One Of The Very Best Euro Mid-Size SUV's
If you're in the market for a European mid-size SUV but the budget doesn't stretch to an X5 or ML, Volvo has the car for you - the XC60.
The nicely-styled, well-equipped and nice-to-drive Swede left a big impression on the Car Showroom team after two weeks in a couple of XC60 models. Launched last year and recently upgraded with a new optional diesel engine, the XC60 leaves its direct rival, the Volkswagen Touareg, looking a tad dated.
What You Get
We tested two XC60s - the LE model fitted with the new 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and the T6 with its turbocharged six cylinder petrol powerplant.
Both offered delightful luxurious interiors, superb performance and that Scandinavian design flair to deliver an all-round package that is hard to beat in the Euro mid-size SUV segment. And being Volvos, both came loaded with just about every safety feature and driver aid known to man.
All of this for $65,450 (D5 LE) and $64,950 (T6).
Under The Hood
The twin-turbo D5 diesel is new for 2010 and is also available in Volvo's XC70 and S80 models. It's a tremendous diesel engine with 151kW of power and a hearty 420Nm of torque - that edges Volkswagen's R5TDI Touareg (128kW/400Nm).
It's a five-cylinder 20-valve DOHC design and is another example of the superb latest-technology diesel engines coming from Europe. Quiet and refined, it delivers zero to 100km/h in 9.9 seconds (R5TDI Touareg is 12.9 seconds), returns fuel consumption of 8.3l/100km (R5TDI Touareg 10.4l/100km) and exhaust emissions of 284g/km.
The T6 turbocharged six-cylinder petrol engine is a beauty with 210kW of power and 400Nm of torque; it propels the XC60 from zero to 100km/h in 7.5 seconds. Continuing the comparison with the Touareg, its V6FSI model has 206kW/360Nm and covers the standing 100km/h in 8.7 seconds.
Volvo claims fuel consumption for the petrol six at 11.3l/100km (Touareg is 13.6l/100km) and exhaust emissions of 284g/km.
Both drive all four wheels via Volvo's six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission ('Sport' mode on the T6) and Haldex all-wheel-drive system.
The latest Haldex is a high-tech offering, which engages all four wheels when taking off, and then directs 95 per cent of the torque to the front wheels (for enhanced fuel consumption). The system then monitors grip levels and can direct up to 50 per cent of the torque to the rear wheels in cornering or when the going gets slippery.
Inside is one area where the XC60 delivers a clear edge over its rivals - delightful styling, quality materials, lots of features and practicality. Those very clever Swedes at their best.
Trim in our test D5LE was Classic Wood while the T6 gained very nice, light-coloured Nordic Light Oak Wood.
Front and rear leather seats are beautifully designed and supportive. The T6 we tested was fitted with the rear seat entertainment system (a $2,000 option with screens in the rear of the front head restraints) - a huge hit with the Car Showroom juniors who also appreciated the integrated two-stage booster cushions in the rear seats.
Manipulating the electronic seat adjustments and the leather-wrapped steering wheel (adjustable for rake and reach) provided a nice driving position. The wheel contained buttons to adjust the audio system and cruise control.
Instrumentation consists of conventional dials with nice graphics. The Volvo Navigation System fitted to the D5 LE provided a center console screen with the reversing camera offering bright yellow guidance lines. Operation for this system is via a remote control similar to home TVs and audio systems.
We particularly liked the optional Driver Assist Pack (Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Warning/Auto Brake, Lane Departure Warning and Blind Sport Information System) fitted to the D5 LE.
On the audio front, the D5LE was fitted with the standard system with eight speakers, while our petrol T6 scored the optional premium system with four extra speakers. Both had in-dash 6-disc capacity. The auxiliary audio input is smartly located in the center console where your iPod etc can be stored securely under the console lid when parked.
Out back, Volvo says the XC60 provides the widest opening rear hatch in the segment (it's electronically operated too). The rear seat splits 40/20/40 and the luggage area is a handy 490 litres.
Exterior & Styling
Volvo's stylists get a big tick for the XC60 - smart looks and the sizing is just right with the roofline noticeably lower than rival vehicles. From the side it looks almost wedge-shaped thanks to the plunging V-frontal aspect, raked third side windows and high waistline/rear end.
The front is characterized by the traditional Volvo diagonal grille and large headlights - halogen is standard on the D5LE but our test car was fitted with the optional Active Bi-Xenon lights with washers that are standard on the T6.
At the rear, the large tail lights wrap up to the roofline - a great styling touch that is safe as well.
The D5 LE gains 18-inch 'Mantus' alloy wheels while the T6 runs standard 18-inch 'Merac' alloys - both look modern and stylish.
On The Road
Here's how technology works…
On a long freeway trip in the D5LE we set the Adaptive Cruise Control at the required speed and as we encountered traffic moving at slower speeds, the Volvo simply slowed down and/or braked as we got within the distance we had set. We then used the Blind Spot Information System (an orange light near the external mirrors) to ensure lane-changing was safe and as soon as we moved away from the slower cars the XC60 accelerated back to our set speed.
At various times as we crossed lanes, the Lane Departure Warning System's audible alarm alerted us.
Long road trips don't get easier - or safer - than that.
Both XC60s were precise and predictable over our mountain road test route. We did enjoy the rapid acceleration of the petrol T6 but the D5 turbo-diesel should not be discounted.
City parking was certainly easier with the optional rear camera as the XC60's high-waisted rear end does create a blind spot when reversing in.
For those who tow, the XC60 is rated at 2,000kg.
On most roads, the XC60 delivers refined and precise ride and handling, however poor country roads (and cobblestone city streets) did induce some harshness and noise, particularly from the front suspension.
We've long been fans of the Volkswagen Touareg but the XC60 has swayed us. The combination of more modern styling, superior performance, value and that wonderful Scandinavian interior all add up to our new favourite mid-size European.
We love the Touareg for its German quality and all-round competence, however the Volvo delivers all of that in a more modern package.
If serious off-roading is on your agenda, the latest Land Rover Discovery is superb.
Great design inside & out; abundant safety/technology
Suspension harshness over bumps