Unveiling its XC90 flagship, Volvo switched the Swedish emphasis from safety to design. Now there is the XC60, completely new but still with benchmark safety - and with classy design that could tempt buyers away from the big three German prestige brands.
The mid-size SUV has plenty of trickle-down technology from the larger XC90, thanks to a shared mechanical platform.
Starting price is up a little to $59,990, offset by a claimed value boost. The top-end plug-in hybrid model takes the sticker up to $92,990.
Options abound on the XC60, with five engines and four trim levels, as the XC60 becomes Volvo Australia's volume model. It has the burden of turning around a sales slump - deliveries have dropped by 23.1 per cent in the first nine months of the year.
Volvo has high hopes for the XC60, which was developed partly in parallel with the XC90 in Sweden, with a tight 36-month turnaound.
"Something between 45 and 50 per cent of the cars is shared,” says XC60 senior product manager Hans Nilsson.
"For the customer that's really good, as the components are designed for the XC90 in the premium segment.”
Nilsson says Volvo is targeting the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, but not the Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Macan.
"Our customers want design, craftsmanship, fun to drive. Comfort came before handling,” he says.
The new platform brings mechanical and electrical benefits, including auto city braking with a threshold lifted to 60km/h and steering assistance if the driver swerves.
But despite the new levels of autonomy, Nilsson says drivers still need "hands on the wheel and eyes on the road”.
The car is yet to run through the NCAP safety tests but a five-star score is virtually assured, with some interesting innovations.
"When you go off-road, when it lands from a bump, the seat has energy absorption so all the energy doesn't go through your spine.”
The body design of the XC60 is far less boxy than the XC90, roomier inside than the outgoing model, with a cabin that has quality fittings and what Nilsson describes as a "wave” line across the dashboard that curves around the air vents, infotainment and instruments.
"We spent a lot of time on the materials and to get the fit and finish right. Even the expansion joints between leather, wood and metal are hidden,” he says.
On the entry-level Momentum, the standard equipment list includes a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen, 12-inch digital display for the driver, leather seats, satnav, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and a head-up display.
The Inscription adds adaptive cruise control, four-zone aircon and improved interior lighting, while the R-Design has a sports steering wheel with paddle-shifters and 20-inch alloy wheels.
ON THE ROAD
The XC60 is a good looker on the outside, noticeably better inside and a refined drive.
My drive time in Adelaide is focused on the basic D4 with 2.0-litre turbo diesel, in Inscription trim level, one up from the bottom at $66,990.
It jumps to $80,790 with options including Nappa leather, sunroof and excellent Bowers and Wilkins audio.
It's the basics I enjoy, from the large vertical infotainment touchscreen to the comfort and quietness in the cabin. It's a step up from the previous XC60 in every area and the sort of relaxing drive that lots of people will enjoy.
It's not remotely sporty in corners but the ride is plush - although jarred a little by 20-inch alloys and 55-series tyres over potholes - and the diesel has plenty of shove.
Base price up by $3000 to $59,990 (top spec is $92,990) but Volvo claims more value via extra standard equipment, including 9-inch vertical infotainment touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital instrument display including satnav.
The mechanical platform is shared with the larger XC90, bringing benefits in safety gear and infotainment. City safety braking now includes steering assistant for swerving. Seats have energy absorption to cope with big off-road bumps.
Five engines run from basic 2.0 diesel to supercharged and 2.0 turbo with plug-in hybrid set-up. Base diesel goes from 133kW to 140kW, still with 400Nm, fuel economy improves to 5.4L/100km. Hybrid impresses with 230km/h top speed while claiming just 2.1L/100km.
Impressive refinement in all areas, excellent comfort, performance strong and practical body only let down by space-saver spare.
Body design has more curves than boxier, bigger XC90. Interior quality impressive with a "wave” line across the dash.
AT A GLANCE
Volvo XC60 D4
PRICE $66,990 (not cheap)
WARRANTY AND SERVICING 3 yr/u'ltd km, $2225 over 3 years (expensive)
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo diesel, 140kW/400Nm (solid)
SAFETY 7 airbags, not rated, city safety braking with steering assist (benchmark)
THIRST 5.4L/100km (frugal)
SPARE Space-saver (not ideal)
BOOT 505L-1432L (generous)
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