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Volvo XC60 crossover driven

2009-02-11 09:35
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Volvo
Model XC60
Engine 3l petrol, 2.4 diesel
Power 210kW @ 5 600r/min, 136kW @ 4 000r/min
Torque 400Nm @ 1 500r/min, 400Nm @ 2 000r/min
Transmission Six-speed (manual for auto)
Zero To Hundred 7.5-, 9.5 sec
Top Speed 210km/h, 205km/h
Fuel Tank 70l
Fuel Consumption 11.9l/100km, 8.3l/100km
Weight 1 798 -1 846kg
Boot Size 650l
ABS Yes, with EDB, EBA

Lance Branquinho

With the new vehicle market in precipitous decline, is there any room for another crossover? If it’s as cleanly designed as the new XC60, well, perhaps yes.

Volvo’s latest offering is shorter than an XC70, lower in profile than XC90 and combines the most fetching elements of Scandinavian design – safety, interior ergonomic excellence and sophisticated styling.

Crossovers, by definition, are confusing to categorise and place in the market. I don’t particularly like them since their blend of SUV styling embellishments are characteristically at odds with their ability. You typically end up with what is essentially a couple of plastic body mouldings and some raised-body pavement parkability.

When they feature all-wheel drive though, utility increases and one can nearly make a case for crossover appeal. The question remains though, if you want some low threshold off-road ability without sacrificing road biased dynamics too severely, what’s wrong with a traditional, capacious, all-wheel drive station wagon?

Gargantuan new badge does without traditional chrome frame.

Pretty. Neat.  

Penned by Englishman Steve Mattin, XC60’s proportions are well integrated, forming the substantial dimensions (4.62m long, 1.89m wide) into a contemporary package with just enough traditional Volvo styling quirks.

XC60 sports a high waistline and oversized grille embellished with a Volvo badged not framed by the traditional chrome square. Mattin pleaded with senior Volvo decision makers to remove the traditional square badge framing and have his new floating version enlarged.

Volvo says the floating badge is a styling detail incorporated to promote the XC60’s premium status. We think it’s a very euphemistic way of Volvo saying it wanted to distinguish XC60 (and future models) from the trucks which still wear the square framed Volvo badge.

Separate slim-line vertical LEDs add the requisite visual tension to the front styling treatment, whilst around the rear LEDs now illuminate the entire light-cluster under braking, drawing attention to the characteristic Volvo curved shoulder line.  

Despite the plastic protection panels around the bottom half of the car (a styling detail you’ll be thankful for after traversing your first 100km of local dirt road) XC60 is a neatly styled, attractive car. It pulls off the five-door configuration without trying too hard to look like an SUV and not a station wagon.

It doesn’t have the intense geometric correctness of German designs either, yet the understated Swedish sophistication, and wacky new green and bronze colours, set it apart.

Good clearance. All-wheel drive.

Beneath the crossover styling package is an all-wheel drive chassis suspended independently at all four wheels. Macpherson struts up front, coil-springs at the rear.

Hans Wikman, head of development for Volvo’s large cars, alleges XC60 is the most sporting car Volvo has ever created. This is utter rubbish of course (one could hardly imagine it dynamically besting an S60R) but the XC60 does have steering which is pretty direct, especially for something sporting 230mm of ground clearance.

XC60’s Haldex all-wheel drive system is essentially front-wheel drive biased, siphoning off torque to the rear wheels when detecting a loss of grip at the front. Forbidding or slippery descents can be managed by activating the XC60’s hill-descent control function.

Engines are Volvo’s top-line turbocharged petrol and compression ignition in-line units. Private buyers will probably opt for the petrol option, a smooth, twin-scroll turbocharged in-line six, producing 210kW and 400Nm form its 3.0-litre swept capacity.

If the company’s reconciling your fuel bill, the 2.4l in-line five turbodiesel would factor as the more desirable option. Featuring similar long-stroke engine architecture to its petrol sibling, the diesel is profiled for torque, producing 136kW and 400Nm.

