Unpredictably handsome on the outside and incredibly homely on the inside, the 2018 edition is implacably competent. Alvin Thomas enjoys the Swedish luxury and largesse wrapped in indubitable safety
Daring and sporty designs, unimaginably futuristic technologies and safety features to match; who thought that Volvo – of all car companies – would be the one to redefine the car market with its prowess and dexterity? Its vehicles, starting with the XC90 SUV all the way to the contemporarily styled S90, break the style barrier with ease.
Nevertheless, four years since the release of its remodelled XC90, the folk are back at it – and this time it’s with an SUV in a smaller guise. And joy of joys, the vehicle in question here – the XC60 – is peppered with clues that it’s nothing short of the XC90 that it shares space with.
Often touted as a stepping stone to the larger sibling, the XC60 has always been something of an underdog. And going up against the likes of German and Japanese vehicles that has over time gained in size and market share didn’t aid its cause either.
But for 2018, the XC60 dons a rather outlandish approach – entering the market with a little more than just substance. It has finally got style too.
Volvo keeps the XC60’s fascia in line with the XC90’s for the greater good, albeit with a few nips and tucks. For instance, the ‘Thor’ LED daytime running lights now integrate into the front grille. All styling elements, including the faux air-intakes, are inconspicuous and a bit discreet, however, it’s predictably handsome.
The side profile is what gives away the SUV’s dimensions. Still, it rides tall and provides decent approach and departure angles, but the 19-inch alloy rims mask that to add to the sporty appeal.
The tail lamps on the D-pillar are inspired from those found on the XC90, but are seemingly sharper and streamlined to match the proportions. The posterior is rounded off with dual exhausts.
Anyone who has been in an XC90 will find the XC60’s interior to be like home. It’s all very contemporary; it’s all very IKEA. Not much has changed – and that’s a great thing. Everything from the knob-type engine start/stop and the seats, all the way to the 9.2-inch touchscreen and the 12.3-inch digital driver’s display remains similar to the latter.
The touchscreen is slick (it’s faster than before courtesy software upgrades) and intuitive; it controls functions ranging from your climate control, infotainment, and even your driver aids. Navigation and Google Search seem to be pre-loaded as standard, too.
Meanwhile, the digital driver’s display keeps it simple with a speedometer and tachometer, and a central portion that can be altered to display anything from maps to your music playlist. It’s all very nifty.
Moving on, the XC60 comes with heated and ventillated seats that are also 10-way electronically adjustable. While this gives you the liberty to adjust your seats according to your preferences, I did find the seats to provide adequate lumbar, thigh and side support regardless of the setting you choose.
Rear passengers are treated with adequate space, too. It compares itself with vehicles such as the BMW X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC, but the XC60 is broader inside, thereby translating to better room inside. Also, there’s adequate head room and leg room for rear passengers.
My tester – the XC60 T5 Inscription – came fitted with a large panoramic sunroof. It’s easily one of the bigger ones I have tested in a long time, although, given the tall roofline, you’ll have to stand on the centre console (which is not advisable) to experience the wind (and bees) in your face. Star gazers, on the other hand, will love it.
Boot space is pegged at 505 litres, which is the industry average. While it isn’t worth writing home about, it still has a short lip, making it easy to load cargo with ease. Moreover, 60/40 split seats and a pass through (in the rear seats) are also a part of the package, if you require more cargo space.
On paper, the XC60 is still an entry-level premium SUV, so there are still hard plastics along the centre-console and the glovebox cover, but these are on a par with its German rivals.
The XC60 carries over its 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder turbocharged engine for the T5 powertrain that produces 254hp and 350Nm of torque. While the numbers aren’t as blistering as, say, the turbocharged-supercharged powertrains from that of its larger sibling, it still has game.
Naught to 100kph is achieved in about seven seconds – and without any tyre squealing or drama. The all-wheel drive drivetrain is capable and helps the 245/45 Michelin tyres to grip to the surface at all times. Cornering is relatively flat, with only a hint of body roll creeping in when taking corners past the 60kph mark. Take it past those speeds and you’ll also deal with understeer creeping in from the front end trying to push out of the corner.
The suspension is tuned efficiently to provide a great balance between handling and comfort, though I suspect the air suspension (which is an optional extra) will up the game further.
Also admirable is how the engineers have doled out noise emanating from the wind and tyres despite making use of single-glazed glass. Outward visibility is excellent, owing to a thin A-pillar.
The XC60 stays true to itself in driving dynamics. It doesn’t oversell itself as a sporty SUV – and, on most fronts, it isn’t. But, the ‘Dynamic’ mode ensures that the steering firms up and the gearbox and throttle are at their sharpest, while the ‘Normal’ and ‘Economy’ modes tone it down to its most comfortable setting.
This is what sets the XC60 apart from its general competition. It comes packing features – like City Safety (that steers the car into lane and away from cars on the highway) and semi-autonomous driving (optional) – that don’t even graze the options list of numerous entry-level luxury SUVs, while still maintaining the reputation of what this Swedish car-maker has always been known for: Graceful and safe vehicles with an edge for innovation.