BARCELONA, Spain – If the superbly refined XC90 served as an introductory starter course at the table of the revived Volvo brand, and the svelte S90 an intriguing side order, the forthcoming XC60 should be viewed as the main course both in terms of substance and significance for the rejuvenated Swedish manufacturer.
Indeed, while the current XC60 has enjoyed relative success in the South African market (competing in recent times, with sales of the popular current V40 range), elsewhere on the globe it’s represented the best-selling model in Volvo’s portfolio, while boasting the significant title of best-selling medium-sized SUV in Europe as well. So popular, in fact, that the XC60 has steadily increased its annual sales figures through each anniversary of its nine-year life cycle, peaking in this its final year of production.
The new XC60, then, is a very important model for Volvo.
It looks like a shrunken XC90
Precisely. And with the XC90 having gained significantly more praise than criticism for its distinct, Scandinavian-inspired styling, expect to see more of these lines as Volvo steadily rolls out the rest of its new generation family of vehicles over the months to come.
Sharing its SPA platform with the XC90, this scalable architecture has been adjusted accordingly to meet the needs of Volvo’s new BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5 rival. Longer (by 61 mm) and wider (by 11 mm), yet lower (by 55 mm) than the model it replaces, the new XC60 is 262 mm shorter yet “only” 106 mm narrower than its big brother.
Complemented by a subtle headlamp design update (incorporating a larger and brighter signature LED daytime running light component) compared with the 90, it’s the rear of the new XC60 that offers the biggest distinction over the larger offering. Breaking from tradition, thin new horizontal sections have been added to the family-familiar vertical tail-lamp design. It’s a design element that not only clearly differentiates 60 from 90, but also makes the rear of the XC60 appear somewhat more compact than it actually is.
XC90 outside, but what about inside?
Just as the svelte exterior styling of the XC90 has highlighted a renewed vigour within the Volvo brand so the impressively thought out and impeccably installed interior treatment has reintroduced Swedish craftsmanship to the automotive world. I’ve said it before, but I always feel as though I should be better dressed when driving one of the newest Volvo offerings. And the same applies to the XC60.
While the light coloured finishes on our international launch test units (including leather and dash-mounted driftwood) would arguably not be the most practical selection in the real world, in the short term they, once again, served to highlight the attention to detail that has been paid by Volvo not only towards fit and finish but also how each surface feels to the touch.
Updated for its application in the XC60, the Sensus Connect infotainment screen includes simplified menus and an increase in character fonts for improved usability.
Complementing the more stretched stance over the outgoing XC60 is a 90mm increase in wheelbase length. The combination ensures both a generous level of rear passenger legroom (with ample headroom a bonus), as well as class-comparable luggage volumes.
The hugely comfortable XC90 isn’t noted for its dynamic ability, so how does the XC60 fare?
At the same time as it was a conscious decision to make the XC90’s dynamic character err on the side of impressive overall comfort, so too were the efforts made towards lending the XC60 a somewhat more sure-footed nature.
While suspension componentry has been carried over from the larger car, its inclusion within an altogether more compact package already goes some way towards giving the XC60 a more purposeful turn-in and balanced mid-corner demeanour. That said, while the steering setup has been adjusted to lend the smaller model that much more flair, it remains a somewhat unnatural feeling to “throw” such an otherwise effortlessly refined package into a set of corners.
Still, the XC60 is offered in R-Design specification, including the fitment of up to 22-inch alloy wheels, should customers wish to add sharpness to the package.
And will there be performance to match?
While the most powerful, hybrid, T8 model is still under consideration for South Africa, all other engine options will be available at launch in Q2 of 2018. All mated with an eight-speed automatic transmission and BorgWarner all-wheel-drive system, it was, once again, the D5 offering that impressed the most over the course of our test drive. While the 235 kW T6 delivers nicely in terms of get-up-and-go, as well as effortless highway cruising ability, it was the 173 kW/480 N.m turbodiesel mill, making the most of its turbo-lag-negating Power Pulse technology, that felt the most at home within the XC60 package.
So the XC60 carries on where the beautifully executed XC90 left off. Anything else we need to know?
Well, it wouldn’t be a Volvo launch without the introduction of advances in safety. Further to the company’s underlying goal of zero injuries while behind the wheel of one of its cars by 2020, the XC60 features new technologies aimed at keeping its occupants safe. These include steering assist functions linked with both blind spot lane changes and City Safe collision avoidance, as well as a new oncoming traffic avoidance system able to steer the vehicle back into the correct lane should a potential head-on collision situation be registered.
The XC60 arrives in SA in only the second quarter of 2018, you said. Will it be worth the wait?
Most definitely. Even die-hard German car enthusiasts have to admit that what Volvo has achieved of late in terms overall refinement and sophistication has been noteworthy. Models like the XC90 and S90 are at the top of their respective games in terms of perceived build quality and an accompanying sense of occasion, with the XC60 effortlessly maintaining this momentum.
What I like about this new smaller offering is the naturally improved overall dynamics that aren’t perhaps as “wafty” as associated with the larger members of the family, while the D5 engine, in particular, offers both enough performance and refinement to more than complement arguably the most important Volvo to date.