The Volvo XC90 is a stylish and upmarket SUV that’s aimed squarely at rivals such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque. Launched in 2008 and facelifted in 2014, the XC60 has forged a strong reputation for comfort and safety, while the recent addition of a frugal new diesel engine means it’s also cost effective to run.
Yet it’s the Volvo’s smart looks that catch your attention first. With its muscular shoulderline, rising waistline and sloping roof, the XC60 certainly stands out from the crowd.
The slick design continues inside, where the recent facelift has extended to the adoption of Volvo’s neat TFT instrument display. Other highlights include the brand’s trademark ‘floating’ centre console and intuitive climate control graphics. And while quality isn’t quite up to the standards of Audi or BMW, the XC60’s cabin is robustly built and features plenty of soft-touch materials. And as with all Volvo models, the seats are supremely comfortable.
There’s also a decent amount of space for back seat passengers, plenty of handy storage and a large boot, which includes a number of shopping bag hooks, a load divider and 12V power socket.
As with its upmarket rivals, the Volvo is available with either two or four-wheel drive, plus there’s the option of a new eight-speed automatic in place of the standard six-speed manual. There’s also a line-up of four- and five-cylinder petrol and diesel engines. The pick of the bunch is the new 2.0-litre D4 diesel, which delivers 179bhp yet emits just 117g/km of CO2.
There are four trim levels to choose from – SE, SE Lux, R-Design and R-Design Lux. All models can be specified in 'Nav' guise, which adds sat-nav and an onboard internet browser that can be connected to a compatible smartphone.
Our choice: XC60 D4 Manual R-Design
Volvo's facelift brought the XC60 up-to-date with the rest of the modern Volvo range as it was updated at the same time as other models in the Swedish manufacturer's line-up. The main visual improvements Volvo made to the XC60 were at front end with the bonnet, grille and front-end getting a sleek new look.
Overall, the XC60 is a surprisingly stylish looking SUV, which favours curves and subtle creases rather imposing straight lines and lots of rugged plastic body cladding.
The Volvo XC60's interior is also neatly designed, with simple controls and an elegant floating centre console design. All the switches feel sturdy and built to last, and the seats are incredibly comfortable. One neat feature is the Volvo’s climate control layout, which uses a neat, intuitive pictogram for the air distribution control.
The customisable TFT digital dials also look great, while the options list includes an ambient lighting package and a heated steering wheel for cold winter days.
The flagship XC60 R Design also gets a chunky, sports orientated bodykit and a stiff sports suspension set-up.
While supremely comfortable, the Volvo XC60 can't really be called a driver's car – the best place to drive it is on the motorway.
The Volvo XC60 is very comfortable and quiet inside, and its efficient range of engines will keep your bank manager happy. Unfortunately, the Volvo XC60's electric power steering feels artificially heavy and gives very little feedback on twisty roads, but the 4x4 version is surprisingly capable off-road.
All the engines deliver decent performance, but the new 2.0-litre D4 diesel provides the best blend of pace and efficiency. It feels particularly strong in the mid-range, where it benefits from a muscular 400Nm torque output. However, it’s not the most refined engine, clattering noisily at idle and sounding strained when extended. Still, it settles down to a background hum at speed.
While it may not be able rival a Range Rover Evoque for go-anywhere ability, the AWD Volvo XC60 is more than capable of tackling muddy country lanes and flooded roads thanks to its four-wheel drive system, high ground clearance, strong diesel engine and hill descent control.
The Volvo XC60's new eight-speed automatic gearbox is a big improvement on the old transmission, which was jerky and slow to respond. However, it's still not quite as slick as the automatic gearbox in the BMW X3.
The Volvo XC60's high driving position gives great comfort and visibility, and grip is good, too. The pedals are light, but the weak spring in the clutch on manual models takes some getting used to. The steering is oddly weighted at times and when fitted with larger alloy wheels, bumps and motorway expansion joints can send big judders into the cabin.
Volvo is a firm that's always been renowned for its strong reliability and safety. However, the XC60 ranked 66th out of 150 cars in our 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey - a drop of 37 places from 2013. Plus, Volvo came 11th in the manufacturer rankings, so you can expect the ownership experience to be pretty decent.
The Volvo XC60's Safety equipment is superb, with entry-level SE versions getting five different electronic braking aids, dual-stage airbags, traction control, hill descent control, an inflatable curtain for side impacts and a range of security features.
Volvo's City Safety system is also included, which will automatically apply the brakes if it senses a collision and the driver doesn’t react in time. It is, however, worth remember that the system only works at speeds under 19mph.
While Volvo's 2013 facelift of the XC60 refreshed its looks, it certainly didn't sacrifice practicality.
The Volvo XC60's boot is a large 494 litres and that's just up to the load cover. If you cram it with stuff to the roofline, that'll increase to 655 litres. When you fold the seats forward, the boot-space further increases to 1,455 litres.
The XC60's 40/20/40 split rear seats are handy, and they fold flat so sliding objects in and out is no problem. It's worth noting that headroom isn't great for taller passengers in the rear, but there's plenty of legroom and it doesn't feel cramped, either.
You'll also notice that the Volvo XC60's door bins are a little small, but overall the cabin has plenty of places for a family to store their odds and ends. There are also numerous cupholders, plus a handily sited USB socket located in the lidded armrest between the front seats.
Despite its size, the Volvo XC60 is generally good in terms of running costs.
The Volvo XC60 comes with a choice of two strong diesel engines - the efficient new four-cylinder D4 with a 2.0-litre 179bhp unit, and the five-cylinder 2.4-litre D5 that develops 213bhp. The D5 is definitely the stronger engine of the two, but it feels a bit rough when compared with the smooth engines in the BMW X3 and Range Rover Evoque.
However, there are few complaints about the D4’s efficiency.
The D4 engine returns 62.8mpg and emits just 117g/km of CO2. If you want the added security of the all-wheel drive system, then the CO2 emissions jump to 139g/km and fuel consumption increases to 53.3mpg.
The only petrol engine available is the 300bhp T6. Despite its impressive power output, it's also very thirsty with a fuel economy of 26.4mpg and CO2 emissions of 249g/km. It also doesn't feel as fast as its impressive power and torque outputs suggest.
The Volvo XC60 with the diesel D5 engine is only available as a 4x4, but thanks to start-stop technology and the six-speed manual gearbox, it returns 139g/km and 53.5mpg. With the automatic gearbox, it returns 44.1mpg along with 169g/km of CO2.
The XC60 is quite expensive with a starting price in excess of £30,000. However, Volvo offers a range of fixed-price servicing deals, and the XC60 is well equipped as standard. There are lots of extras to choose from too, including a Polestar performance pack, which offers performance, suspension and styling uprades.
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