Trawling through the engine line-up on many modern cars can be bewildering. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the XC60, because there are just four choices: the 188bhp D4 and 232bhp D5 2.0-litre diesels, the 247bhp T5 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol and the T8 plug-in hybrid, which combines a 299bhp version of the 2.0-litre petrol with an 86bhp electric motor.
While the D4 won’t make you yelp with elation every time you put your foot down, it has more than enough everyday vim and vigour for most people. So whether you’re knocking about in town or trundling down a slip road for yet another bout of M25 madness, rest assured there will be respectable pace delivered in an unstressed manner. True, an Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 is slightly brisker, but the D4 is decidedly quicker than a Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 180.
Those who need more can sate themselves behind the wheel of the D5, which offers better response and an extra slice of mid-range get-up-and-go.
If you’re dead set against diesel, then there are the T5 and T8 models. We have yet to try the T5 but, from our experience of that engine in other Volvo models, it’ll be brisker than both diesels, although you'll have to rev it harder to extract its performance.
Meanwhile, with a vast reserve of up to 385bhp from both the petrol and electric motors, the T8 charges from 0-62mph in a little over five seconds, with the electric motor adding more guts at low revs as well. Officially, it can also do up to 28 miles on electric power alone with a full battery charge, although we managed (a still impressive) 22 miles on a varied test route. It is significantly slower on electric power alone, but it has enough punch for urban environments and will gently accelerate up to motorway speeds.
Either way, you’ll get an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. This blurs its changes well enough that you won’t feel too many of them, but it is sometimes a little hesitant to change down, leaving the XC60 labouring in too high a gear – when you want to enter a roundabout briskly, for instance.
Although a Q5 (with optional air suspension) is by far the best-riding car in this class, an XC60 that's also on optional air suspension is pretty fine, too. Dial in the more comfortable of the two settings (aptly labelled Comfort) and the XC60 positively wafts over soft-edged peaks and troughs at speed, making it particularly adept for long stints on motorways.
Hit a sharp-edged ridge or pothole around town, though, and the car is more likely to thud through the body than the Q5, but it still remains more composed than a Discovery Sport or DS 7 Crossback. The only issue is the ride deteriorates badly when you fit 19in or bigger alloy wheels, so stick to 18in ones if you want the car – and you – to stay supple.
The air suspension is pricey, so mercifully the standard-fit steel suspension is a pretty good compromise for UK roads for anyone with a constrained budget. There’s a pleasing aloofness from large lumps and bumps, such as sleeping policemen, although expansion joints and ragged potholes can still ruffle your feathers. Again, stick to smaller wheels to avoid exacerbating the problem.
You’ll only need to drive the XC60 round a couple of corners to realise Volvo’s claims about sporty handling are misleading. If you’re hoping for an SUV that grips and changes direction like a Porsche Macan or even a Jaguar F-Pace, you’ll be disappointed; even the ‘sportier’ R-Design trim, with its firmer suspension, pitches and wallows when pushed hard.
This is particularly noticeable on the T8 plug-in hybrid. The big battery pack and electric motor add an awful lot of weight to the rear of the XC60, making it feel much more cumbersome in bends than the conventionally powered versions, while it also leans over more and proves much less keen to change direction. The powerful petrol engine also overwhelms the front wheels and causes the steering wheel to writhe under hard acceleration.
Arguably, the majority of buyers won’t care about that, because SUVs aren’t supposed to be sports cars. And providing you’re not driving every corner at breakneck pace, the XC60 grips fairly well and doesn’t lollop onto its door handles around tight twists and turns. But even less sporty rivals, such as the Q5, feel far more eager to turn in to bends and more stable through them as well.
The steering is weighty around the straight ahead, so the car tracks assuredly on motorways. It’s relatively accurate in corners but, instead of weighting up consistently as you apply lock, it remains too light, leaving you rather wary of pushing hard. Switching to Dynamic mode adds some much-needed heft, but you never quite lose that detached feeling that ultimately robs you of confidence when pushing on.
Mind you, there is a benefit to that lightness; around town, the XC60 is no effort at all to thread along back roads and into parking spaces.
Volvo’s diesel engines aren’t the quietest around. It’s the background rumble at idle that seems most out of place in a £40k SUV, while the buzz when you accelerate, while not harsh, would raise an eyebrow or two from the owners of super-smooth Q5s. Yet the XC60 still isolates you better from engine noise and vibration than a Discovery Sport or Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Naturally, the petrol engines are quieter, both at idle and when accelerating. And of course the T8 can play its trump card of running on electricity alone, making it near silent, although this does highlight other noises.
