Updated: January 20, 2016
You must, you must forgive me my blatant cliche use of song lyrics in the title, but I just could not resist it. Anyhow, we are gathered here for a review of Volvo XC60, which we have seen in action in the Netherlands, taking us back and forth across the lowlands a merry number of times. We discussed the country, the roads, the driving experience, but we didn't delve too much into the car itself, which is why we have this article.
So, if you are wondering, Volvo XC60 T5 FWD is our test model, and it comes with the most elegant of trim levels, R-Design, which adds a sporty bite to the serene and classy image of what this car is meant to be. Indeed, if you are looking for a high seater with character and uniqueness, and you don't seem too keen on something like Toyota RAV4, whereas BMW X3 is either too posh or too mainstream for you, then maybe this could be a good choice. But we shall discover that soon. Please follow me.
In more detail
Our sample is the premium-equipped version in the family range, with tons of accessories and digitized extras in and around the vehicle. Behind the T5 label and beneath the engine hood, there's a four-cylinder worker bored at about 2,000 cc, turbo-charged, developing a healthy 245 HP and 350 Nm of torque. A unit with 306 HP and 400 Nm is also available, labeled T6, but there's another T5, with five cylinders, 25% more volume and just a bit more horsepower and moment as makes no difference. However, that one drives ALL four wheels. Likewise, another AWD T6 generates 304 HP and 440 Nm of torque.
On the diesel side, which we didn't get to test, you also get a bunch of variety and ambiguity, with four and five cylinders, front- and all-wheel drives, and outputs that are more modest in grass eaters but just as generous in how flexible the engine is, in line with the most powerful T6. It would be interesting to see how well the diesel works, though, because it would give us a better sense of driving dynamics understanding in comparison to X3, Audi A6 and Skoda Superb, which were our strongest diesel performers so far.
With that much juice, XC60 sprints 0-100 km/h in 7.2 seconds, which is pretty good, but doesn't feel good. On paper, the figure is identical to Opel Corsa OPC, but it feels infinitely slower, because you sit higher up, the car has a less direct feel of the road due to its more refined, luxury-oriented nature, plus the suspension, the steering and the eight-speed auto all provide additional neutering of the haste effect, as you probably would expect from a high-end CUV. The default set of 235/60 R 18 wheels gives a fairly neutral ride, and are good enough for 210km/h top speed. This isn't a racer, especially when you take into account the massive 1.9-ton empty weight.
Indeed, most if not all the focus of Volvo XC60 is in providing a luxurious, comfortable, highly functional, and upmarket interior to its users, who include executives, family men and women, with a more sensible approach to driving. Safety is another strong side, as it always has been. The list of options is long, and it covers a whole bunch of gadgets. Volvo XC60 offers 10 airbags, including knee and pelvis air bags, and there's an anti-collision system called City Safety for when driving in urban areas.
R-Design offers a more sporty look and grille trim, Cratus alloys, door sill branding, all-leather stitched interior, and chrome finish. Furthermore, you also get dual-zone climate control, voice-operated satnav with live updates, digital radio, cruise control, and auto-wipers. The downside? Well, the hefty price. Roughly EUR56,000, which isn't a negligible sum of money, especially when you convert it to other currencies, like the US Dollar, and then figure out what you can buy in the US for the same amount of money. Top model, top money, and that means it'd better be awesome. BMW X3 starts at EUR48,000, so overall, the two are quite close in terms of monetary hit you are expected to take if you go for either one of these.
On the outside
I have to admit I like XC60 quite a bit. It's a very pretty, muscular kind of CUV, with a high, prominent silhouette. You will not ignore this car on the road, and it looks different from the somewhat beautifully spartan German stock and rather generic Japanese crossovers. Beefy, aggressive line, a very Volvo grille, an important trademark, lots of chrome to make things look more serious.
I have mentioned this before, but one of the things that Volvo seems to have struggled with is the design of its non-saloon models, as they never seem to get the rear end quite right. Must be the Swede-like aviation industry heritage, which goes for the bit that cuts the air, rather than the one that drags it. However, XC60 manages to look quite presentable all over, 360 degrees. And when you apply some photography skills and filtering, then you really begin to appreciate what this crossover can offer to its potential buyers, even when you focus only on the visual aesthetics piece.
From up front, if you ignore the rest, you might think this could be any one of the Volvo 60 family. I have never imagined this particular car manufacturer as anything but comfy tanks, but a closer acquaintance with this crossover has given me a different perspective.
Volvo XC60 comes with a modern, almost spaceship-designed interior, which smacks of the 1970s sci-fi, and you can't ignore an airplane-like design of the dashboard. Soft rubberized plastic and leather helps tone down the retro-futuristic ambiance. The dark gray-black coloring can be boring, so you get chrome elements and alu-pedals to compensate for that. Everything is within easy reach, and the driving position is very adequate, with good visibility all around and no blind spots, which is important for a car this size.
The digitized dashboard is slightly busy, with a blue-green light and lots of warning symbols and letters. You get not one but two separate sets of warnings for when not wearing the seatbelts. The fuel consumption gauge is confusing, and I'm not sure what ECO guide actually is telling me. Is it the thirst or ecofriendliness?
