Volvo is clearly on a roll, producing one of the best large SUVs (XC90) and now clinching the European Car of the Year title with the small XC40. We’re trying the mid-size XC60 to see whether its Swedish style is more than skin deep.
Our car: Volvo XC60 D5 PowerPulse AWD R-design List price when new: £43,505 Price as tested: £53,580 Official fuel economy: 54.1mpg (EU Combined)
26 June 2018; final report
Fuel Consumption this week: 39.7mpg
The Volvo XC60 used to be cheaper than key SUV rivals like the Audi Q5 and Land Rover Discovery. Now it’s level pegging – which means buyers can make a direct price comparison.
After three months in our R Design diesel, I know which one I’d choose.
Volvo has taken on the premium brands and won. The latest XC60 has even won some bragging rights with a string of awards, including World Car of the Year. And while the XC60 is no longer the cheap option, Volvo has played to its strengths. Even the entry-level Momentum has excellent levels of equipment, including a raft of advanced safety features that we have always associated with the brand.
The D5 diesel in our test car offers great versatility, recording over 40mpg some weeks, despite hard driving. Most drivers will waft around in Comfort mode but switch to Dynamic and the drive is engaging (but not sporty). Then there’s a smaller, 188bhp D4, and a 2.0-litre petrol too. I would have preferred the T8 hybrid but living in the countryside, economy would most likely have suffered.
The Audi Q5 may offer the best ride in this class – especially if you opt for air suspension – but the XC60 is brilliant at long motorway hauls. You step out feel refreshed and ache-free.
And then there’s the cabin. Minimalist, chic and very cool, there are few cars at any price which offer such a relaxing place to sit. Pretty much everything is controlled from the touchscreen display and it’s very simple to operate – much easier than a Mercedes.
Niggles? They are few and far between. The electric boot can be a little slow to open and my phone doesn’t always connect to the Spotify app. The key fob buttons are small and tricky to operate, especially in the dark.
Otherwise, the Volvo has surprised me with its all-round ability and refinement. For family owners, the XC60 is the perfect driving companion.
June 12th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 37.5mpg
Our R-design XC60 is luxuriously equipped with an array of extras – pushing the price up to more than £53,000 on the road. So, what can you expect in a cheaper model?
The entry-level D4 Momentum comes in at just under £36,000. The 190hp engine lacks some of the punch of our 230bhp D5 PowerPulse, but a quick read down the spec column shows it too has plenty to offer.
Importantly, the brilliant nine-inch touchscreen which controls almost every function of our R-Design XC60 is standard across the range – as are LED headlights, leather upholstery and a powered tailgate.
Every specification – Momentum, R-Design and Inscription – has all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox, too.
We’ve already explained how the XC60 cabin is relaxing space to travel – mainly due to the clean dashboard design uncluttered by buttons and switches. Heated front seats and two-zone climate control across the range further improve the passenger experience.
And what about all the safety equipment that Volvo prides itself on? Every XC60 features Steer Assist, which aims to reduce injury by helping the driver take emergency avoidance action. Autonomous Emergency Braking is standard too. It can detect pedestrians, cyclists and large animals, as well as other cars.
Still, it’s easy in the heat of the showroom to get carried away and bump the price up with a raft of options. I’d be tempted by Smartphone Integration (£300), which includes Apple CarPlay and two USB points.
Keyless Drive (£500) is also a must – if only because the various symbols on the chunky keyfob are so small to read I don’t stand a chance of picking the right one.
We have just a few weeks left in the Volvo now and if the XC60 does have a serious Achilles’ heel I’ve yet to find it.
June 5th, 2018
Fuel consumption this week: 38.7mpg
For those who have been watching The Bridge unravel on BBC2, Sweden appears a rather dangerous place. The Nordic Noir police drama has a high body count and is eerily dark – like Midsummer Murders by moonlight.
However, having driven across Scandinavia many times, I know it is remarkably safe. People adhere to the speed limits and nobody uses a mobile phone behind the wheel. There’s probably a campaign to fit wandering elks with high visibility vests.
We’ve already outlined the incredible safety features built into our XC60 but this week I’ve discovered that even the air I breath in the cabin has the Volvo seal of approval.
