The XC60 is the backbone of the middle-class automotive obsession with SUVs and Scandinavia. It’s big enough for a family of five and their dog and will easily hold everything you need for a fortnight in Tuscany – including room for a few bottles of the local plonk.
It has, however, received a mixed response from the experts; most appreciate its solidity and sturdiness but some are a bit under-whelmed by the dated chassis, suggesting that newer cars make a better fist of the driving dynamic.
But we like to make our own mind up here at carwow though, so we borrowed one for a week to see for ourselves whether it still cuts the mustard.
You’ve all seen the XC60, so my observation that it does look rather awkward isn’t going to come as a surprise. Sure, it oozes enough class and high-end glitz to impress your neighbours but the off-road stance and hefty hindquarters do little to stir me.
Volvos have some of the nicest interiors in their class and the XC60 is no exception. Its cool minimalism dodges Audi-austerity, feeling clean and uncluttered rather than clinical and stark.
The R-design front seats are sensationally good-looking and super supportive and rear seat leg-and-headroom is decent, swallowing teenagers without a single grump. The boot is vast even with the back seat in use; with it folded the XC60 will accept just about anything this side of a three-seater sofa (I know, we tried). Thats the good news.
The bad is that much of the equipment that gives the XC60 its premium big car feel is optional: the Driver Support Pack (blind spot information, plus lane departure warning and active cruise control) costs a whopping £1,900; the R-Design leather seats are a more reasonable £500; and the Winter Pack (including bendy lights, and heated seats and windscreen) will set you back a weekend in Paris.
All-in-all my XC60 featured almost ten grand in optional extras, and while press fleet cars are often loaded to demonstrate the breadth of equipment on offer, they did raise the price to £45,000. Or an SD4 Dynamic LUX Range Rover Evoque.
My first experience of driving the XC60 was during a ferocious snowstorm and while I was hugely reassured by its winter tyres and four-wheel-drive, it did strike me as a bit of a plodder. A bit, er, worthy. I felt safe but I didn’t feel stirred. Ray Mears would, I’m sure, do a fine job of guiding me through the Arctic but he’s never struck me as the sort of chap you’d end up getting drunk with in a strip club in Helsinki
Then I slipped the big Volvos gearbox into Sport and everything changed: the gears shifted with more immediacy, of course, aided and abetted by sharper throttle. But there was more – the XC60 was suddenly fun.
Ray had morphed into Bear Grylls with a bottle of vino in one hand and a fistful of Euros in the other; slightly scary but good fun. This duality is an attractive trait and one that transformed the way I felt about the XC60. Drive in most cars should be viewed as an eco-mode to ensure a decent urban cycle fuel consumption figure and this is never more true than in the case of the benevolent Swede.
The D4 engine is a gruff old thing, snarling and growling its way up and down the rev range. I liked it as it reminded me of the old 5-cylinder Audi quattro turbo engine but Id understand entirely if you wanted your propulsion a bit more understated
The D4 pushes out 181bhp and 310lb/ft of torque so sheer urge isn’t lacking, once you’ve prodded it with the Sport button, of course and the top speed of 121mph allows a steady 80-90mph to be maintained with ease.
A 0-60mph time of 9.7 seconds might look, on paper at least, hugely unimpressive but the XC60s mid-range urge (which translates into overtaking ability) is more than adequate.
Over 500-or-so miles I managed 31mpg, which isn’t bad but isn’t going to put the XC60 in the running for many eco awards, either. The CO2 rating is 169g/km and BIK for business users is 28%.
Value for Money
As we’ve seen, the base XC60 D4 AWDs OTR price is £35,260, a figure that is all-too-easy to inflate if you are imprudent with the options list.
The trouble isn’t that the XC60 is poor value for money, because it isn’t. The problem is that its peers provide a more modern context in which to view it and viewed against cars like the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q5 it just doesn’t stack up.
The XC60 has an awful lot going for it. My weeks loan coincided with some of the worst weather we’ve seen all winter and while the Welsh mountains were shrouded in snow and fog, I still moved among them with impunity; few cars feel as indomitable as a Volvo and the XC60 wraps solidity in competence to provide one of the ultimate family winter rides.
It is also appealingly schizophrenic, being cuddly and reassuring or lithe and hard-edged, depending on your mood. I genuinely enjoyed driving it over an eight-hour stretch that encompassed heavy traffic, fast motorways, and flooded B-roads and I didn’t have a single twinge, of either anxiety or posture.
Yet time moves on. The Land Rover Freelander is its nearest and most logical competitor but when a mid-spec Evoque costs the same as a loaded XC60 only diehard Volvo fans would choose the Swedish car over what is surely the market leader.