Volvo has finally taken the battle out of the barracks with a fully loaded mid-size SUV that looks the part. In its new generation, the XC60 makes its intentions clear with rich driver assistance gadgetry and by bringing back the T6 engine. My test car is a Volvo XC60 T6 Inscription.
THE SPECS: 19” alloy wheels, (Up to 21” available), Nappa leather, Bowers and Wilkins music system, 9” tablet-like SENSUS touch screen, 4-zone air-conditioning, Fuel efficiency: 8km/L during test for the T6
THE DRIVETRAIN: T6: 2.0L Turbo & Supercharged, 320 hp, 400 Nm torque / T5: 2.0L Turbocharged, 254 hp and 350 Nm torque, Transmission: 8-speed automatic, All Wheel Drive
DRIVER ASSISTANCE: City Safety, Blind Spot Information System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane departure Warning with Automatic Intervention, Collision mitigation, 360º camera with extended top view, LED headlamps with automatic bending at corners, Knee and side impact airbags
THE PRICE: TRIM LEVELS available in UAE: T5 – MOMENTUM / R DESIGN T6 – R DESIGN / INSCRIPTION Revised prices for 2018: XC60 T5 MOMENTUM @AED 235,000 before AED 44,760 permanent down payment contribution from the dealer. (Approx. 190,000 effective cost) up to XC60 T6 Inscription @AED 310,000 before a Dealer Contribution of AED 59,047 (effective AED 251,000)
UPSIDE: Smooth and easy drive, Efficient driver assistance features, Spacious comfort, Dealer contribution
FLIPSIDE: Pricey with options, some rivals are more off-road capable
The XC60 is visibly a new car. The grille has been worked on to make more of a hexagon out of it – the six-face seems to be the geometric toast of our times! While the lights have dropped their large teardrop design and assumed a more contemporary, hawk-eye design with LED lamps, the rear lamps have given up their protruding sides but has grown transversely, reaching out to each other – again, a currently popular styling cue.
A nice chrome frame marks the spot where the fog lamps are – except that the lamps are tucked away further down on the lower bumpers. This top-end edition they call Inscription formed a ‘gleaming silhouette’ against the setting sun – chrome line the grille, along the glasshouse, the running board and the roof rails. They define a familiar shape despite the more angular rake in the rear. My test ride rolled on 20” wheels – the highline trim gets 21”. Just as the rest of the design, the wheels are stylishly current without being loud!
Grabbing the steering, I found my grip a shade lower, on level with the abdomen. I would have blamed it on the no-reason notion of anything looking better in a sportier guise, if I hadn’t known Volvo better. The positioning of the steering and the lowered dashboard aid wider, clearer vision through the windscreen and therefore a safer drive – the keyword the Swede has always stood for. That said, it isn’t without a mild contradiction on the sides, in the form of a slightly broad B-pillar. The Blind Spot Information System takes care of it anyway. Talking about vantage views, parking in the new Volvo XC60 is a breeze. The top-angle simulation on the 9” screen covers a reassuringly larger area surrounding the vehicle by taking the view higher, though some might find this unsettling at times.
The XC60 drive has a character but sporty is not what it is. Actually, that saves it from getting lost among a dozen other crossovers that look – just look – ready for a caper in a sporty cape. Volvo’s mid-size crossover underlines its smooth and cushioned ride – which goes with safe and gentle – but softness cannot be taken for a weakness in Volvo’s case. The steering might come across as too smooth but the drive reveals no lack of grip, speed or even a surge when called for!
The T5 and T6 are both turbo-charged four-cylindered engines named to suggest a performance similar to bigger engines! The latter also has a supercharger activated during acceleration. There are Eco, Comfort, Dynamic and Off-road modes, all of which add up to a perpetual comfort mode – even in Dynamic! Now, you must be wondering how capable the Off-road mode is. Volvo has distanced all doubts on the selection screen itself. The description below ‘off road’ clarifies – rough road – and mind you, the XC60 is not equipped with air suspensions and ride height adjustment. In other words: Jebel Jais – check. The big red – check your head!
Cabin and Controls
The inside looks even more elegant and contemporary than the outside. Nappa leather covers most surfaces, and the ‘linear lime inlay décor’ amidst the hard plastic look more elegantly suitable to the Volvo interiors. The Bowers and Wilkins speakers look as refined as they sound – major manufacturers have been trying to outshine each other in filling their cabins with ‘branded sound’!
Volvo has retained the signature turn-start knob on the XC60 console, and a jewel-like rotary switch for driving modes. The control panel has always been driver-oriented in a Volvo. This hasn’t changed even when a 9” control touch screen has replaced it. However, the convenient stowaway base under the console has been deleted.
The touch screen at the centre is like your tablet in more ways than one – you can scroll, swipe, flick and flip on this capacitive screen while the back button is at the bottom. You can also speak to control the multimedia functions except navigation, or choose to write out your commands in a corner of the touch screen – the recognition is not disappointing as they often are. Navigation is simple and efficient to set and follow, can be seen on the 4.5-inch instrument panel as well though the Head-Up Display doesn’t show turn cues. You expect Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to be there, and they are.
The Volvo XC60 is one of the most balanced mid-size SUVs when it comes to space – leg space or boot space. Unlike most cabins, even the mid-seat in the back is flat and comfortable, though the extended console tunnel might get the passenger squatting a little.
The test car interior was in leather and in a colour Volvo calls ‘blonde’ – off-white is the closest. It looks good but the question is how long would it be possible to keep it so pristine! A junior bicycle can easily fit in the boot but I had to stack old newspaper on the sides and floor before attempting that! Thankfully, amber, maroon and charcoal trims are also available.
The price of safety
The Volvo XC60 used to looked way more attractive on paper starting at AED 150, 000 or even less. This time around, Volvo has opted to make the package itself look as capable and more competitive when compared with its German counterparts starting with the fact that the variants are T6 and T5 rather than a T4. Now, this has understandably taken the price up as well –strategy for the new era looks like “no compromise no matter what it takes”.
If I had an iota of disapproval growing within, that was kept at bay as I saw a car rapidly approaching from behind as I attempted changing lanes, despite my flashing right-turn lights. And even before I reacted on my quick cognizance of the impending danger, I found myself back in the lane I started from, with a message flashing on the instrument panel: “automatic intervention – collision avoidance assistance”. In another instance, as the car in front slowed down without warning forcing me to get too close too fast, I reached out for the brakes in a hurry but it wasn’t my foot that braked! Almost eerily, I could feel the seat belts restraining me tightly and the car braking for itself with my half-willed feet in a limbo, just an inch from the brake. So what if it took me by surprise? It worked. So, where was I – cribbing about the price?
What I described second is my experience of the safety action package that Volvo calls City Safety. The Volvo XC60 is designed to act on your behalf if you fail to brake in time even after you are warned about an imminent crash. The car is designed to prevent the crash if the speed is below 50 kmph or slow down enough to lessen the impact, if at a higher speed. City Safety is standard on all trim levels of the XC60. The Lane Keeping Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Blind Spot Information System, Radar Cruise Control and Collision Mitigation Support are all available in the higher trims.
The essential Volvo XC60
Volvo’s move to bring back the T6 and T5, and load these models with admirable technology, is a bold yet necessary step if they wish to be seen a deserving and viable alternative to the German trio. The message that Volvo has driven into people’s minds – family comfort, overall practicality, and the cushioning security one wants to enwrap one’s family with – still remains the selling proposition for the Volvo XC60, even in 2018 in its new generation.