The suspension goes about its business quietly the majority of the time, although there is a loud bang when you hit a pothole and the XC60’s mirrors also whip up a fair amount of wind noise on the motorway. Road roar is reasonably well mannered, though. So, all things considered, while the Q5 is quieter overall, the XC60 is still a perfectly decent long-haul companion.
Volvo claims that the XC60 feels quite ‘car-like’ inside, seating its occupants lower and in a more cocooned environment than many SUVs. In reality, though, you still look down on most other road users – and that's precisely what most buyers will want and expect.
The fundamental driving position is superb, thanks to plenty of adjustment in the steering wheel and the comfortable and supportive driver’s seat. Seat height and lumbar adjustment is electric on all trims, but you have to slide the seat back and forth and recline it manually on Momentum and R-Design models; full electric adjustment with memory recall is standard if you opt for the Pro Pack or go for top-spec Inscription trim.
Meanwhile, the pedals line up neatly with the steering wheel to ensure there’s no skewed driving position and the dashboard buttons are kept to a minimum. That last point sounds fabulous, because it delivers a dose of smart-looking simplicity to the interior; the only problem is this means you have to prod away at the touchscreen to adjust even the most mundane features, such as the air conditioning, when physical buttons or dials would make the process far less distracting while driving.
The excellent view out of the XC60 is partly down to its big side windows and door mirrors. However, it also has relatively slender windscreen pillars that make it easy to navigate roundabouts and junctions. Even the over-the-shoulder view is good by large SUV standards.
Every XC60 comes equipped with rear parking sensors, making it easier to pilot the car’s considerable bulk into tight parking spaces. You can also choose to add front sensors, a rear-view monitor, a 360deg bird’s-eye-view camera and even Pilot Assist, which can semi-autonomously perform parallel parking or back you into a supermarket space.
There’s no doubting the showroom appeal of the XC60’s Sensus infotainment system. The giant 9.0in touchscreen is wonderfully crisp and bright and, rather unusually, is set into the dashboard in portrait rather than landscape orientation.
However, the fact that it’s a touchscreen means you have to accurately press icons – some of which are rather small – and swipe between menus. This is fine when you’re stationary, but it can be both annoying and distracting while you’re driving. That’s the main reason that other premium manufacturers, such as Audi and BMW, have opted for a more user-friendly rotary dial controller between the front seats.
Following the sat-nav (standard on all trims) is harder than in some rivals, because it’s sometimes hard to see exactly which road you’re supposed to take. A DAB radio, Bluetooth and a 10-speaker stereo are standard, but you have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo delivers seriously crisp and punchy sound quality, but you’ll have to really love your music to consider it because it’s very expensive.
When it comes to interior quality, Volvo can now count itself among the best in the business. That the XC60 is as classy and elegant inside as the larger (and more expensive) XC90 is seriously impressive, and there’s really precious little to grumble about. The liberal use of woods and metal, especially on range-topping Inscription trim, lends the XC60’s interior a wonderfully light and airy feel.
Okay, some of the interior panel gaps aren’t as millimetre-perfect as they are in the rival Audi Q5, but every surface you touch feels suitably upmarket and reassuringly solid. There aren’t many physical buttons and switches (Volvo prefers a more minimalist approach) but the few there are operate slickly and feel built to last.
You won’t have issues fitting in the front of such a big car, even if you’re very tall. The front seats slide back a long way to accommodate those unusually long in the leg and there’s loads of head room, too, even if you go for the optional panoramic glass roof.
Admittedly, the Land Rover Discovery Sport is bigger still, but Volvo’s penchant for light-coloured interiors gives the impression of more space than there actually is.
As for stowage, there’s a deep bin beneath the centre armrest and a cubby behind the gearlever that has a sliding cover to keep valuables out of sight. The door pockets are easily big enough for a one-litre bottle of water or a big sports drink.
In the back, a Discovery Sport may offer an extra centimetre of space over the XC60 here and there, but even very tall folk will still appreciate how much knee and head room the XC60 offers. Head room remains impressive even if you add the optional panoramic glass roof; this isn’t always the case with some competitors, such as the DS 7 Crossback.
The XC60 is also broader inside than many of its key rivals, meaning shoulder room for three adults sitting side by side is surprisingly good. However, whoever gets the middle seat will have to straddle a raised tunnel that runs along the floor.
All versions have five seats; this is par for the course in this class. However, the Discovery Sport has an extra couple of occasional pews right at the back that's useful on those rare occasions you need to carry seven.
