Everything at Volvo seems to be XC90-themed these days. Perhaps understandably, given how able its all-new, first-in-a-new-generation luxury SUV is. But despite a knockout breadth of talent, it is, whisper it, not for everyone. Why? Prices. They start at £45,000. £15k more than the old one – rising yet further if you add on the sensibly-obligatory air suspension Volvo will probably soon standardise anyway.
Enter the dealers’ ace card when customers admit to this – the XC60. On sale since 2008 and facelifted in 2014 to add a bit more visual vim, it’s still not the standout wow the XC90 is (and, as we’ll see, lacks its interior appeal) but, with prices starting from £31,660, it has plenty to offer those who want a Volvo but don’t want to pay Porsche prices.
It shares an engine with the XC90 for one – Volvo’s excellent new 2.0-litre four-cylinder which, in the test D4, produces 190hp. Have it with a six-speed manual if you must, but commensense should default the XC90’s eight-speed auto at £1,485 more (if only to make a compromised electronic parking brake more manageable).
The more powerful ones come with four-wheel drive but you can also get a lower-CO2, lower-price’d front-wheel drive version, again tested here. It emits 117g/km as a manual or 124g/km with the XC90-apeing automatic we chose.
There’s lots to appeal, then, and plentiful parallels with the flash new XC90 that’s drawing the customers in. Will they be disappointed by its more old-era Volvo looks and interior though, or find an undiscovered gem when they discover what it’s like in action? There’s many an XC90-led sale that depends on the latter.
Not to mention many a rival dealer selling Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC keen to tell Volvo XC60 customers their newer models are better. Are they?
2015 Volvo XC60 review: on the road
The Volvo XC60 shows its age in two rather misleading ways within 15 seconds of you getting in. One, with its irritating ignition slot to the left of the steering wheel, leaving keys jangling loudly on an imminently-chipped dash. Second, by sounding just a bit too gruff and clattery on startup for a supposedly 21st-century motor.
The former is quickly solved: keyless go, standard on most XC60. The second disappears within a few minutes of a cold start – this is generally a smooth, sweet and hushed engine, strikingly so in town. Just one a little less able to be consistently quiet in the XC60’s older, more compromised architecture. You’ll briefly sense the same
Roughness when you rev it really hard, but it again soon fades.
It’s broadly a world-class engine, one with the torque to respond to small throttle inputs with a smooth, confidence-inspiring surge, yet maintain swift progress without feeling strained. It’s a very relaxing long-distance cruiser, one that seems more powerful than it actually is (always a good litmus test).
The eight-speed automatic suits it well too, although the installation isn’t as good as in a BMW: there are surges, slightly confused gearchanges and a dulling of the sixth sense you’ll find in an X3. The front-wheel drive bit? In normal weather, you’ll only notice it when you exploit the flood of torque out of a junction. We can’t comment on wintry road progress (and potential for embarrassment at a lack of).
It feels a heavyweight on the road, in a good way: the ride is compliant (the test car wore its 18-inch wheels well) and very smooth-riding at speed, giving it the roll-along gait of a bigger, more expensive SUV. Surprisingly crisp and responsive steering and reasonably well contained roll help retain composure in corners, but it will object if you try to drive it with too much enthusiasm (unlike an X3 or Discovery Sport).
Special mention to the steering weight. There’s too much of it. This is a more physical car to drive in town than it should be, which seems odd given its otherwise family-friendly mannerisms. The big 18-inch wheels mean the steering doesn’t self-centre coming out of slower-speed turns as well as it might, either. It’s an odd quirk of a car that otherwise does not being a sportscar so well.
2015 Volvo XC60: on the inside
The Volvo XC90 has, in a class of BMWs, Audis and Mercedes-Benz, the best interior of the lot. The XC60 does not. Here’s the most stark illustration of how modern Volvo’s moved on, from plain-spongy-look plastics to its forgettable design that looks like all other Volvos from the past decade.
Then there’s the infernal centre console with all its confusing buttons, and an infotainment system with an ease of use akin to pulling teeth. Of course, with time, you’ll get used to it, but there’s still too much time staring at it instead of the road (thank goodness Volvo’s City Safety system is standard).
It’s still a nice car to sit in though, with high-set and supportive seats (always a Volvo strong point), a great view down on the road and a good-quality, premium feel to the controls and switchgear. Fully electronic instruments are a recent touch, and look great, and the sat nav is pretty clear once you’ve worked out how to set it.
Special mention to the epic stereo, another Volvo tradition. It’s one of the best systems in this class, with loads of depth and clarity instead of just pure power or bass. You could buy this car for the sound system alone and not be feel short-changed.
In the rear, there’s more space than you first think – door apertures are a bit small but the bench seat is ample and there’s decent legroom. The size of the boot is immediately obvious though: the space looks vast, wide and long, with a perfect (and flat) sill height for easy loading.
There’s no seven-seater but for families of four or five, there’s plenty to like in the practicality-focused XC60. Refinement rounds it out: noise levels are premium-level low 95% of the time, with almost disarming silence when pootling in town and a lack of fuss at higher speed. Not quite an XC90 haven but close.
2015 Volvo XC60: running costs
The big thing about the new 2.0-litre diesel engines is emissions and economy. On the combined cycle, the test D4 officially returns 60.1mpg and, as mentioned emits 124g/km CO2, putting it in the same tax band as a supermini.
We all know test cycles are one thing – but it proved surprisingly economical during road testing too. Easy runs on the motorway regularly saw it top 50mpg, with 55mpg at a push: less frugal long-distance running didn’t see it dip below low-40s.
Monthly finance payments will be a byproduct of the list price, of course. Where the XC90 may have deterred, the XC60 will appeal.
2015 Volvo XC60: verdict
After all the hoo-haa with the Volvo XC90, the XC60 has perhaps been forgotten. Certainly by us – which is why testing this latest D4 SE Lux Nav so surprised and impressed us.
It’s not a standout style-stalker and the interior does feel decidedly retro, but it still puts in a strong performance in action, for those seeking a refined, comfortable and flexible family SUV: it’s more able, and thus more like the XC90, than you might first imagine – yes, mainly thanks to the cracking engine, but also courtesy of its well-developed drive that knows what its target market is looking for.
2015 Volvo XC60: specifications
Model tested: XC60 2.0 D4 SE Lux Nav Geartronic
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Gearbox: Eight-speed automatic
Top speed: 130mph
Fuel economy: 60.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 124g/km