- Tractable, punchy, efficient new diesel
- Refined and comfortable interior
- Still the fresh, quirky choice
- More expensive than you might expect
- Torque steer in two-wheel-drive models
- Cost of safety packages
It's not the newest or the most expensive premium SUV, but new updates to Volvo's XC60 keep it punching towards the top of the class.
The Volvo XC60 has now been around for six years. Volvo runs its SUV platforms for longer than their German competitors – the full size XC90 turned thirteen this year, with a new generation arriving shortly. We're pleased to report, though, that the XC60 feels the opposite of long-in-the-tooth. New, much-improved engines and some cabin refinements have been recently added to the XC60's solid foundations. Together, they create what may be the best premium mid-sized SUV.
ChasingCars.com.au borrowed this vehicle for our Volvo XC60 review:
- 2015 Volvo XC60 D4 Kinetic (base trim), with the 2.0-litre Drive-E turbodiesel four-cylinder and eight-speed automatic, in Caspian Blue with black leather, priced at $59,990 before on-road costs.
Driving the XC60 yields mixed emotions. Let's start with the good: the new D4 Drive-E engine is a quantum leap from the old D4. The old motor, while relatively efficient, was gruff, agricultural, and slow. The new D4 is quicker, quiet, refined, and so, so tractable. It's one of the best diesels we have driven in a family SUV. There is adequate power, producing 0-100 sprints in the eight-second range, and the 400Nm of torque, available from near idle, means progress is effortless.
Being endowed with such a great engine makes it all the more of a shame that the XC60 is starting to lag in the handling stakes. When pushing the car hard on a winding country road, seriously heavy torque steer (where a front-drive car tugs at the steering wheel when emerging from corners, due to an excess of power), combined with more body roll than desirable, mean the XC60 can't match the BMW X3 in the dynamic stakes.
These effects are barely noticeable in town driving, though, where the XC60's comfortable suspension setup and quiet cabin make it a relaxed car to run to the shops in. Similarly, highway driving is stress-free, with little wind or road noise to distract from the standard, high-quality sound system. Additionally, if you opt for one of the more expensive all-wheel-drive models, the undesirable roll and torque pull characteristics fade significantly in more spirited driving.
The XC60 seats five, and all five are able to get comfortable. For most buyers, this will be a family car, and children are well-accommodated in the back seats. The two outboard chairs are spacious enough for tall teenagers, although the same can't be said for the middle perch. There are air vents back there, and the big windows means it doesn't feel as claustrophobic as some competitors.
Up front, the XC60 is still at the top of its game. We are unabashed fans of Volvo's seats, which are close to perfect ergonomically. There is plenty of (electric) adjustment in the driver's seat, and our Kinetic base was optioned with a heated first row. It must be said that the actual cloth used in the Kinetic feels harder-wearing, and not as sumptuous, as that found in the Luxury and other higher-spec models. For families, though, hard-wearing black Volvo leather is a blessing.
The XC60's dash remains too button-heavy. The Audi Q5 and BMW X3 both have cleaner designs. The central infotainment screen in the Volvo is crisp and very high in resolution, but it's not a touchscreen. Instead, you control the car's functions through rotating dials and hard buttons in the centre stack. It takes some getting used to. It's disappointing that navigation isn't standard on Kinetic models – particularly since all XC60s go for more than $60,000.
Volvo continue to impress us with their use of interesting materials and colours, which have been successful in breathing new life into a basic dash and centre stack concept that has been around since the early 2000s. Our blue XC60 was paired to a copper-coloured centre stack which was well-received by all of our passengers.
Many of us would have grown up with practical, family-friendly Volvo station wagons. While the XC60 has grown taller than the Volvo of our mind's eye, most of that practicality remains. The taller ride height of this car means that you don't have to bend to install baby seats, and the standard electric tailgate means packing luggage and shopping is a little easier.
With a little under 500 litres of space, the XC60's boot is a little smaller than its competitors. However, it's well-shaped, with a generous, wide opening that makes it easy to slide heavy items in. Folding the rear seats is a simple affair, creating a flat floor and enough room for a truly productive day at Ikea.
Dotted through the cabin are a variety of cubby spaces, including a deep central bin between the seats. The glovebox is on the small size, but the door cards are wide enough to accommodate a large bottle of water.
