Tuesday, 22 January 2013

REVIEW - Volvo XC60 R-Design

For those who remember my review of the Volvo XC90 a while back, you will remember I said the shape is a bit dated now. It is. Nine years on it could do with a bit of botox and some liposuction. However, while this happens, there is another car which may be of interest to you; the Volvo XC60. What this is, is a sleeker, more handsome younger model. Yes, it only has five seats instead of the 90's seven, but just look at it. I think it's one of the nicest looking SUV's on sale today. And being a Volvo it surely had to be good? Read on to find out...

Looks -10/10

Wow! There's one thing I'm sure of, and that is that this car is a stunner. The term SUV brings up connotations or large lumps that take function over style, and the Volvo XC60 dismisses this the second you lay eyes on it. On the outside you have a sleek look which almost makes the car look smaller than it actually is. It looks compact and sporty yet solid at the same time. To be honest the fact that my car was an R-Design helped this endlessly; having silver mirrors, tinted windows, twin exhausts and the optional 20" alloy wheels. There's certainly nothing I wanted to add to the car to make it look better, so top marks there.

On the inside the story continues. The materials are of a premium quality that you can just sense aren't your ordinary plastics. The seats are the universal Volvo shape yet finished in the high-quality leather you find on the top of the range models. Even the leather on the steering wheel feels top notch and looks the part; there is such a great level of attention to detail that the cabin is a wonderful place to be. To be honest I think I could live in this car; it has enough design to pass itself off as a contemporary dwelling. The R-Design dash is trademark blue, and the dials are crisp and sporty. Even the gear knob is a bit of art, with its illumination and clear finish. The sat nav looks good built into the dash (although I did love the old James Bond style ones too) and the centre console reminds me somewhat of a telephone. Everything is where you would expect it to be and you never have to read the manual to figure out what things do.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

Now when it comes to driving, the Volvo is certainly packing heat. Up front you have a 2.4-litre, 5-cylinder diesel engine (my favourite of the Volvo 5-pots) producing 215PS and a monumental 440Nm of torque. This is sent to all four wheels via a 6-speed geartronic box (automatic in Lehman's terms). Performance is certainly not an issue for the XC60. It can dash from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and go on to a top speed of 127mph. For a car that's not exactly dainty, this is extremely impressive. The only point to mention is that being sat high up the XC60 never feels as fast as it actually is. This means you have to watch the speedo somewhat because it's rather easy to get a bit carried away and find yourself doing a speed you probably shouldn't be. The geartronic box allows you to surge through the gears effortlessly and really makes driving a pleasure. You can of course use the gear knob in sequential mode but this is a bit redundant when the car is so good in auto mode.

On to the handling then and it's yet more good news. The best way to sum the XC60 up is that it handles like a good saloon car. I shall explain. You chuck a 4x4 into a corner at speed, and the general outcome is several rolls followed by death. But not the XC60, oh no. This loved the corners, and refused to slip a wheel. Ever. This is partly down to a bit of weight pressing the tyres to the tarmac. It also helps that the AWD system is superb. But the underlying fact is that the chassis and suspension have been set up in such a way that, to me, defies physics. A car this large shouldn't drive as well as this; not by a long way. But it does, and I was extremely impressed. It pulls well in every gear, and you can stick it into the bends at what feels like any speed you like.

Economy - 7/10

Now as you would imaging with an SUV, the economy is not a selling point of the XC60. Don't get me wrong, it isn't bad as such, but the XC60 doesn't exactly hug trees. The quoted combined fuel economy is 41.5mpg which, considering I had the automatic, isn't too bad. Emissions are 179g/km CO2 which puts the D5 geartronic in VED band I. Road tax will cost you £215, but take note that the first year rate on this car is £325. In all fairness people looking to buy an XC60 will not mind the road tax costs (bearing in mind that my test model was £46,000) and will be able to live with the economy. It certainly fits in with rivals in terms of economy and so does relatively well here.

Practicality - 10/10

Simple really; a car this size is very practical. Whilst it may not have 7 seats like its bigger brother, the XC90, that doesn't mean the 60 is any less practical. The boot, as you would expect, is the size of an average town. The cabin can fit 5 adults in comfortably, and all passengers have plenty of leg and head room. The model I tested had an automatic tailgate which makes life extremely easy when you have your arms full of shopping bags.

There are plenty of electronic assists that make driving the XC60 a doddle, including parking sensors, cruise control, speed limiter, lane assistance, collision warning and traction control. This makes sure you can drive along at a set speed within a set lane, not crash into any other cars and then park easily when you arrive at your destination. You couldn't ask for much more really, without you being able to sit in the back and sleep while the car drives itself. The entertainment technology is great too, with an easy way to control your iPod, and a cracking stereo. Sometimes it's the simple things that impress you the most, and having an easy to use stereo and bluetooth system really goes a long way.

Fun - 9/10

In case you couldn't figure out from the comments above, the XC60 is heaps of fun. There are several reasons why. Firstly I thought it was fun to drive through town and have everyone turning for a second glance at this gorgeous car. Also from inside the cabin you have all your creature comforts, gadgetry and driver aids to mean that any drive can be a fun one. More importantly you have the way this car drives, and in particular how it handles. Get the XC60 on a country lane and you are guaranteed to arrive at your destination smiling. Dump your right foot and feel the kickdown followed by a surge toward the horizon. I couldn't ask for much more and always left the XC60 happier than when I got in it. Any car that does that is good, and should you drive one I expect you will understand what I mean.

Concluding Remarks

Overall then, it's fair to say the XC60 did well. Personally for me it would have to be the R-Design. The model I tested cost £46,000 as it was loaded with extras. I could live without some of these and the without them the car would be less than £37,000 which is much more like it. As a car in general the XC60 is nice, and the range starts from £30,000 for which you do get a lot of car. I didn't want to give this car back to Volvo; I could have just kept it as my own. I really would suggest going out and having a look at an XC60, and if you get a chance to drive the D5 I suggest you grab it with both hands because it could change your life for the better. For more information visit Volvo's website or pop into a dealer.

Total Score - 45/50

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