Tuesday, 1 April 2014

REVIEW - Volvo XC60 R-Design

You may recall my review last year of the Volvo XC60 R-Design. I rather liked it and it scored a respectable 45/50 which is no mean feat. Well now the new XC60 is here, and it boasts several improvements over the old model. The styling has been refreshed, new engines are available, the interior has seen some design changes and new technology is offered. So it all sounds rather good. I decided that I must test one, and luckily the guys over at Volvo were happy to oblige. It wasn’t long before I had a rather large- and rather red- XC60 parked on the drive…

Looks - 10/10

The old XC60 was a rather nice looking car, and I scored it a maximum 10. And so it is without hesitation that I award the new model with the same accolade of visual perfection. In fact, I’d score it an 11 or 12 if I could because it’s even nicer looking than the last one. On the outside the daytime running lights have become a feature lower in the front bumper, and the whole front end has been made sleeker with just a subtle hint of aggression, which is definitely a good thing. The optional 20-inch alloys on my test car complimented the Power Red paint remarkably, and at the back the twin tail pipes and rear diffuser maintain the sporty image. Being an R-Design you get the traditional silver mirrors, and with privacy glass the XC60 makes a big impact. It turned heads wherever I went, and does well to stand out from the crowd.

On the inside the biggest improvement comes with the seats. Whilst they have always been comfortable, they now get the visual improvements of being deep and bucketed. This definitely improves the sport credentials of the XC60’s interior. Further improving this is the new electronic dashboard. First seen in the new V40, you can choose several themes. Standard you get the traditional R-Design blue, but my favourite was without a doubt the ‘Power’ mode; the red glow matching the exterior of my test car. The rest of the interior looks great too. There’s plush materials, lots of leather and the new trim on the centre console, with a sporty stripe down it. The media screen is also nicely fitted into the centre console, which is much nicer looking than the pop-up system Volvo used to employ.

Handling/Performance - 9/10

The engine under the bonnet of my test car was the same 2.4-litre D5 diesel that featured last time, and it’s a gem. But what made this time different was a small blue square badge on the back of the XC60. It reads “Polestar” and that means the D5 engine has been optimized by the people that are effectively Volvo’s racing division. And that makes the figures more interesting. Standard figures are 215PS and 440Nm, but with the optimisation these figures are 230PS and 470Nm respectively. And that makes for good reading. The engine sends its power to all four wheels, and my test car had a 6-speed automatic gearbox, with the optional paddle shifts behind the steering wheel. You can actually feel the extra torque, and the in-gear acceleration is improved. The XC60 gets from 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and will reach a top speed of 127mph. Not too bad considering this is a large 4x4 after all.

And what never ceases to amaze me about the XC60 is how it handles. For such a sizeable car it can certainly handle the twisty stuff. It really doesn’t lean, and thanks to the AWD system, is very grippy too. The suspension is firm enough to prevent wallowing and give a sporty ride, but also not so harsh that it becomes uncomfortable. The bucketing of the seats really helps you to get maximum cornering ability from the R-Design, and the steering is sharp enough to provide a decent turn-in. What’s more, the D5 has the grunt to pull you out of the corners and hurl you toward the next one, and really is brilliant to drive. Then once you hit the motorway the cabin is civilised, ride comfortable, and any long journey is completely relaxing.

Economy - 9/10

I don’t think the D5 does that bad on economy either. The Polestar optimisation has no effect whatsoever on CO2 emissions or fuel consumption, which is nice to know. Even with such a large body, and an automatic gearbox, CO2 emissions are a respectable 169g/km as well as combined fuel consumption of 44.1mpg. This puts the XC60 in VED band I, with road tax costing you £200 (and £285 in the first year). That may not be the greenest car in the world, but that’s the price of a powerful car with an auto box. You may be interested to know that you can opt for an all-new D4 diesel engine in your XC60. It has 181PS, but in 2WD manual it emits a mere 117g/km- with road tax being £30 for the year. And that is definitely good news for company car drivers.

Practicality - 10/10

Another reason why I’d happily own an XC60 is how vastly practical it is. Whilst it may only be a 5-seater, it is a very spacious 5-seater indeed. Despite the sleek looks the cabin has plenty of head and leg room front and back, and the boot is very spacious indeed. Should you ever need more, just drop the rear seats and you have the space of a small van. Then there’s the list of options. You can have the driver support pack which has radar and automatic everything, which makes long journeys a breeze. An option I’d definitely opt for is the heated steering wheel. It may sound gimmicky but- trust me on this one- it makes a world of difference to a cold morning. I rather like the electric tailgate too. By no means a necessity, but it feels a rather nice luxury to have, and little touches like that go a long way to the long-term likeability of any car.

Fun - 10/10

And as for fun? Well what can I say. The XC60 never failed to put a smile on my face. The looks of approval from other motorists, and even some of puzzle as the XC60 warbled off into the distance after filling their rear view mirror with its snarly redness. The addictive power and noise from that Polestar 5-pot is absolute bliss, and with enough gadgets to impress any teenager, you’re sure to get approval from the kids if you opt for an XC60. I still maintain to this day that the Volvo iPod interface is the best I have ever used; it can handle my 11,000-song iPod with ease and makes navigation easy, where other cars leave me frustrated. And I’ve already mentioned the styling. Wherever you park the R-Design, it looks good. It says to people “Yes, I have taste, but I don’t go out and buy a BMW like everybody else”. And I like that.

Concluding Remarks

So to sum up the XC60 then. I like it- in case you hadn’t noticed by now- and would have no problem owning one. I may, however, have a problem buying one. Prices for the R-Design D5 AWD start at £39,635. Polestar optimisation is £830, and with all the other options my test car came in at £48,570. And that is a lot of money. Admittedly rivals will cost similar amounts, probably more in equivalent spec, but only time will tell how the XC60’s residuals will stack up against the Germans. At least you know the build quality of a Volvo is such that it will last you 20 years. And at £2,500 a year isn’t all that expensive after all. Head over to a local dealership, or visit the Volvo website for more information or to build your own. The Volvo XC60 R-Design; daring to be bold, and rewarding those who avoid the obvious choices.

Total Score - 48/50

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