From an Australian point of view it would be easy to overlook the importance of the Volvo XC60. On home soi, neither the brand nor the XC60 itself have really changed the face of the prestige market.
That’s not the case around the world though, with the XC60 being Volvo’s best-seller, particularly in Europe where Volvo’s SUV has outsold competitors from Audi, BMW, and Volkswagen.
This new model then, a product of Volvo’s confident new engineering and styling direction, has big shoes to fill.
Vehicle Style: Prestige medium SUV
Price: To be confirmed
Engine/trans: 173kW/480Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo diesel, 235kW/400Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo/supercharged petrol | 8sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 5.5 l/100km diesel, 7.7 l/100km petrol
Despite a full range of highly impressive luxury and safety features, along with innovative drivetrain technology, Volvo has failed to inspire the same level of brand recognition as companies like BMW or Mercedes-Benz.
That could be a result of Volvo’s long-reaching past putting safety at the forefront ahead of technology and comfort. The new XC60 still focusses on safety (of course) but has prestige carmakers from around the world in its crosshairs.
It’s hard to know where the new model will sit in the market in Australia as Volvo has yet to discuss pricing and equipment locally, but after being introduced to the highly-equipped XC60 Inscription model in Barcelona it’s safe to say that prestige is no problem for the mid-sized Swedish SUV.
Volvo has continued its ‘Scandinavian designed’ interior themes from other models into the XC60, meaning a pleasingly open design that ties together available light two-tone leather finishes with open pore wood finishes and hints of metal brightwork.
Unlike some rivals which have aimed to create more sporting or intimate interiors, Volvo’s large windows help create an open and airy feel, helped all the more when fitted with the massive panoramic roof option.
If the pale blonde-on-blonde interior isn’t your thing, or runs a risk of clashing with your family’s active lifestyle, then a dark treatment with black leather and more sombre interior details is also available.
Far from just a display space, the interior also has plenty of handy storage nooks, with hideaway blinds covering your odds and ends in the centre console, making things all the neater, while also keeping them away from prying eyes.
As a centrepiece, Volvo’s towering Sensus interior control screen has been rejigged compared to the larger XC90 with changes centred on making the system easier and more obvious to use, though physical shortcut buttons are still absent limiting the possibility of eyes-off operation.
Interior space also gets a boost thanks to a 90mm longer wheelbase, while the comfortable, and highly adjustable seats strike the right balance of comfort and support, as well as bundling in features like rear seats that can be folded from within the boot and the ability to lower the rear suspension for added loading convenience.
Boot space is slightly smaller than exterior dimensions might suggest. Volvo claims 505 litres all up, but arrives at that figure by also including underfloor sub-compartments in the overall dimensions.
ON THE ROAD
Volvo will deploy its range of modular four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines as used in the XC90 and S90 starting off with the range topping 173kW D5 diesel and 235kW T6 petrol models before expanding the range, including the later introduction of the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid system for 300kW of power and 2.1 l/100km of thirst.
The T6 petrol impressed in Barcelona, combining smooth and quiet running with a responsive nature that’s just the thing for overtaking or uphill runs. Unless you plan on covering a lot of long-distance kilometres this could be the engine to opt for.
Although the D5 diesel is still quite a nice engine, it can’t always hide its ‘dieselness’ with a slightly less refined nature creeping in from time to time.
Both engines drive through an Aisin-supplied eight-speed automatic, which works well with the powertrains, but doesn’t have the smarts for more dynamic driving situations - Volvo recognises that their target market may not mind so much and as such hasn’t bothered with steering wheel shift paddles, suggesting comfort is the primary goal ahead of performance.
Judging the XC60’s ride quality is a little more difficult. The examples tested were all fitted with four-wheel air suspension, but across the mostly smooth Spanish roads of the drive route there was little to criticise.
The system, via the car’s five driving modes, can be adjusted through Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, and Off-Road settings, plus a mix and match Individual setting with dampers and ride height modified to suit the situation. Changes between modes are only subtle, with engineers focussed on the long-term livability of the system.
Volvo demonstrated that as well as impressive luxury, the brand hasn’t lost its focus on safety. Standard inclusions for Australia haven’t yet been confirmed but available equipment will extend to City Safety autonomous braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, and Blind Spot Information System with the ability to steer away from hazards.
New innovations include Intellisafe Pro, combining adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist, to create a mild autonomous driving assistant that can steer the car and follow another vehicle, though Volvo insists responsibility stays with the driver with the system there as a kind of backup protection.
Also new, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which does more than just monitor the centre line marker, but scans ahead for oncoming traffic and can steer the car back into its correct lane at speed of up to 140 km/h.
Volvo has also included a form of vehicle to vehicle communication, able to tag locations where it detects slippery conditions to warn other similarly equipped vehicles, or sending out a warning to other drivers about a potential issue ahead, should you switch the hazard lights on.
Volvo has a big challenge on its hands, with the new XC60 entering a class filled with competitors vying for buyer attention including the sporty Jaguar F-Pace and Porsche Macan, style-focussed Mercedes-Benz GLC and soon-to-arrive Range Rover Velar, and the more practical and comfort-oriented Lexus NX and Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Strong design will certainly go some of the way to giving the XC60 the presence it needs, and with its square-set Scandinavian good looks Volvo won’t struggle in that department.
And first impressions suggest that this is a well rounded vehicle, comfortable enough for young families, connected and appealing to trendsetting younger buyers, and at its core still as safe as houses.