RELIABILITY & RUNNING COSTS
The XC60 is built in Volvo's plant in Ghent, Belgium. Generally, the materials used throughout the Volvo feel premium and hardy. The European nature of the build quality is evident in the thump of the doors, and the solidity of the driving experience. XC60s have also been reliable and have ranked highly in owner satisfaction surveys, with caveats that the model is starting to date against the newer competition, which is fair comment.
Volvo's reputation for safety is not let down by the XC60. It was the first Volvo to feature the City Safety program as standard, which can detect pedestrians or static vehicles at city traffic speeds and brake the car automatically. This is an important innovation, and we are also pleased that a reversing camera is standard across the range. It is worrisome, though, that the complete safety option package for the XC60 tips the scales at more than $6,000, which means most people simply will not tick that box. That package includes adaptive cruise control, collision warning systems, and additional pedestrian avoidance technology. All cars, though, are rated five-stars for crash protection from Australian and European ratings agencies.
Volvo continue to drag the chain in coming to the capped price servicing party. All we can do is provide you with indicative figures for servicing costs: XC60s need to be serviced annually, or every 60,000 kilometres. For each of the first three services, you can expect to pay (a minimum of) $450. The warranty does last three years, with unlimited kilometres.
The other side of running costs is fuel economy, and this is an area where the new D4 Drive-E diesel four is quite exceptional. We were sceptical of the claimed combined figure of 4.9L / 100km, but over our week of mixed driving with the XC60, we found that this figure was almost achievable. In town, we managed to limit consumption in the mid-sevens, and if you mix in some higher-speed motorway driving, figures in the low-fives are definitely possible. Plus, the seventy-litre fuel tank means infrequent visits to the filling station.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Volvo XC60 price depends on picking between four engines and three trims. Two of the engines are brand new: the D4 diesel and T5 petrol are both two-litre turbo fours, but the diesel is superior. There is a larger D5 diesel and a bonkers T6 six-cylinder petrol on offer as well. Out of the four motors, our money would be on the D4 diesel tested here, which makes a good all-rounder.
The smaller two engines – the D4 and T5 – are available as a Kinetic base model, and the petrol Kinetic is the cheapest way into an XC60 at around $64,000. The larger engines – the D5 and T6 – are optionally available in R-Design trim, which alludes to a sporting nature with large wheels and a harsher ride. But all cars are available in the best trim, called Luxury, which retains the smooth nature of the base car, but adds key features. The D4 Luxury that carries our recommendation hits the road for around $75,000.
The XC60 tends to closely match its competitors on price. That is an ambitious move on the part of Volvo Australia, who are increasingly confident that the brand's cache is growing, and that the XC60 is crossed-shopped against the BMW and Audi, with favourable results. We think that while the XC60 represents a very sensible choice in this segment, most models come out a little higher in price than expected. And, while Volvo's presence in Australia is bolstered every day through their reinvigorated marketing effort (and performance in the V8 Supercars), the brand's image still hasn't matched that of the Germans. Plus, our concerns for the handling dynamics of the XC60 make it a tougher sell as the on-road price creeps towards $80,000.
BMW X3 xDrive20d ($64,400 list | $71,718 on road): BMW doesn't import any two-wheel-drive X3s, so the biggest difference here is BMW's cheapest X3 diesel has all-four grip. The cabin isn't as unique as the Volvo's, but it is easier to work with, and build quality is even higher.
Audi Q5 TDI ($62,600 list | $69,701 on road): the Audi's interior is calming and efficient, in the Germanic way. However, this is an old design now that has started to tire. The drivetrains are strong, though, in particular the blistering SQ5 diesel which boasts genuine sporting prowess.
Lexus NX300h Luxury 2WD ($55,000 list | $60,693 on road): we're yet to review the newest Lexus SUV, but it will represent fierce competition for the XC60 – and its base model is almost $10k cheaper on the road. Arguably, it has the best looks of the bunch.
|Power||133kW @ 4250rpm|
|Torque||400Nm @ 1750–2500rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||76kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||4.9L / 100km|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Front wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Cargo space (seats up)||495L|
|Cargo space (seats down)||1455L|