R-Design models instead. Which brings me to another XC60 range comparison, that of the D5 version. This will give you 215bhp as opposed to 163bhp but is cited as returning the same combined fuel economy of 41.5mpg, with the same CO2 emissions of 179g/km. If you own a caravan, a trailer for transporting your weekend stock-car, or maybe you’re a rural type with a horse to ferry around, you’ll want to know how much the XC60 can tow. In 163bhp D3 AWD guise as tested, the answer is 1,800kgs. The 0-60mph figure for this car is 10.4 seconds and it can do a top speed of 118mph.
The bottom line
What kind of money buys you an XC60 D3 AWD Geartronic in SE Lux Premium spec, then? The base price for this one started at £35,600, but fancy having a guess at the final price with all the options added? How many would have said something near £46,545? Sounds a bit steep, but let’s have a recap of which options are included in that. There’s the Driver Support Pack at £1,635, the Geartronic 6-speed auto box at £1,485, the sunroof at £1,075, the 19″ Fenrir alloy wheels at £1,000 for the set, the Exterior Styling Kit at £915, a detachable towbar at £705, the Security Pack at £665, the Savile Grey Pearl metallic paint at £640, the power passenger seat at £630, the rear parking camera costing £615 and the front camera costing £395, plus Volvo’s On Call system at £320, along with dark tinted rear glass at £310, front and rear park assist at £280 and heated front seats at £275. A mouthful to read, so to speak, but if you want to be pampered on the move, that’s what it will cost you. Sure, the XC60 packs in all the impressive-sounding safety technology, but there’s no denying the resulting price sounds expensive. Still, its rivals come with premium price tags too. I quickly priced up a 2.0 TDI Quattro S-Tronic Audi Q5 in S-Line Plus spec’ with loads of options and it came to £42,000. Pricing up a BMW X3 xDrive20d SE with loads of toys brought its price to £44,000.
The XC60 in D3 AWD Geartronic SE Lux Premium guise is very luxurious for a compact SUV crossovercar and the special, pampering interior is a lovely place from which to munch away the miles. It’s animmensely practical car too with lots of convenience features, even if it’s not got the biggest boot in the class. The handling’s not the best in the class either, but I think the X3 and Q5 look rather dull compared to the XC60. So despite falling somewhat behind in some departments, I would still engage heart before head in this case and choose the XC60 as it has an image and aura with slightly more character, and having driven it thoroughly for a week, I really bonded with it.
© Oliver Hammond
Motoring Writer, Road Test Reviewer & Car Consultant
Specification of the 2012 Volvo XC60 D3 163bhp AWD Geartronic SE Lux Premium tested in this review
Engine: 2400cc, 5-cylinder, 20-valve diesel
Transmission: 6-speed automatic Geartronic
Max Output: 163bhp
Max Torque 420Nm
Top Speed: 118mph
0-60mph: 10.4 seconds
Combined fuel economy: 41.5mpg
Tax Band: I for indigo
CO2 Emissions: 179g/km
Kerb Weight: 1,864kg
Max Towing Weight (braked): 1,800kg
Service Intervals: 1 year / 18,000 miles
Boot capacity: 495 litres (rear seats up), 1,445 litres (rear seats down, brimmed to the roof)
Dimensions: 4,627mm long, 2,120mm wide including mirrors, 1,713mm high
Options fitted to this press vehicle:
Driver Support Pack £1,635
Geartronic 6-speed auto ‘box £1,485
19″ Fenrir alloy wheels £1,000
Exterior Styling Kit £915
Detachable towbar £705
Security Pack £665
Savile Grey Pearl metallic paint £640
Power passenger seat £630
Rear parking camera £615
Front camera £395
On Call £320
Dark tinted rear glass £310
Front and rear park assist £280
Heated front seats at £275