Yes, the Air Quality Testing Team has been hard at work to ensure the materials used in the XC60 are free from harmful emissions and odours. Every button, seal, cup holder and item of trim has been tested to ensure it doesn’t give off a nasty whiff.
Floor mats, for example are ‘cooked’ in an emission chamber at 65C to check for unwanted substances. If the levels are too high, it could cause headaches or dizziness – and a potential lawsuit somewhere down the line.
And believe it or not, Volvo even has a Smell Team for the XC60. The panel of ten experts is there to ensure a Volvo smells like a Volvo. I’m sure every manufacturer addresses this - I swear I can sniff out a BMW from an Audi, or a Bentley from a Rolls.
Sadly, in my case, every car still smells of damp dog.
May 30th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 39.4mpg
Our XC60 looks classy inside and out. It has the same design DNA as the larger XC90 – and the new XC40. Drive past a dealership and it’s difficult to differentiate one model from another at a glance. Nothing wrong with that – BMW and Audi have been doing it for years.
The XC is well proportioned, even though it is wider and longer than the previous model. It is also higher off the ground and weighs less than the its predecesor.
Volvo’s unique selling points are those Thor’s hammer headlights, the vertically stacked rear-light clusters and heavily sculpted doors. Nordic chic has never looked this good.
Or has it? The above photograph shows possibly the prettiest car ever to be built in Scandinavia – the Volvo P1800. Compared with the bullish XC60, it is the elegant mistress in a flowing white dress.
Both are separated by half a century of car design, yet both were created in Gothenburg. A striking, two-door coupé, the P1800 proved good enough for Roger Moore in the TV series The Saint – even though the makers had originally approached Jaguar for an E-Type.
What’s really odd is that early P1800s, like our 1962 car, were actually assembled by Jensen in West Bromwich. Unfortunately, quality proved so bad that Volvo took the decision to move production in-house.
The P1800 wasn’t a quick car like the E-Type but even today it looks hugely desirable. Now, if only Volvo would make something like that again. At least the manufacturer is very much on the up. It won another award last week – the Which? magazine car brand of the year.
May 24th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 38.1mpg
Technology is a wonderful thing. It may take me one hour, 34 minutes on hold (and counting) to change my postal address with my bank yet I can wire up to Bluetooth in the XC60 in less than 20 seconds.
I mention this because we waste so much time battling with illogical computers. And, believe me, not every car we test is that straightforward when it comes to telephone connectivity (Jeep, take note).
Perhaps the XC60’s exceptional functionality is because Bluetooth originated in Scandinavia, about 1,000 years ago. Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson was king of Denmark and Norway back then. And although he didn’t own an iPhone, he did convert the Danes to Christianity.
Apart from suspect dental hygiene, allegedly caused by eating too many blueberries, Harald’s modern-day claim to fame is that the wireless exchange of telephone data is named after him.
I know this because a few years back I visited the Jelling stones in Denmark. One of them was raised by Harald and is regarded as the “birth certificate” of Denmark. It also features a line and squiggle symbol you might recognise on Bluetooth-compatible hardware.
This may be a useful one to remember for the next pub quiz, but it is not my favourite bit of technology on the Volvo. The XC60 is fitted with four cameras – one on the grille, one on each door mirror and one at the rear by the number plate.
Combine them and the infotainment screen produces a brilliant aerial view of the car when manoeuvring into a tight space. It’s also great for making funny photos (see picture below) – although you won’t find that in the owner’s manual.
May 15th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 37.6mpg
On the left is the XC40 – European Car of the Year. The vehicle on the right is the XC60 – World Car of the Year. What’s the difference between them? A mighty leap of just over 10 inches.
And that’s about all really. You might notice the XC40’s shorter dimensions require a more upright, bullish front end but these two cars are otherwise peas in a pod.
The driving experience, comfort and all-round ability of both models are exceptional. No wonder Volvo is a car manufacturer of the moment, worrying the opposition with a stable of great SUVs.
Our XC60 R-Design D5 is roughly £10,000 more expensive than the XC40 T5 petrol but I would be hard-pushed to choose one over the other. Both sport the same interior, both are equipped with a smothering of safety features.
It’s almost irrelevant at this level of car but sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.
One small feature missing in the XC60 is the bungie strap the XC40 features in the boot. It keeps shopping bags and other items upright on the drive home. Simple, Scandinavian attention to detail.
