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Volvo's second generation XC60 shows this premium mid-sized SUV's softer side. June Neary reports.
Some SUVs are all about the rough and ready image, the tough looks and the chrome. Volvo's recent efforts have come at the market with slightly gentler sensibilities. The XC90 has been a big hit with its comfort, safety credentials and family-friendly interior, while the MK2 model XC60 that we look at here aims to squeeze similar attributes into a more compact package. On the face of it, the plan seems a good one. Can we really class a 1,854kg car measuring 4,644mm in length and 1,891mm in width as a 'mid-sized' 4x4? Volvo's marketing department says we can, so we'll go with them on that one. The suspension of disbelief is made easier by the way the XC60's exterior styling disguises its bulk. This isn't an SUV from the super-aggressive chrome-spangled school and that will please buyers wanting to maintain a low profile about town. That's not to say that this isn't a handsome car. There's some attractive detailing around the bodywork and Volvo's latest styling cues are put to good use but the look from some angles is more that of a jacked-up estate than an SUV.
Like Volvo's XC90, the XC60 places a lot of emphasis on the interior and its practicality. It makes sense really. The rear seats, which offer generous quantities of legroom by the way, are split 40/20/40 and each can be folded down at the release of a catch. Parents will go all gooey over the integrated child booster cushions that are available as an option. These simply fold out of the seat base and can be set at one of two heights. Under the boot floor, there's a secure storage area that can't be opened without the tailgate being lifted, making it a great place to keep valuable items safe when the car's parked. The general quality of the interior is also well up to snuff. The dashboard, seats and upholstery will all be familiar to recent Volvo buyers; the same 9.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital dial displays feature as in the larger XC90. Build and materials quality is tough to fault, however, and the 'Scandinavian Design' on which the manufacturer prides itself sets the XC60 apart from rivals that slavishly ape cold Germanic themes. And so we come to the XC60's secret weapon; safety. The features on offer here include Lane-Keeping Assist, which uses a stereo digital camera, and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) which prevents low-speed rear-enders. Attention Assist Estimation sounds audible alarms and visual warnings signal if it thinks the driver is showing signs of drowsiness.
The XC60 may be a 'mid-sized' SUV but 'mid-sized' isn't a phrase that immediately springs to mind when driving it. The vehicle feels (and is) on the large side. The 235bhp B5 mild hybrid diesel engine we tested copes very adeptly with its bulk however and the big Volvo also corners with a surprising degree of composure. Volvo also offers its own 197hp 2.0-litre diesel B4 mild hybrid unit, along with a conventional 190hp D4 diesel variant. Plus there's a T8 Twin Engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. Petrol people also have various electrified options: either the mild hybrid B5 petrol unit with 250hp, which comes with the choice of front or AWD. Or the mild hybrid petrol B6, which offers 300hp and comes only in AWD form. Beyond that, you step into one of the top Recharge Plug-in hybrid AWD auto models, all of which use an 87hp electric motor mated to a 2.0-litre petrol engine. The Plug-in hybrid Recharge XC60 variants come in three flavours: there's the T6 variant (based around a 253hp engine), the standard T8 model (based around a 303hp engine) and the flagship 'Polestar Engineered' version (based around a 318hp powerplant). Every XC60 comes with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard Some of Volvo's past SUV efforts haven't been very at home in an off-road environment, but the XC60 promises to be the best of the lot. Its 216mm ground clearance is superior to some rivals, there's a 23.1-degree approach angle and a 25.5-degree departure angle. This still isn't a vehicle you'd want to tackle serious obstacles in but with torque automatically distributed between all four wheels by the Intelligent Traction 4x4 system, it should trundle down muddy tracks and take pesky gravel driveways in its stride.
The XC60 is priced competitively in the premium-badged SUV segment. The mainstream line-up sells primarily between £40,000 and £50,000, but it's possible to go further still if you want the kind of electrified technology that Volvo's apparently doing so much to build its future around. You (or more likely your company) will need to find a budget of between £55,000 to £65,000 to get the tax advantages of the brand's 'Recharge' Plug-in hybrid technology.
I've driven a lot of SUVs that have left me distinctly under-whelmed. Lots of models come across as brash and overbearing but can't back that up with the comfort and practicality that family buyers need. The XC60 was a different proposition. It still retained the chunky 4x4 looks and the high driving position, which I must admit to having a soft spot for, but the practical interior and comfort factor were impressive. The fact that so many safety features are included as standard is a massive plus point too.
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