Driven: Volvo XC60

Can Volvo’s most important model really compete with Audi and BMW?

Sometimes you sit in a car and it just feels right, as if the designers thought of you personally and made the car best suited to your specific needs. I’m certain that is exactly what the designers and engineers in Gothenburg have done before handing the new Volvo XC60 to me.

The influence of its bigger brother, the Volvo XC90, is clear in the design, but the smaller dimensions and lower roof line suit the shape better, looking sleeker and more purposeful despite its still hefty bulk. Stylish ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights lead the way, with an elegant side profile sweeping high at the rear. The raked rear window eats into luggage space a little, so getting a wardrobe in the back like Volvo’s of old might be tricky, but it’s still a practical SUV – there’s 505 litres of storage beneath the load cover, which is a little less than you would find in an Audi Q5, but a powered tailgate makes loading and unloading easier.

That smaller boot means passengers get more room than they might know what to do with. Even the rear seats have plenty of headroom and a perfectly acceptable amount of knee room, although the XC60 does miss out on the option of a pair of temporary seats in the boot to make it a seven seater. At the front it’s simply glorious, with the light and airy cabin feeling enormous. It looks wonderful too, thanks to some Swedish design magic. Gone are the rows of buttons and dramatically contoured dashboard you might find in rival cars, replaced by an incredibly simple and minimalist design.

A slick nine-inch touchscreen dominates the centre stack, with its glossy screen eschewing fancy colours and 3D-design for a black and white model of simplicity. It’s how infotainment systems should be done, with four huge boxes on-screen to prod for the most commonly used tasks, with other less important stuff a single swipe away. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration is included too, so you can stick to what you’re familiar with as well. Beyond the screen there’s soft-touch materials surrounding light woods and brushed aluminium, all laid out with as little fuss as possible.

Expectations for the drive might be skewed a little, thanks to the ever-growing trend for cars, including SUVs, to have massive wheels and ‘sporty’ suspension. If you’ve ever wondered why cars are so uncomfortable in the UK, that’s why, and it’s why Volvo has thrown the rule book away and focussed on comfort. Wheels are just 18-inches on this Momentum Pro spec car, but the benefit of that is tall tyres that absorb much of the roads imperfections. Optional air-suspension can be set to soft or firm, the latter lowering the car by a couple of inches to hunker down closer to the road and provide that ‘sporty’ sensation. Don’t bother; just leave it on soft, let the eight-speed automatic gearbox do it’s thing, as it’s not particularly engaging at the country-road-blast end of the scale, feeling as heavy and cumbersome as a small building. Instead, kick back, engage the cruise control, and relax in what could almost pass as a luxury suite in the finest of hotels, and you’ll cover ground just a quickly but without ruffling any hairs.

The car will do its best to keep you on the straight and narrow as you go, with a seemingly endless array of safety equipment included. There’s lane keeping assistance, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian avoidance, blind spot information, and, should that not be enough to defeat the laws of physics, the car will automatically tighten the belts, close the windows and cover the sunroof to keep you as protected as possible.

It’s what Volvo does, and what Volvo has always done. A tiny Swedish flag is embedded just below the passenger air vent as a reminder of where the car comes from, not just in terms of the factory location, but in spirit. It’s something the XC60 embodies perfectly.

Model Tested: Volvo XC60 D4 AWD Momentum Pro
Price: £39,005
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo diesel
Top speed: 127 mph
0-62 mph: 8.4 seconds
Power: 190 PS (187 bhp)
Torque: 400 Nm (295 ft lb)
Monthly PCP*: £573
Official fuel economy: 55.4 mpg
Road test economy: N/A
CO2 Emissions: 133 g/km
Car Tax: £140 (£200 in Year 1)
Insurance group: 31E
* Monthly PCP estimate based on 20% deposit, 36 month term, 5% APR, final payment of 36%.

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