Where to start with a brand like Volvo? The name conjures up many thoughts across the wide spectrum that is all things automotive.
Of course, most people in the know would immediately associate Volvo with safety. The Swedish marque has a decorated history filled with innovation centered around safety first principles.
Despite the legitimate wraps Volvo gets for its commitment to safety, it has found converting its reputation into showroom success challenging. Outside of the Nordic countries, Volvo has found the competition from the ever-growing, well-resourced German brands difficult to contend with.
Unfortunately for Volvo, the biggest impediment to its global success for many years was its owner. Under the ownership of Ford, Volvo was effectively blindfolded and starved of the investment needed to develop its portfolio.
It’s a similar story to that of Jaguar Land Rover, since being sold by Ford in 2010, Volvo’s new owners have started the process of reviving the brand and making it relevant in a global context.
New investment has been used to develop new platforms, new engines and new cars. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, we’ve all heard you need to spend money to make money. Dividends are now being paid, head office is reporting sales and profitability are on the rise.
Volvo’s Australian operation hasn’t enjoyed the same upturn experienced in other parts of the world. The big three premium German brands are often the default choice for locals looking to go upmarket, meaning Volvo needs to work a little harder to get noticed.
Enter the 2018 Volvo XC60, an SUV that represents the culmination of all the work done to get Volvo back in the business of selling cars. Australian’s love their SUVs and the all-new XC60 is ripe to capitalise on the desire to sit higher.
Volvo is offering the XC60 in three trim levels: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. There’s also petrol and diesel engine options. Our test car is the mid-spec Inscription variant powered by a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, it’s priced at $69,990 (plus on-roads) a neat 10k more than the entry-level Momentum.
It’s worth the extra coin, the Inscription is loaded with equipment most premium brands list as expensive extras. Four-zone electronic climate control, cooled glove box, head-up display, 360-degree camera and a digital instrument cluster are all standard.
Volvo’s safety credentials remain strong, the XC60 is able to detect large animals and cyclists as part of its collision mitigation system. Volvo also includes its Pilot Assist tech which brings a host of semi-autonomous driving functions. It’s hard to find a modern safety feature that’s missing from the extensive list that accompanied the car. Of course, the XC60 has been given a five-star ANCAP safety rating - never in doubt people.
The new XC60 has been a long time coming. The outgoing model was in production for what seemed like an eternity. Even though the old model was starting to go grey, it was a good car with a loyal following. With the skill of a surgeon, Volvo has cleverly achieved the right balance, they have taken the best attributes of the outgoing model and moved them to this modern and bang-up-to-date incarnation.
It’s instantly identifiable as a Volvo. There is a touch more masculinity in the design and it now appears more purposeful from every angle. In fact, we would argue the XC60 has the looks to compete with the styling marvel that is the Jaguar F-PACE. Even the harshest of critics would find something to like about the XC60’s exterior proportions.
Interestingly, this new generation is longer, wider and lower than the outgoing model. There’s also more ground clearance making the XC60 an attractively proportioned SUV.
The new exterior dimensions allow for a reasonably spacious cabin that will easily accommodate four adults and their belongings. The cargo area is vast for an SUV of this size.
From the driver’s seat, the XC60’s interior is a jaw dropper. Simply put, the cabin is beautifully executed with a forensic level of attention given to the details. Volvo has thoughtfully incorporated enough emotional elements throughout what is a statement of modernity.
Choosing the Inscription trim level brings a customisable 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster to complement the 9.0-inch vertical infotainment touch screen. The latest connectivity options, including Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto, are supported.
It’s a minimalistic cabin layout, yet there are so many intricate details to look at. The open pore driftwood inlay is gorgeous, take that Maserati! It looks great and provides a wonderful tactile experience, it’s remarkably relaxing to run your fingers over it. At the end of our test week it dawned on me, I hadn't rubbed this much wood since I was a teenager. Perhaps I should have been a lumberjack?
There’s also a discrete Swedish flag carved into the dash and a nicely fashioned roller control to select the drive mode. These little things make a significant difference to the cabin ambience.