The smaller car also has a cool, rubberised bonnet tag showing the Swedish flag. It serves no practical purpose but I’ve never seen anything like that on any vehicle.
If our XC60 has met its SUV match then I’m sure Volvo won’t mind too much if you order the other one. Just expect a waiting list of at least eight weeks.
May 9th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 38.1mpg
Did the Sex Pistols ever perform inside Gothenburg concert hall? Probably not, but then age mellows even the most rebellious punk.
This week I’ve been exploring the booming delights of the Premium Sound music system in our award-winning Volvo. Designed by upmarket maestros Bowers and Wilkins, it ramps up the price of the XC60 by £2,500.
That’s five times the price of my first car – an ancient Morris Minor with air vents rusted through the floor. It may have been on a one-way trip to the scrapyard but I did fit an outrageously loud Pioneer sound system that (literally) blew a door off.
The XC60 takes music to a new level, like most modern cars. My iPhone will connect via Apple CarPlay, I can even stream music from Spotify. Sometimes the lovely Jo Whiley on Radio 2 sounds like she is riding right alongside me.
The B&W system features all kinds of technologies I probably won’t be able to live without when the XC60 departs. Life won’t sound the same without ‘tweeter on top’ speakers, or Kevlar mid-range drive units, whatever they are.
Best of all though, the XC60 system has three selectable audio modes, including a unique Gothenburg concert hall option. It recreates the acoustics inside the venue and was developed with the aid of 800 acoustic measurements.
I think Johnny Rotten, Joe Strummer and the rest of my vinyl heroes would have appreciated that…
May 1st, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 40.1mpg
Warmly wrapped up in the safety blanket of the XC60, I’ve ignored the fact that it is an exceptional all-rounder. It may not set your pulse racing as a driver’s car but it does everything you could ask of an SUV.
Our blinged up R-Design specification includes a few funky extras, such as 19-inch alloy wheels and mesh aluminium panels across the cabin that add a little raciness to the package.
It feels every bit as well screwed together as a pricier Porsche Macan or the Maserati Levante, yet costs no more than the ubiquitous Audi Q5 or the Mercedes GLC. It’s certainly prettier than the last two.
And one of the key reasons for this is the simple interior design. Apart from the keyless start switch and the electronic handbrake, I can only count seven buttons - and one of those operates the hazard warning lights.
The Scandinavian décor is a revelation. It’s as minimalist as a £100,000 Tesla Model X - a very relaxing place to sit. I recently drove a Porsche Cayenne which has more buttons than the space shuttle. Truth is, it feels dated and busy by comparison.
The contoured sport seats are a little firm in the Volvo and I rather wish it was a T8 hybrid and not an out-of-favour diesel. That said, I’ve recorded more than 40mpg for the first time this week, mainly due to a long-haul motorway hack to Luton Airport.
Finding your way around the eight-inch upright touchscreen will frustrate some owners at first but it’s worth persevering. I wish you could operate the digitalised user manual on the move; for safety the car has to be stationary first, but it is annoying when a passenger could be doing the research.
The more I unravel the touchscreen the more I like it. This week’s page of the week is called Sensus Connect, which allows me to access a range of apps and browse the web. Apparently there’s even a page that allows the car to pre-book itself for a service appointment at a Volvo dealer.
April 24th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 36.5mpg
Dog lovers everywhere, lend me your (floppy) ears – where do you stash your hound safely when travelling in the car?
Like all owners I started 10 years ago putting Malin in the boot. Then I realised a general dislike for the luggage spot could be eased if he was allowed to sit further forward. Bad move.
Hungarian Vizslas are not lap dogs - so began years of spreading out rugs and seat protectors in every car I drove. It’s no different in the XC60, even though the boot is plenty big enough for him and a pal to sit fully upright.
More entertaining has been the battle to try and fit him in a dog harness, one of those clever items that attaches to the seat belt on one of the back seats. “Quick and easily secured” read the Volvo instructions. Not a chance.
Volvo makes a range of different-sized harnesses for our XC60 that will protect your pooch if the worst happens. This week I’ve again tried to coax Malin into one, but without success.
