• It isn’t the last word in refinement but the engine deliv...
    It isn’t the last word in refinement but the engine delivers its power in an effortless and fuss-free manner.
  • Air-sprung suspension delivers good high-speed stability.
    Air-sprung suspension delivers good high-speed stability.
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Rating 9 9

2018 Volvo XC60 review, road test

15th Mar 2018 2:43 pm

Luxuriously appointed, smart-looking and relaxing to drive, the new XC60 is a serious contender in its segment.

  • Make : Volvo
  • Model : XC60
We Like
High-quality interiors
Long features list
Class-leading safety
We Don't Like
Coarse engine note
Low-speed ride
Lack of a dial for the system controller

Nine years is a long time in the life cycle of any car, but that’s exactly how long Volvo took to finally replace the XC60. Why? Probably because in those nine years, the XC60 became the bestselling premium mid-sized SUV in Europe, with sales peaking in its last year! Towards the end, however, the first-gen car started to feel pretty long in the tooth, especially in the cabin that offered a button-laden dash.

So, it was a given that the second-gen car would be significantly better, but just how much was something we saw when we drove it last year. It thoroughly impressed us with its plethora of features, luxurious interiors, immaculate finish and comfortable drive. But how would it fare in a full Autocar road test? That’s what we find out.

Underpinning the XC60 is Volvo’s new large vehicle platform – Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). It is essentially a modular platform where the bits between the firewall and the front axle are fixed, while the overhangs, wheelbase and height are all flexible and modular. This allows for a higher standardisation of components among different vehicles, as well as the possibility of manufacturing different vehicle models on the same line.

With an eye on the future, SPA has been designed with autonomous driving, hybridisation as well as electrification in mind. All engines will be four-cylinder transverse layouts coupled to either front- or all-wheel drive. And safety being Volvo’s cornerstone, the new platform’s electrical architecture is designed to integrate the rapidly evolving microprocessor, sensor and camera technology to bring in a suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Further on the safety front is the use of five different types of steel and aluminium, including high-strength boron steel that Volvo claims gives them the ability to have lighter parts without compromising on safety.

The flexibility of SPA allows Volvo to create cars that have the right stance and proportions as required by their application. So, while the XC60 is quite easily recognisable as a Volvo, thanks to various signature styling elements, the company has ensured the SUV exudes a character different from its older sibling. Where the XC90’s tall stance and more vertically oriented design comes off as stately, the horizontally inclined design of the XC60 lends it a more youthful persona. In a world of nesting egg designs, this is quite a welcome change.

From the front, there’s no mistaking this for anything but a Volvo – it’s got the ‘Thor’s Hammer’ DRLs and the large rectangular seatbelt-motif grille with its classy-looking chromed vertical slats. The fog lights are easy to miss, but they are neatly set low and wide into the lowest edge of the front bumper. Moving to the side, the profile is sleek – the bonnet is long, the windscreen is quite steeply raked and the window line smoothly rises towards the rear, where the D-pillar is sharply raked forward. The 19-inch black diamond-cut alloys look nice and seem large enough for an SUV of this size. The signature vertical boomerang-style tail-lights dominate the rear and bracket the Volvo lettering stretched across the center.

The XC60 may have a bit of its own style and identity on the outside, but the insides are shared with the XC90 and S90 sedan. Given where Volvo has taken cabin design and quality with these cars, this isn’t a complaint. The XC60 interiors will simply bowl you over; open the door and you’ll probably feel the seats are sculpted by an artist, thanks to orthopedically designed contours and high-quality Nappa leather. Premium is pretty much the theme across the rest of the cabin too. Knurled knobs, unlacquered wood, chrome and piano black finish are all used to good effect, and every place you lay your eyes or hands on exudes quality.

The unlacquered drift wood with its ash finish may not be to everyone’s liking – especially if you like the warmth that traditional brown offers. However, it serves up a nice contrast against the tan leather interiors. Wood isn’t used as liberally as on the XC90, but the plastic trim used instead is of high quality.

As mentioned earlier, the interiors of the previous-gen XC60 was button haven, but on the new car, Volvo has done away with almost all of them by using its Sensus touchscreen system. Given the carmaker’s obsession with safety, this does stand out as odd because, despite the screen being large (9.0-inch), you still have to take your eyes off the road to operate it. As a system, though, it’s brilliantly designed.