The multimedia system is intriguing. The console design is somewhat archaic, but the functionality is spot on. Everything worked as it should, and the commands, apart from the aircon vent switches, are intuitive. The navigation system is intelligent and responsive, and so is the radio, which will mute whenever your RP-accented satellite lady has a waypoint update. I also tried Bluetooth connectivity with an iPhone, and it worked without any problems.
If you thought your interior trim wasn't rich enough, then you also get programmable, electrically powered seats with three memory settings. They are relatively easy to operate, but the up-down seat positioning can be a little confusing.
The front seats are stylishly designed, and they have flaring sides for good support on prolonged journeys and through corners. Then again, you probably won't be exercising significant lateral g force in this car, due to its comfortable suspension and considerable weight and height. It definitely isn't a go-cart, it wobbles and leans, and the body rolls should keep your leg off the throttle pedal in through corners. Apart from some backend tingle, the seats worked well and managed to keep me fresh and relaxed during the three-day journey.
There's more fun stuff all around. Little knobs and switches, chrome frames, lining, stitching, all of it is done with upmarket quality. There are no squeaking noises, no loose bits, everything fits in perfectly, everything feels soft and pliant, and apart from the central console, it's a very sensible and practical design. Not as precise as what you normally get in the BMW or Audi range, but more elegant than Mercedes.
For your luggage, you get about 495 liters, plus another 33 liters under the fluffy-cloth false bottom, and there's a privacy lid that covers everything nicely, so you don't need to worry about leaving the suitcases inside the car during spotovers and such. The high lip makes for tricky loading, and for short people, there's a button that will electrically lower the boot door. I don't know if it has a safety mechanism to prevent crushing people, but then it must. You should use it, though, because the door is quite heavy and somewhat difficult to swing close.
Volvo XC60 road test
I did ramble and rant on Volvo's driving characteristics at some length in the Eurotrip two-pager. Indeed, there isn't too much to add. This car has been designed for comfort, safety and luxury first, and everything else is secondary. You will not be buying this for its supreme handling, speed, acceleration, or the amazing algorithms of its auto box. In fact, this is one piece that does not fit well into the whole product. The petrol is mighty, but not torquey enough to pull this vehicle, which weights 2+ tons with a bunch of adults on board. The gearbox shifts too often, too much, the changes are noticeable unlike those in X3, and the engine noise isn't very pleasant. Then, you don't get any sense of speed, even when you floor it.
Consequently, fuel consumptions suffers as a result, and the digital display claimed I was averaging about 10 liters per 100 km. This is more than X3 would do in similar conditions by a big margin. Most of my testing was done outside the city, on highways, with speed limited to about 100-120 km/h, light use of aircon, and three adults inside, weighing some 200 kg extra.
Ride quality is good, the seats are good, but there's too much roll for any shenanigans, and you'll feel more at home in the town than on the open road. I didn't get to drive this car offroad, so I have no idea how well it'd handle turf and mud. All in all, XC60's driving dynamics are for people who are past their racing stage in their mental development, and are looking for a sensible trooper.
With just 6,500 km under its snow boots, there's nothing to report. The owner did not have any complaints, and from what I've seen, given the quality of the interior, there shouldn't be any. Small niggles did surface, though. The seat heating takes a while to kick in, and then it roasts your back. Your buttocks might tingle after a lot of time spent driving, but it might also have to do with anatomy and posture, and you do have lumbar support to fiddle with if you need. You should also make sure you're seated correctly height wise, otherwise the backs of your thighs might hurt from pressing too hard into the seat. It's all too easy to over-seat yourself in a CUV, as it's natural to assume a high driving position.
My backbenchers complained about sharp metal bobs hidden among all the trimmings and mouldings that compromise the rear half of the cabin. Mirrors will angle down when you slot in the reverse, which I find somewhat confusing if useful. Other than that, this was a well-composed, well-behaved transport machine.
Volvo XC60 is a curious beast. It's a car with a conflicting character, a conflicting message, an unresolved paradox of duality in its behavior, all of which might confuse its audience. On one hand, it's sporty, it's got a lot of power, and it's meant to be both fun and luxurious. Then, it sort of backpedals on its mission statement, offering you a state-of-art interior spoiled with some old-age extras, and neuters the driving piece by being too heavy, not as perceptibly agile as it really is, and having an auto box that makes too much work out of its eight options.
The price of the R-Design model is not something you can ignore either, because you can get a load of smaller, less glamorous CUV for significantly less money. With links to reviews which you can find farther below, Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI CR 150 Monte Carlo 4x4, with DSG, pearl black and red paint, and all the extra optional equipment costs only EUR41,000, and it has superior driving dynamics, more torque and a better dual-clutch gearbox. Not as big or as refined, for sure, but for EUR15,000 less? Who knows. All in all, Volvo XC60 is a decent choice for people looking for image and luxury. If you want your CUV to burn tire through corners and accelerate like a spaceship, then this isn't your car. Or mine. Maybe T6 or diesel, but I'm not sure. Overall, something like 7.5/10. There you go fellas.