“In my car safety comes first” is a sentence we’ve all heard from parents and other ultra responsible people, but unless their car is a Volvo they’re wrong. You can drive agonisingly slowly with your lights on permanently and indicate miles before you make a turn but without having the distinctive Swedish embrace of a Volvo cocooning you, you’re just not a true safety enthusiast. Since the first Volvo rolled off the production line in 1927 safety has always been the focus with innovations over the years including: laminated windscreens, three-point seatbelts, kiddie locks, side-airbags and traction control. In total, 75 safety innovations have spawned from Volvo and many of those have filtered down into lesser machines. Now, even the budget carmakers are achieving a full 5-star NCAP safety rating and telling everyone about it, so how are Volvo to stay competitive in such an ungrateful and uninterested automotive world?
By diversifying. In the same way other manufacturers are now using safety credentials to sell cars, Volvo has turned its attention to styling and driving dynamics while still maintaining its automotive tradition for safety innovation. The Volvo XC60 is the latest manifestation of Volvo’s modern philosophy and the result is pretty damn good.
Before you even start daydreaming about how effortlessly it could ram-raid your local dairy or how you could fall asleep at the wheel on a long straight road only to be woken up in time to turn the corner, it’s impossible not to admire the vehicle’s visual appeal. The XC60 is the first production vehicle to show off Volvo’s new styling language and the results are modern and stunning but still distinctly Volvo. A strong face featuring a large badge and grille pushes reward into broad shoulders and side windows that taper off creating a coupe-like roofline and an imposing stance. Out back ‘coke bottle’ vertical LED tail lamps flow downwards using micro-optics for a unique illumination effect. Side scuff plates a rear skid plate and a front bumper bar hint at off-road possibility. Chunky 17-inch or optional 18-inch wheels and twin chrome exhausts round out the package with a dash of bling.
Get inside the XC60 and it’s quickly obvious the cabin is as much about feel as it is about aesthetics. The seats are exceptional and reinforce Volvo’s claims at having the best seats in the business. The leather is plush and the seats have width and excellent support, they are heated, electrically adjusted and offer three memory settings. The rear seat row has pop-up booster cushions built-in which raise child passengers to the optimum level for the seatbelts and pretentioners to operate.
The cabin surfaces are finished well with a visually appealing mixture of contrasting materials including leather, soft and hard plastics and brushed metal. A floating centre control stack is a true styling feature housing an array of buttons and knobs that are easy to read and operate while driving. A dashboard mounted multi-function display offers information on audio and climate settings and the instrumentation looks sharp with floating needles and display screens housed within. If you don’t pony up for the satellite navigation option ($4,175) the gaping gap left by the missing display screen does ruin the flow of the control stack but could also act as a statement that you always know exactly where you’re going!
The XC60’s power-operated tailgate opens wide to a 495-litre boot space, fold down the 40/20/40 split rear seat back and that increases to a flat-floored 1455-litre capacity.
Under the bonnet sits Volvo’s 2.4-litre 5-cylinder turbocharged diesel powerplant that pumps out 136kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It will carry the XC60 from 0-100kph in just under 10 seconds, and while this figure isn’t exactly rocket-ship-fast the XC60 can feel genuinely brisk especially pulling through the mid-range with torquey acceleration. For a larger vehicle economy figures are decent with the XC60 drinking 8.3l/100km on the combined cycle. The transmission is a six-speed automatic supplied by Aisin-Warner which offers manual shifts if required. It’s a fairly relaxed gearbox that never chops down prematurely and feels most at home during cruising.
What’s more impressive than the power train is the XC60’s driving dynamics which are well balanced and car-like. Special emphasis has been put on reducing body roll while cornering and the results are impressive. The XC60 refuses to loll around on windy roads and a strong level of grip is achieved thanks to a full-time all—wheel-drive set up regulating power to all corners. Steering is assisted by a clever speed-sensitive power steering system that offers liberal assistance at low speeds and is reduced as speed increases. It’s effective and can also be manually adjusted. With its 230mm clearance and 1912kg body weight the XC60 may struggle to be as sporty as some SUV competitors but it always feels assured on the road and is a breeze to control for any driver.
In terms of safety innovations Volvo hasn’t taken its foot off the gas pedal and the XC60 has plenty on offer for enthusiasts. First up is Dynamic Stability and Traction control which keeps a keen eye on how the vehicle is behaving and detects over- or under-steer and can apply the brakes or reduce engine power accordingly. Roll Stability Control is next in the safety arsenal and will help prevent rollover by monitoring leaning angles. If you are absolutely determined to put the Volvo on its side then the Roll-Over Protection System will activate the seatbelt pre-tensioners and fire the side and curtain airbags to cushion you.
The most innovative safety feature is Volvo’s City Safety and the XC60 is the first car ever to be fitted with it. A laser sensor mounted on the XC60’s windscreen detects vehicles between 6-8 meters in front and if they are stationary or moving significantly slower than the Volvo it will automatically apply its brakes. So if you’re travelling between 4km/h and 30km/h and become distracted by the kids fighting or a swimsuit clad roller-skater and show no intention of stopping, the Volvo’s got your back. Insurance companies are already making noise about dropping rates for owners of vehicles with this feature.
If the standard XC60 doesn’t have enough safety for you, there are optional factory upgrades. One option is a lane departure warning system with a driver alert feature that detects when the driver is crashing out and wakes them up before they, well, crash out. Other safety options include a Trailer Stability Assist monitor and an adaptive cruise control with a collision warning and automatic braking.
If safety is your drug then Volvo is a keen dealer but the XC60 has much more to offer. It isn’t the quickest or the most exciting machine to drive but it does offer agility for its size and true ‘point and accelerate’ drivability. It’s also supremely comfortable inside and is elegantly styled and of course safer than anything else on the road. What’s most impressive is the vehicles unwavering focus on its occupants with their safety, comfort and driving experience absolutely paramount. The XC60 removes so many of the traditional excuses for not buying a Volvo, if you’re in the market for a 5-seater SUV don’t leave it off your test drive list.
Click through to the next page for a list of specifications
What we like:
- Handsome styling
- Interior comfort
- Easy to drive
- Car-like handling
What we don’t like:
- Premium machine but price to match
- Optional Sat Nav’s absence too noticeable
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
Volvo XC60 D5 AWD – Specifications
Engine Name T6 AWD D5
Engine Type Description Five-cylinder turbo charged diesel
Power Train All wheel drive
Number of cylinders 5
Engine Displacement 2400 cc
Engine Bore 82 mm
Engine Stroke 93.2 mm
Max Engine Power 136 kW
Horsepower 185 hp
Horsepower rev 4000 rpm
Torque 400 Nm
Torque rev 2000 – 2750 rpm
Fuel type Diesel
Performance Acceleration (0-100) Six-speed Geartronic transmission 9.9 s
Maximum speed 200 km/h
Fuel consumption (city) 8.3 l/100km
Fuel consumption (highway) 8.3 l/100km
Fuel consumption (mixed) 8.3 l/100km
Emissions CO2 224 g/km
Fuel Capacity 70 l
Cargo Capacity 873 kg
Towing Capacity 2000 kg
Serving Weight 1 kg
Total Weight 1880 kg
Roof max load 100 kg
Height 1713 mm
Length 4628 mm
Width 1891 mm
Width inc Mirrors 2142 mm
Wheel base 2815 mm
Track Front 1632 mm
Track Rear 1586 mm
Turning Circle 11.9 m