So instead I’ve borrowed a stunt dog. Meet Spot, a Vizsla-sized mutt who doesn’t see a safety harness as a prelude to three rounds of wrestling on the driveway.
Spot doesn’t say much and has the added benefit of clean paws. The harness can be left on for walks in the park, too, and has a sensible, Volvo-like reflective strip across the chest strap.
This mid-size fit does cost £60 but when you look online at what else is available, the straps on the Volvo item are much wider and the harness is really well spliced together.
Spot and I have been driving around all week getting some funny looks. Time for walkies…
April 17th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 38.5mpg
October 4 is always Kanelbullens Dag in Sweden – sticky Cinnamon Bun Day. Every shop, restaurant and filling station is laden with sugary treats, probably to the annoyance of the country’s chief dentist because Swedes are otherwise hugely obsessed with health and safety.
Volvo has, of course, played on this obsession for decades. It started with the front, three-point safety belt in 1959 and has continued unabated ever since. Last week, the BBC ran a story saying nobody has died in a Volvo XC90 in the UK since it was launched 16 years ago. Remarkable.
Even so, the latest models are so alive with safety alarms, whistles and bells that my first action inside our XC60 is turn off some of them. Do I really need to be warned when somebody is overtaking me – surely that’s one reason I have eyes and sat a driving test.
This is an SUV loaded with a smorgasbord of features to keep occupants safe. Most applaudable, although I wonder if that sometimes makes us lazier drivers as a result? It’s also one reason why Volvo boldly claims that no one will be killed or seriously injured in any of its cars by 2020.
Apart from all the usual stuff, like a lane departure warning, heated windscreen wipers for bitter winter mornings, and a system that automatically tightens the seat belts if the car leaves the road, the XC60 has alerts for cyclists, pedestrians – and probably cinnamon buns, too.
One of my favourites is Large Animal Detection. This is a crucial bit of kit in Scandinavia, where roaming elk cause a number of fatal accidents every year. It identifies body shape information from eagle-eyed sensors, then brings the Volvo neatly to a halt in the nick of time.
Horse and deer are included but if parts of the animal are not visible, the function won’t work. So does that include three-legged deer, or the smaller Muntjac deer that roam the roads near me? Is a Shetland pony on the watch list, and what about a St Bernard Dog?
Obviously, I’m now frantically Googling for an inflatable, large animal toy to put this to the test. Watch this space.
April 13th, 2018
Fuel economy this week: 36.4mpg
As the present Mrs T was at pains to point out: “We’re in our fifties, driving a Volvo to Waitrose and listening to Radio 4. It doesn’t get any more middle class than that.”
She has a point. In recent years Volvo has left its antique dealer/two Labrador image behind and become the epitome of Scandinavian chic. No, it doesn’t sell a sports car but as a multi-tool of motors, the Swedes now put together SUVs better than an Ikea flat pack.
The transformation started with the XC90 in 2002, a full-fat luxury crossover that left many conventional MPV owners with a sour taste in their mouth. The latest XC90 is already regarded as a legendary all-rounder, super-safe and very desirable.
The pint-sized XC40 has just launched Volvo into the compact SUV market. It has snatched the European Car of the Year Award and is going to give the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 a bloody nose, make no mistake.
Now I’ve been given three months to discover my inner Sven driving the XC60. The semi-skimmed, mid-range model is smaller than the XC90 and minus a third row of seats but otherwise a doppelganger. Last month it was named World Car of the Year. Yep, and it’s a Volvo.
The XC60 is lathered in lagom – that’s trendy Scandi-speak for “just right”. I’ve already discovered it boasts the world’s most relaxing and well-organised cabin, feng shui’d to the hilt and all the more brilliant for it.
So if you currently drive a sports utility vehicle with a busy dashboard, marvel at what Volvo’s interior designers have done to theirs. My dog could count the number of buttons in our XC60 on two paws.
They’ve been swept away and replaced with a mini iPad screen. It’s not as big as the one in a Tesla but intuitive and simple. That also leaves a larger space in the air-conditioned glovebox where the manual used to be - everything needed to learn about this car is accessed via the touchscreen manual.
I wouldn't say I’m your typical Volvo driver – one hound, no kids – but almost begrudgingly, after just seven days, I have to admit the XC60 is something I never expected it to be: cool.
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