Tuesday, 24 May 2016

REVIEW – Volvo XC60 R-Design

Doing this job I get to drive a lot of new cars, and some rather good ones too. But despite having a different car every week, there are very few that make me consider owning one. The Volvo XC60 is a car I have serious thought about, as I really like a lot of things about it. The new 4-cylinder D4 engine is available in the XC60, but comes with front-wheel drive only. So would I still want one after spending a week with the newest powertrain? I grabbed an R-Design for a week to see for myself.
Looks – 8/10

If you want your XC60 to be head-turning, then the R-Design is the model you should choose; the sporty touches throughout are wonderful. At the front there’s a lower skirt, honeycomb grille and daytime running lights incorporated into a sculpted bumper. The silver mirrors are a traditional R-Design touch, and two-tone alloy wheels are available in standard 18-inch or optional 20-inch form. At the back twin exhausts sit either side of a diffuser incorporated into the rear bumper, and a subtle rear spoiler completes the look. For me the 20-inch alloys are a must, and I’d go for the privacy glass to add a premium touch.

On the inside the bucketed seats are a welcome centre-piece. The centre console is angled toward the driver, and the steering wheel has subtle bumps to aid grip. The LCD dials are R-Design blue as standard, but can be changed to red for ‘Power’ mode. I like the heater controls being in the shape of a seated person, and the textured dashboard. There’s brushed aluminium on the door trim, and a silver stripe down the centre console; admittedly this did split opinion. The R-Design gets half leather and alcantara seats, whereas the R-Design Lux has full leather seats. The former look far sportier. Overall the cabin feels, and looks, very high quality.

Handling/Performance – 6/10


The D4 engine featured in my test XC60 is one I have rated highly in several other Volvo models. The headline figures in this instance are the same; a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder diesel engine producing 190PS and 400Nm of torque. It’s available with a 6-speed manual or 8-speed automatic; my test car had the latter, which is superb. 0-62mph takes 8.1 seconds, and the top speed is 130mph. Then comes the problem. You see if you want the newer, cleaner 4-cylinder engine, you are limited to front-wheel drive only. With such a torquey engine, putting your foot down does upset the front wheels somewhat. And for a car that is supposed to have a go-anywhere attitude, that’s a little disappointing. That being said the 8-speed automatic is a delight, and excellent on long motorway hauls.

The ride in the XC60 is smooth whether you choose the 18-inch or 20-inch alloys, although you do feel more bumps with the latter option. The bolstered seats offer copious amounts of lateral support, which coupled to the surprising lack of body roll make corners interesting. But yet again the drivetrain spoils the handling. The front-wheel drive version just lacks that planted, composed feel. Accelerating in damp conditions leads to wheel spin and understeer, which just isn’t a problem on the AWD model. I really didn’t expect to notice such a difference, but it is noticeable. And yes, while you won’t notice a difference when you’re bombing down the M6, you will when it’s pouring down and that reassured feel is missing.

Economy – 9/10

Being front-wheel drive only has its benefits though; with CO2 emissions of 124g/km for the automatic the XC60 sits in VED band D, with road tax free in the first year and £110 thereafter. To compare that the AWD D4- which is a 5-cylinder 2.4-litre diesel- emits 149g/km with the automatic box. Fuel consumption on the FWD XC60 is a respectable 60.1mpg on a combined cycle, which makes for some cheaper running costs over longer drives. Start/stop technology works well with the automatic gearbox, and the Eco+ mode keeps revs low and shifts early to make maximum use of all the torque on offer.

Practicality – 7/10

As a family car, the XC60 is practically perfect. With various options and accessories available, from a rear-seat entertainment system to a dog guard, towbar and various roof boxes, it can be the car for all occasions. Space is generous throughout the cabin, and a large boot will suit the Friday big shop or the wet-nosed members of the family. The Sensus connect system is one of the best infotainment systems on the market; all aspects can be effortlessly controlled via the steering wheel, meaning that selecting music, inputting satellite navigation destinations or making a phone call is just a few clicks away. This score would easily be a 10/10 for the AWD version, which would be better in the rain and as a tow car.

Fun – 5/10

With many strings to its bow, the XC60 will continue to make you happy time after time. I am a lover of music, and being able to make full use of the vast library on my iPod Classic was a treat; you’d be surprised how many interfaces don’t play nice with the Classic. There are many adventures to be had in the Volvo, from a day out with the dogs to a European road trip, and you’ll be glad to do them in the XC60. But somehow driving the FWD version left me wanting more. I felt somewhat like a cheat; I was presenting myself in a 4x4 that, well, wasn’t. By making the car point towards motorway commuting Volvo have removed some of the fun and adventure of the XC60.

Concluding Remarks

So that’s my week with the Volvo XC60. The D4 R-Design Nav starts at £33,735, but my test car was the wrong side of £40k thanks to a few options. I love the car, and would still have one. But mine would be a D5 AWD R-design. It has the 5-cylinder warble, the AWD capability and 220PS on tap. And comparing that to the D4 I tested here is chalk and cheese. To see for yourself take a look at the Volvo website or pop into a local dealership. If you like the higher driving position of the XC60 and never plan on venturing outside the confines of our motorway network, then you will probably love the D4 FWD. If you want a perfect family car, then buy an AWD version.

Total Score – 35/50

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