The sculpted front seats will live up to your expectations. They are extremely comfortable and the only complaint – if you can call it that – is that they are a bit too broad for skinny frames and could do with more lateral support. The front seats have all the expected power adjustments, as well as an extra cushion that extends to offer more underthigh support. The seats also offer heating and cooling function, although at speeds of 2 and 3, the cooling fan is quite audible. You also get a massage function here. Getting into the rear, you will notice that the doors do not open very wide; this can be quite an inconvenience for elderly people. But once you’re inside, you’ll find the seats to be very comfortable, with the right amount of support all round. If, however, you get used to extending the cushion for extra thigh support in the front, then the rear bench may seem a little short. Legroom and headroom is more than sufficient and it’s easy to spend long hours here.

Storage spaces aren’t in abundance but they suffice. The door pockets can hold large water bottles, and the centre console and storage box have enough slots for various knick-knacks. However, if you have a slightly large phone, like an iPhone Plus, there isn’t a convenient place to lay it flat, unless you close the centre console and use the top sliding shutter – but this will mean you can’t use the cupholder.

The boot lid is powered and boot capacity stands at 505 litres; it’s quite spacious and, if required, you can increase the capacity by folding the backrest using the convenient sidewall buttons. Another handy trick is to use the air suspension to lower the rear of the car for easy loading. There is also a 12V power outlet and a space-saver spare wheel located under the floor.

Based on the SPA platform, the XC60 comes with only four-cylinder engines, and Volvo has selected just one for India – the more powerful D5 diesel that puts out 235hp and 480Nm of torque. This is the same spec as on the larger XC90 and thus performance is expectedly very good. 100kph from a standstill came up in 8.36sec, that’s around a second quicker than the XC90’s 9.14sec, and a shade quicker than the Mercedes GLC at 8.56sec.

An interesting bit about the D5 is the Power Pulse technology – the Swedish firm’s answer to turbo lag. The engine has a compressed air tank that delivers a high-powered shot of air at the turbo, spooling it up quickly at low revs. So, does it work? Yes. There’s virtually no lag and power comes in from about 1,600rpm and the build-up is strong and linear all the way to just below the 4,900rpm redline, where the gearbox will upshift even if you are in manual mode. As far as refinement goes, the engine is silent most of the time, but it’s far from setting a benchmark and it does sound a bit coarse when revved; there’s no mistaking this for anything but a diesel.

Gearbox performance is satisfying too. The eight-speed Aisin automatic transmission is quick enough and does keep pace with the engine performance, and you also have paddleshifters behind the wheel, but bear in mind, the software will always be in nanny mode, downshifting or upshifting when revs drop or rise too much. 

While engine performance is sprightly, handling really isn’t in the same vein. This isn’t a driver’s SUV, but the handling can’t be called lazy either; relaxed is the best way to describe how this SUV drives, and this is reflective in any drive mode. The XC60 has a number of drive modes and what’s great is the sheer range of adjustments on offer; while engine performance, gearshifts and steering are altered, the XC60 also adjusts the ride height and brake characteristics.

All four drive modes offer varying ride heights: Dynamic is the lowest setting to aid handling, Eco is higher in a bid to strike a balance between good ride and aero performance, Comfort is higher still and offers better damping, while, naturally, Off-Road is the highest.

Volvo doesn’t expect the XC60 to do serious off-roading, and neither do most owners. We, however, did try it out over a few rough sections. Off-road ability is moderate, and the ride height and bits like hill descent will help traverse more serious stuff (we’ll find out at our annual off-road day).

The XC60 air suspension system offers great high-speed stability, and the car does a great job of masking speed; quite often, we found ourselves going faster than we actually thought. Also, the sharp edge normally associated with air springs isn’t as harsh, and body roll, while present, isn’t alarming. Low-speed ride quality, however, can get lumpy, and while road bumps don’t come jarring through, you do feel them. Comfort mode is pretty soft; in one particular instance, a crest, taken a little faster than usual, caused enough body lift for the safety system to kick in and tighten up our seat belts. We found Dynamic mode best for everyday use. Of course, you could go to the Individual setting and set-up the car exactly how you’d like it; most would probably find it perfect with the suspension left in Dynamic, and the rest of the car in Comfort.