The XC60 gets all the basic seating flexibility tricks. You get 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard and they can be dropped at the touch of a button (much like those in the Mercedes-Benz GLC) if you fork out for the optional Convenience Pack, saving you the job of pulling manual levers.
However, it’s a shame that the seatbacks aren’t split in a 40/20/40 layout as they are in the Discovery Sport as standard or the Audi Q5 with an optional pack fitted. It’s also a pity that you can’t have sliding and reclining rear seats; again, this handy feature is standard on the Discovery Sport and optional on the Q5.
This is another area that the XC60 can’t quite cut it with the class best. Officially, there’s 505 litres of space to play with – about 10% less than what you get in a Q5 or BMW X3. That’s mainly because the boot is quite shallow. This is reduced further in the T8, because much of the electrical gubbins sits under the boot floor.
However, it’s still big enough for most families’ needs and will easily swallow eight carry-on suitcases – that’s one more than what a DS 7 Crossback can do. There’s no lip to negotiate at the boot entrance, either, and folding down the 60/40-split rear seatbacks leaves a completely flat extended load bay free from annoying steps or crevices.
The fact that the load bay is a uniform shape with no major wheel arch intrusion also helps and all trims come with a through-load hatch in the middle rear seat for carrying skis or other long, narrow items. You also get a powered tailgate.
The latest XC60 isn’t cheap; if you bought the previous-generation model, you might be a bit taken aback by its current starting price. However, as we’ll explain in more detail in the next section, even entry-level Momentum trim gets you lots of standard equipment, so you won’t need to add many options.
What’s more, the XC60 is priced broadly in line with its closest rivals, the Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, and going by Volvo’s online finance calculator PCP finance can be extremely competitive for the class. Officially, diesel XC60s produce similar CO2 emissions to the Q5, but some versions of the GLC and Jaguar F-Pace emit less, as does the front-wheel drive only DS 7 Crossback.
Of course, those buying an XC60 as a company car should consider the T8 plug-in hybrid version first, because it has the lowest CO2 emissions of the range. However, it'll only really work for those who can charge it often and cover most of their commute on electric alone. Those covering long distances mainly on the motorway are still better off with the D4 diesel's fuel economy.
All XC60s are slightly costlier to insure than some rivals, but resale values after three years are among the best in the class.
We’d be tempted to stick with entry-level Momentum trim because you get all the essentials and quite a bit more on top. Climate control, keyless start, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers and heated leather seats all come as standard, so you only really need to add metallic paint or air suspension if you value a smooth ride.
R-Design is even more popular, mainly because you get sportier styling, bigger alloy wheels and tinted windows. Sports suspension results in a slightly firmer ride than the standard car, but tidier handling, too.
Range-topping Inscription trim does bring an even more upmarket interior and fully electric seats. However, it pushes the XC60’s price into the realm of altogether bigger and better cars, such as the Land Rover Discovery and Volvo’s own flagship XC90.
On each version, you can opt for a Pro Pack that adds extra kit. On Momentum models, this adds power-folding door mirrors, heated steering wheel, adaptive LED headlights with washers, a heated front windscreen and electrically adjustable driver’s seat with memory function. You also get Volvo On Call, which offers 24-hour emergency assistance coupled to the car’s GPS system to locate and help you if you get stuck.
R-Design Pro adds to the Momentum Pro list 21in wheels, adaptive air suspension and fancy ambient interior lighting, while Inscription Pro throws in 20in wheels and front massaging seats as well.
The latest XC60 was too new to feature in our most recent reliability survey, but Volvo as a brand finished a relatively disappointing 25th (out of 32 manufacturers) in the study.
The XC60 comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty as standard, as well as a three-year paintwork warranty and 12-year cover against rust. This cover is par for the course in the premium large SUV class.
Thankfully, Volvo hasn't forgotten about its roots, because the latest XC60 has some of the most advanced safety features in the class. It scored the maximum five stars from Euro NCAP’s safety tests, with a brilliant 98% adult occupant safety score and 95% for safety assists.
Automatic emergency braking is standard on all trims and not only recognises other cars but also cyclists, pedestrians and large animals. The system can even help you swerve around obstacles and back onto the correct side of the road, although this feature is only initiated if you start to make an evasive manoeuvre.
Blindspot monitoring and Pilot Assist (automatic steering at speeds of up to 80mph) are available as part of a pack that also includes adaptive cruise control with a semi-autonomous driving mode.
As you'd expect in a car costing this much money, all trims come with an alarm and an immobiliser. The new model has yet to be tested, but security experts Thatcham Research gave the previous model the maximum five stars for resisting theft and four stars for repelling scallywags trying to break in and pinch your valuables.
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