All the materials are top-notch, lovely soft-touch plastics and premium feeling leather adorn the majority of interior surfaces.
When it comes to fit and finish, the XC60 hits a level that would have the Takumi master craftspeople responsible for Lexus interiors paying careful attention. It all comes together so sublimely, there’s an undeniable feeling of luxury.
The comfort seats in the XC60 live up to their name. They are some of the most comfortable seats available in the automotive industry. This is how comfortable I would imagine the seats out the front of the Pearly Gates are while you're waiting to hear of your fate.
Volvo’s interior designers have hit a high point, the interior is a lovely place to be.
In all honesty, Volvo has never had a reputation for producing cars for keen drivers. They have always leaned towards the sensible side of the equation. Rightly or wrongly, BMW has had a mortgage on the driver's car mantle for too long. The new XC60 will change the way many people think. This is a Volvo SUV with some dynamic ability.
Our tester was equipped with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, it develops 187kW and 350Nm. It’s fast enough for a family transporter, peak torque kicks in from 1500rpm which enables the XC60 to hit 100km/h in 6.8 seconds.
Power is sent to all four wheels through an adaptive eight-speed automatic transmission. The whole drivetrain provides a high level of mechanical refinement.
This is a nice car to drive, the suspension is plush, even on 20-inch rims the ride is buttery smooth which makes a difference on the poor roads many of us drive on daily.
City slickers may not see the benefit of all-wheel drive, at times we also question its purpose in some applications. On loose surfaces, the traction provided by the all-wheel drive system can’t be understated. We tried to unsettle the XC60 on a section of unsealed road in the rain and it couldn’t be ruffled. It remained stoic and as sturdy as a well-known steel bridge.
SUVs generally come unstuck in the corners, the higher centre of gravity tends to lead to a lack of body control. The XC60 feels well-anchored and maintains an above average level of composure when it’s pushed a bit harder.
Volvo has employed an electric power steering set-up that is speed-dependent, it’s very light which will appeal to some, however, enthusiastic drivers would appreciate greater resistance even in the highest setting.
Playing around with the preset driving modes is a rather revealing process. Eco mode takes the fun out of the drive by removing the transmission’s ability to shift quickly at the right moment. Comfort mode provides the best balance of performance and economy.
It would be remiss of us not to mention the adaptive cruise control, it’s one of the best systems we have encountered. It’s smooth and not as intrusive as some of the systems on the market.
There are some clever touches of ingenuity, like being able to lock the car from the button that closes the tailgate. Little things like this make life that little bit easier.
After a pleasurable week of piloting the XC60 around, we returned a consumption figure of 9.5L/100km, the claimed figure is a much sharper 7.8 L/100km.
Volvo back the XC60 with an average three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, this is the standard in the premium segment, but it’s not commensurate with the spend required to own the car. Five years please Volvo!
Maintenance intervals are set at a handy 12 months/15,000km. Volvo offer service plans that need to be purchased prior to the first trip to the dealership service bay. These plans are not cheap and cost $2225 over three years, $3500 over four and $4230 for the full five. For comparison, an equivalent service plan for a Jaguar F-PACE with a petrol engine costs only $1500 to cover the car for five years. This is an area where Volvo’s bean counters need to get the sharpener out.
Despite the short warranty and high service costs, this is the car that can raise Volvo’s profile in Australia. It’s a great SUV for a time when the SUV is king. There are enough carrots here to appeal to a wide gamut of buyers.
Those looking for an SUV that mixes comfort with an engaging drive will find the XC60 a compelling proposition. After a week driving the XC60, it feels every bit the luxury car and buyers wanting a luxury car experience should have the Volvo on their shortlist.
2018 Volvo XC60 Inscription Specifications
Price from $69,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol Power 187kW @ 5500rpm Torque 350Nm @ 1500-4800rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Performance 0 to 100km/h 6.8 seconds Combined Fuel Consumption 7.8L/100km Tank Capacity 60L Length 4688mm Width 2117mm (including mirrors) Height 1658mm Wheelbase 2865mm Ground Clearance 216mm Turning Circle 11.4m Weight 1857kg Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty three-year/unlimited kilometre
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