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First Drive

First Drive: Volvo XC60

The story:
Volvo launches a second generation version of its biggest selling model, bringing increased style, technology, safety and a new plug-in model joining the ranger shortly.
Category:Small SUV
Key rival:Audi Q5
Volvo XC60 D4 R-Design
On sale:September 2017

This is an even more important car for Volvo than the launch of a new small SUV might first appear.

It’s a growing sector, in both volume terms and importance, and for Volvo UK, the XC60 outsells anything else it builds. 

First Drive - Volvo XC60 - Image 1 (front)The new car is clearly related to the bigger XC90, with the design bringing the small SUV in line with its bigger brother, and the recent S90 and V90 models. 

The line-up is a pretty simple one, with all models having four-wheel drive and coming with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. There are two diesel engines that will share the majority of sales, the most popular being the 190hp D4, joined by the more powerful 235hp D5. There is a 235hp T5 petrol engine that will take a small share of registrations, and the 407hp plug-in hybrid T8 model that is the most efficient, most expensive and most powerful in the line-up; the combined petrol and battery powertrain emits 49g/km, which makes it eligible for the ultra-low-emission-vehicle grant, as well as the current 9% BIK tax band. Volvo’s predictions are for that car to take at least 12% of XC60 volume, although the firm admits it wouldn’t be surprised if the share was double that figure, aping what the XC90 plug-in hybrid achieves. 

For now at least, though, it’ll be the diesels that dominate the range. 

Specification-wise, the range is also pretty straightforward, with three trim levels of Momentum, R-Design and Inscription, each with a Pro addition that bundles together various options, primarily for company car drivers that can’t add individual options. It also helps the residual value, because buyers will be aware what is fitted as standard equipment.

Every car gets an impressive range of safety kit, including City Safety autonomous braking with emergency steer that helps the driver negotiate hazards, run-off-road protection, driver alert control with lane-keeping aid and oncoming lane mitigation. Standard equipment also includes satnav through a 9.0-inch touchscreen, 18-inch alloys, a powered tailgate and dual-zone climate control. 

First Drive - Volvo XC60 - Image 2 (cabin)The cabin is up to Volvo’s usual high standard of quality, with the company describing it as a Scandinavian clean-interior design; there’s a nice 3D depth effect to the dash rather than it being all flush. 

Volvo’s aim was to make the XC60 more dynamic and sporty to drive than the larger XC90, while still accepting that drivers want comfort rather than dynamism in this sector. They’ve partially succeeded, though the steering is incredibly light, which is great for town but not so engaging at higher speed, while the throttle sensitivity doesn’t appear to be linear, and a little push further brings a jolt of power. 

However, it’s a composed and relaxing car to travel in, thanks to good ride and body control, excellent refinement and a punchy D4 engine that almost makes the extra £3,500 to get the more powerful diesel an indulgence. Emissions are in line with rivals, rather than being exceptional.

The seats are comfortable, there’s plenty of rear legroom, although longer legs will bang against the hard backs of the seats, and while the boot is smaller than rivals’ on paper, it’s a good square shape and feels large enough to handle all it needs to. 


Paul Barker

The verdict

Excellent reworking of Volvo’s most successful model. The XC60 isn’t the most engaging of drives, but does all the sensible stuff impeccably, including top-notch residuals and running costs.