Volvo has done well when it first waded into SUV territory with the XC90, quickly making it its bestselling model around the world. Times are a-changing and people are leaning towards smaller vehicles that handle more like cars and have better fuel economy.
So premium compact SUV buyers look at the Lexus RX350, BMW X3, Audi Q5, VW Tiguan and the Land Rover Freelander 2 for reasons to blow their money on. Along comes the XC60 to muddle the decision-making process.
Right mix: Good headroom and legroom in the back seats.
What dastardly act.
Especially when you have such a looker as this Swede. With a shape that would certainly appeal to the ladies and so-called metrosexuals, the five-seater Volvo calls a crossover retains SUV practicality and ramps up the already strong core value of safety.
Volvo has been trying to shed its buttoned-down image with varying success. With the XC60, we dare say it has done so convincingly.
The 3.0-litre T6 fully imported model is available in two trims: the SE and LE. The RM360,000 LE under review is the one with all the bells and whistles, getting such extra goodies as a 12-speaker Dynaudio sound system, Collision Warning with Auto Brake, Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Auto Brake, Lane Departure Warning, Drive Alert Control and a panoramic sunroof. The SE is RM30,000 less.
The 4X4 vehicle is shorter and lower but only a tad narrower than the XC90.
Coupe-like styling makes the XC60 a very attractive contender
It has a characteristic XC design language while staking out its own unique selling proposition. The XC60 adopts a blend of passenger- and coupe-like car shapes – including a touch of well-known Volvo design elements.
The formula-drive stance, with big wheels in the corners, lifted visual platform and a very high waistline – all contribute to a sturdy and robust impression.
The V-shape design goes all the way to the rear, which is held together by tall LED tail lamps that follow the outline of the roof pillar.
Seen from the side, the sculpted, seductive lines are clear as day. Shoulders are exceptionally broad and are strengthened by an underlining sculptural undercut towards the front. The darker livery of the body’s lower section also enhances the muscular XC feel.
So visually, it appears at once big, strong and stylish. Plus it gets the added cachet of being billed as the safest model in the history of the company that gave us the safety cage and the three-point safety belt.
The cabin is engaging and smartly put together. A panoramic roof lends an airy feel in a sea of dark leather. But the centrepiece has to be the brushed aluminium floating stack that is oriented towards the driver. It rises up to meet a built-in sat-nav system that comes from Garmin.
Seats are supportive, if a little too firm, while those in second row easily folds flat into the floor if more cargo space is required. There’s also enough rear head- and legroom, too.
Unique to the XC60 and a world first is a feature called City Safety. Volvo trumpets the innovation as a way to prevent or reduce the severity of rear-end collisions.
Everyone has at some point let their attention wander while driving. The phone call that you just had to make and other sorry excuses are rear-end shunts waiting to happen.
Statistically, more than 75% of road accidents occur at speeds below 30kph and around half of accidents are frontal collisions.
In such cases, the driver has not braked at all before the collision, mainly because of distraction.
Put to the test with flexible shiny slates set up on a road to simulate the width of a car, we found that it works, as the XC60 brakes at the last minute to avoid hitting the obstacles, with inches to spare.
Note that the driver still has to step on the brakes as City Safety holds them for only 1.5s.
The City Safety laser sensor, mounted on the windshield, has limitations. It can’t detect pedestrians unless the person is, for some strange reason, ambling towards you wearing a metal placard that says, “Hire me, don’t hit me.”
As an all-wheel drive vehicle, the XC60 starts off with the front wheels being driven but it can share power with the rear wheels when situations demand it.
Put all these together and the drive can best be described as smooth and precise, never lacking in thrust, thanks to 400Nm of torque that comes in at a lowly 1,500rpm.
The turbocharged goodness emanating from six cylinders harmonising their act was impressive, with a sweet linearity to it all the way to red line. If we didn’t know better, we might actually have thought it was a V8 engine giving such smooth and consistently strong torque.
The XC60’s chassis – based on those for the V70, XC70 and XC90 – keeps body roll well under control and has the chutzpah to hold a mid-corner line like a leech.
Response from the steering is just right — neither too light nor too sensitive.
This is a vehicle that handles like no other Volvo before and has dynamics that are closer to what you might expect from a certain car maker out of Munich.
An early-edition BMW X5 owner who swore he would never be seen in a Volvo is now all set to snap up the XC60. It’s that impressive – in a very untraditional Volvo way.
Light offroad duties are handled with panache as the high ground clearance and short overhangs make approach and departure angles easy.
Hill Descent Control also helps make going downhill on slippery slopes a dignified affair.
It’s nice to be cocooned in a safety bubble especially for those just out of driving school or people who lacked the confidence to be out driving on the open road but the flashing lights on the top of the dash and peripheral vision, though well meaning, can be annoying at times.
They can be switched off at will. On the whole, Volvo has done a smashing job with the XC60. It has the key criteria of style, luxury, sporty performance and safety down pad, impressing where it counts.
Its gas mileage of 11.9l/100km isn’t anything to crow about though but those buying into the XC60 package will let that slide.
Volvo officials the world over are echoing the same corporate spiel that “the XC60 is the best vehicle we’ve introduced since the XC90.”
After a lively weekend fling with it, we are inclined to think so