Steering feel is nice and light at low speeds, and it also weights up as speeds increase. However, feedback isn’t pin-sharp and handling too is quite similar. This isn’t your sporty SUV by any standard, but you do get the feeling that Volvo wasn’t even trying to achieve this, preferring instead to focus on a comfortable and relaxed drive feel.

In case you’re wondering where in India would you use the various safety-related driving aids, you’re not alone. The systems require proper road markings to function but you’d be surprised when they do work; our testing on various highways showed that it can be relied on in certain instances. Pilot Assist is pretty unnerving but it does a good job of steering and keeping the car in its lane, Adaptive Cruise Control works a lot better and easily follows the car ahead, but, mind you, this only serves as an invitation for some Johnny-be-quick to cut into the space ahead of you, causing the XC60 to brake rapidly in a bid to maintain that safe distance.

This is a diesel, so fuel efficiency is expected to be good, and the XC60 does not disappoint. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine is a great starting point, and the SUV has other bits like the auto start-stop system and an Eco driving mode that also keeps the body height lower than normal to aid aero performance. In our testing, we managed 10kpl in the city run and 14.31kpl on the highway, both very respectable figures for this class.

Volvo’s Sensus touchscreen system can split opinion. On one hand, you have a large, easy-to- use 9.0-inch screen, while on the other it lacks a navigation dial or trackpad that would have enabled few more operations without having to take your eyes off the road. Plus it’s laid out vertically, unlike the landscape orientation that’s the norm; this does offer some benefits like instinctive vertical scrolling instead of side swiping and seeing more of your route ahead on maps. Another rather cool bit is how you can split the screen into two halves and use the car’s OS as well as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay simultaneously. The screen isn’t the last word in touch-responsiveness but it’s quick enough to not prove irritating. What is irritating though is the lack of a folder view to access the music on your pen drive; you instead get categories like song list, artist, album and others. The sound quality from the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system is stellar, and the signature yellow speaker cones are a rather cool touch as is the Gothenburg City Concert Hall sound setting.

Volvo has really put a lot of focus on equipment, selling the XC60 only in the fully loaded D5 Inscription trim. The equipment on offer is extensive, some not seen in rivals too. Being a Volvo, let’s talk about the safety kit. There’s Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane-keeping Aid that nudges the wheel should you stray, Pilot Assist that autonomously drives the car in its lane (you do have to keep your hands on the wheel though), and Volvo’s City Safe that can detect cars, cyclists, pedestrians and large animals and give you a warning or even automatically bring the car to a halt. Then there’s Cross Traffic Alert that warns you of crossing traffic while you are reversing, Blind Spot Information that alerts you to traffic on your flanks, Distance Warning that lets you know if you’re driving too close to the vehicle ahead, and Road Sign Information in the heads-up as well as instrument panel display. Needless to say, it offers kit like a 360-degree camera, automatic parking, ABS, ESP, Hill start and descent control, and six airbags.

Other notable equipment is the all-round air suspension, a stunning Bowers & Wilkins sound system, a four-zone climate control with an air quality sensor, active bending LED headlights, heated steering wheel, headlight cleaning, driver’s heads-up display, a 9.0-inch touchscreen, a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, a powered tailgate, and what a luxury car in India is incomplete without – a large panoramic sunroof.

Volvo currently imports the XC60, but given that the company’s newly started assembly operations are set up for the SPA platform, there are possibilities of a locally built car. Don’t expect this variant’s price to drop though; at Rs 55.90 lakh, the XC60 is priced competitively. You get a long list of features, a lot of which you won’t find in the competition, and the safety tech is simply miles ahead. The XC60’s design oozes class and the drive experience is nice and relaxed. Of course, it isn’t perfect. Low-speed ride could have been better and the engine isn’t the most refined either. In addition, Volvo’s sales and service network doesn’t have as wide a reach as its German competitors. But as a luxury SUV, there isn’t much more you could ask for. In areas of comfort, performance and equipment, the XC60 is the best in class.

