2017 Volvo XC60 review, test drive
30th May 2017 11:58 am
Attractive and tech-laden, the new Volvo XC60 is a genuine challenger for the mid-size luxury SUV title.
What is it?
The XC60 is to Volvo what the Q5 is to Audi, the X3 is to BMW and the GLC is to Mercedes-Benz. That is, it’s a mid-size luxury SUV with seating for five. The first-gen XC60 was on sale for nine years, but incredibly, it sold most in its last year of production. In India too, the XC60 makes up a third of Volvo’s sales. And that’s a good starting point for Volvo and this second-gen XC60.
Like the larger XC90 and S90, the XC60 is also built on Volvo’s flexible SPA platform. The future-ready platform is designed to accommodate full electric powertrains, though the combustion engines on offer for now comprise a range of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol and diesel units in different states of tune.
The new Volvo XC60 is longer, wider and lower than the model it replaces. It’s not an imposing SUV per se but does look chunky and attractive nonetheless. The rake of the D-pillar links it to the previous XC60 but the rest of the design is unquestionably new-age Volvo with a pleasing elegance to the look. Look closely at the headlights and you’ll notice they differ, is ever so slightly, from the ones on the 90-series Volvos. The ‘Thor’s hammer’ LED signature fuses with the grille here. At the rear, there will be no mistaking the XC60 for an XC90; the '60s L-shaped tail-lights look unique.
India will get the top-spec Inscription trim XC60 (pictured here) that comes with greater chrome detailing on the grille, bumpers and skirts, adding a further touch of class. 19-inch alloy wheels will be offered as standard.
What’s it like on the inside?
The XC60 shares its cabin design with the XC90 and S90. Will you complain? Absolutely not, because this is one of the finest cabins you could find yourself in. Trimmed in nappa leather and fine wood, and adorned with knurled dials, the cabin looks and feels really plush. Again, the centrepiece of the smart dashboard is the 9.0-inch portrait-oriented touchscreen. The system works with the slickness of an iPad but the screen is a fingerprint magnet. Also, it does take some time to load initially owing to the heavy software it runs but works smoothly once started. The interface gets a bit more colour to reflect the more ‘youthful’ personality of the 60-series cars and the layout has also been tweaked to minimise distractions. Still, we’d have preferred physical buttons for the climate control system; the screen controls aren’t the easiest to use on the move.
You sit at a nice enough height in the XC and visibility is good but you won’t find yourself towering over other road users. In true Volvo fashion, the sculpted front seats offer exemplary comfort. Adjustable for front, side and lumbar bolstering, the seats provide the right support just where you’d want it. The seats’ massage and ventilation functions make proceedings nicer still. Rear seat occupants don’t get as many goodies (and the door aperture isn’t the largest), but the ample leg- and headroom, and large windows give a nice ambience in the back. The rear seat is a bit upright and the squab could have been more supportive but, in general, it is comfortable.
The XC60s for India will come well-equipped with LED headlights, air suspension, a panoramic sunroof, a brilliant 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, a four-zone climate control and nappa leather seats. Unfortunately, the XC60 makes do with manual steering adjust only.
What’s it like to drive?
Volvo is considering a 190hp, 2.0 turbo-diesel (D4), a 320hp, 2.0 supercharged turbo-petrol (T6), and a 407hp petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (T8) for eventual launch in India. However, what is confirmed is that the XC60 will start its India innings in late 2017 with the diesel D5 all-wheel-drive version. This version's 235hp gives it a big power advantage over other 2.0 diesel competitors. What also makes this engine special is Volvo's 'Power Pulse' tech. The setup pumps compressed air (from a pressurised air tank) to the turbocharger at low revs to get around the problem of lag. And it works. The XC60 picks up pace cleanly from low revs and power delivery is linear throughout the rev band. That the engine also runs remarkably quiet only masks the build of speed further. The XC60 D5 is quick but you only get a sense of how rapid it is if you keep an eye on the speedometer. The motor won’t rev as deep as a BMW unit but the overall feeling is that the XC60 D5 is the strong and silent type.
You can alter the driving experience with the drive modes on offer. However, on the speed-restricted highways in Spain, the most telling difference between the modes was at the steering. Steering weight increases as you shuffle from Eco to Comfort to Dynamic, and though light, it is fairly precise. There is a bit of roll and you may never feel at one with the XC60, but what will matter to the target clientele is that this is an easy car to place at low speeds and is confident at high speeds. Sadly, the smooth roads we drove on weren’t representative of the conditions back home but there was a hint of firmness on the odd pothole. The standard air suspension should bring in a level of adjustability.
Also standard on the car will be a plethora of active safety equipment that will use camera, sensor and radar-based technology. We tried one of the systems, Pilot Assist, that steers the car between lane markings and also maintains a distance from the vehicle ahead. While the system does work well, it’s eerie to let go of steering control. We’ll have to really rewire our minds for fully autonomous cars!
Should I buy one?
If you are looking for a mid-size luxury SUV, we advise you to wait for the Volvo XC60 that launches in India in late 2017. It’s an SUV that prioritises comfort over all else and makes a rather strong case for itself in the process. It is distinctive in appearance, has a soothing cabin and comes loaded with features. It’s also quick when you need it to be but in general, has a calming air about it. In essence, the XC60 is a model that does the important things right. And expect it to be priced keenly too, in the region of Rs 55 lakh.
Volvo doesn’t have the largest sales and service setup in India but if that’s not a deal-breaker, the XC60 could be all the mid-size luxury SUV you need.