Unless you’re terribly keen on diesel fuel, the petrol is by far the better engine, producing an identical 400Nm maximum torque peak at 500r/min less.

Torque is transferred via six-speed geartronic or manual transmissions, with manual being a special order option on the petrol models.

Safe as houses. Comfortable as your own lounge.

It’s a Volvo, so obviously safety features are comprehensive. You can order some pretty clever adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning systems, but best of all is the standard city safe, which is a low-speed collision dynamics system.

Ecclesiastically conceived and sent to earth to save us from traffic and parking lot embarrassment, city safe employs a front grille mounted radar and windscreen mounted camera to monitor the road ahead and detect stationary vehicles.

At speeds below 30km/h the system pre-charges the brakes, emits an audible warning of imminent contact, and if you’re still found wanting in reaction or fumbling around the centre console, it’ll engage the brakes on your behalf.

Volvo pretty much guarantees the system will avoid contact below 16km/h and under 30km/h damage will be minimal. We tested it on a fabric, air-inflated car at the launch, and I can vouch for its merits under 30km/h - it works. There were no manual cars on launch though, so how city safe doesn’t stall the engine in action is quite beyond me at this stage…

Dynamic safety is further enhanced by DTSC now featuring gyro sensors which detect potential roll-over inducing dynamics loads (at the beginning of a gradual slide or sudden throttle lift) and engages corrective braking to quell any chassis imbalance.

Inside the XC60 front and dual-chamber side airbags protect the driver and first-row seating passengers, whilst curtain airbags deploy to protect all seated occupants. 

The integrated dual setting twin booster seats (above) are easy to operate and a key safety feature in my mind. The lower setting now accommodates older children, keeping them happy by affording a door-sill clearing field of vision, whilst positioning them optimally for safety systems to engage as effectively as possible – which is not the case when a three-year old is seated low down.

Cocooned in the safety of the XC60’s interior, you’ll be supremely comfortable. The interior design in not a radical departure from Volvo’s other models, and when you’re on a roll with interiors that blend style, comfort and ergonomic efficiency with such original textures and simple shapes, it's best not to tamper.

Instrumentation is clean, buttons sized right, satellite controls and menu scrolling intuitive – it’s an ode to Swedish efficiency.

The seats are ridiculously comfortable, and rear passengers enjoy the kind of comfort that X3 families can only dream off. The one issue I did have with the nearly ergonomically faultless interior was the absence of a roof-mounted sunglass holder.

Bootspace is a very capacious 650l, with seats easily manipulated into load friendly configuration to accommodate odd-shaped objects.

Convincing crossover?

As a package the XC60 fuses very nicely. It’s roomy, and though the ride quality is a touch harsh, the dynamics and steering are sharper than the usual Volvo fare. Around a Cape test route run in severe South Easterly conditions it was commendably insulated from wind and road noise too.

A short, soft off-road sojourn showed the 230mm ground clearance will get you across most wine-estate lawn obstacles and some sand if necessary.

The diesel models are equipped with 17-inch wheels as standard, whilst the petrol versions run on 18s. Delusional customers keen on being transported back from Mozambique or the Karoo on a flat-bed truck can opt for bespoke 19-inch wheels.

It’s a shame the 17s aren’t optional on the petrol XC60, as they are the best real world choice, combing better ride characteristics with greater back-up availability, especially in isolated parts of the country.

XC60 is more capacious and - albeit less dynamically inclined on-road - comes without the image baggage of its German competitors (with Audi's Q5 following shortly). It should appeal to families who are keen on Volvo safety and sophisticated style, without the dual-Labrador XC70 stereotype.


Volvo XC60 3.0T - R 515 000

Volvo XC60 D5 turbodiesel  Manual - R 469 000

Volvo XC60 D5 Automatic Geartronic - R 481 000

Good looking Swedish design language. Grass Lime Green is a new colour and strangely appealing too...


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