It stands out as a tech-laden SUV that Volvo has thrown everything it possibly can into to set a new benchmark in the class.

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 55.90 lakh (ex-showroom, India)
Warranty 2 years/unlimited km
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Fuel Type / Propulsion Diesel
Engine Installation Front, transverse
Type 4 cyls
Cubic Capacity (cc) 1969cc
Bore/Stroke (mm) 82/93.2 mm
Compression Ratio 15.8:1
Valve Train 4 valves per cyl, DOHC
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 235hp at 4000rpm
Max Torque (Nm @ rpm) 480Nm at 2900-3700rpm
Power to Weight Ratio (hp/tonne) 125hp per tonne
Torque to Weight Ratio (Nm/tonne) 255Nm per tonne
Specific Output (hp/litre) 119hp per litre
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Drive Layout All-wheel drive
Gearbox Type Automatic
No of Gears 8
Shifting Mechanism Paddle shifters
1st Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 5.250/7.758
2nd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 3.029/13.44
3rd Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.950/20.88
4th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.457/27.95
5th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.221/33.36
6th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 1.000/40.73
7th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.809/50.34
8th Ratio/kph per 1000 rpm 0.673/60.52
Final Drive Ratio 3.329:1
BRAKING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
80 - 0 kph (mts, sec) 25.49m, 2.70s
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
City (kpl) 10.0kpl
Highway (kpl) 14.31kpl
Tank size (lts) 71 litres
ACCELERATION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
0 - 10 kph (sec) 0.48s
0 - 20 kph (sec) 0.91s
0 - 30 kph (sec) 1.53s
0 - 40 kph (sec) 2.19s
0 - 50 kph (sec) 2.90s
0 - 60 kph (sec) 3.71s
0 - 70 kph (sec) 4.69s
0 - 80 kph (sec) 5.75s
0 - 90 kph (sec) 6.93s
0 - 100 kph (sec) 8.36s
0 - 110 kph (sec) 9.92s
0 - 120 kph (sec) 11.62s
0 - 130 kph (sec) 13.60s
0 - 140 kph (sec) 15.69s
1/4 mile (sec) 16.26s
20-80kph (in third gear) (sec) 5.11s (in kickdown)
40-100kph (in fourth gear) (sec) 6.41s (in kickdown)
MAX SPEED IN GEAR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
1st (kph @rpm) 34kph at 4400rpm
2nd (kph @rpm) 57kph at 4200rpm
3rd (kph @rpm) 89kph at 4300rpm
4th (kph @rpm) 119kph at 4300rpm
5th (kph @rpm) 148kph at 4400rpm
6th (kph @rpm) 179kph at 4400rpm*
7th (kph @rpm) 220kph at 4400rpm*
8th (kph @rpm) 230kph at 3800rpm*
NOISE LEVEL Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Idle (dB) 44.5dB
Idle with AC blower at half (dB) 47.6dB
Full Revs, AC off (dB) 58.5dB
50 kph in 4th gear AC off (dB) 52.5dB
80 kph in top gear AC off (dB) 61.9dB
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Construction Five-door, monocoque
Weight (kg) 1879 kg
Front Tyre 235/55 R19
Rear Tyre 235/55 R19
Spare Tyre Space saver
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Independent, double wishbone, air springs
Rear Independent, air springs, anti-roll bar
STEERING Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Electric
Turning Circle Diameter (mts) 11.4m
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Discs
Rear Discs
Dimensions Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Length 4688mm
Width (mm) 1902mm
Height 1658mm
Wheel base 2865mm
Front Track (mm) 1653mm
Rear Track (mm) 1657mm
Rear Interior Width (mm) 1440mm
Ground Clerance (mm) 223mm
Boot Capacity (Lts) 505 litres
INTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Heated / Cooled Seats Yes
Seat upholstery Nappa leather
Massage function seats Front
HVAC type 4-zone climate control
Rear AC vents Yes
Power Windows Yes
Touchscreen 9-inch
Sunroof Yes
EXTERIOR Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Headlamp type Active LED
Automatic headlamps Yes
360 degree camera Yes
2018 Volvo XC60 review, road test
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