Volvo is on a roll. In the last couple of years the Swedish car maker has launched the acclaimed XC90, S90 and V90, while smaller models are in development.
Add to that its headline-grabbing announcement to only sell electric or hybrid cars from 2019 and you have a brand in the ascendancy.
We’ve just tested the latest car to join the Volvo stable – the second-generation XC60 SUV.
The outgoing XC60 has grown in sales for every year it has been in showrooms since its arrival in 2008 and now accounts for a third of Volvo’s global sales.
The question is – can the new model also claim to be the best-selling premium medium-sized SUV in Europe? Is it good enough to seriously trouble its rivals which include the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Lexus NX and Audi Q5?
Longer, wider and lower than its predecessor, the new XC60 is clearly an evolution with more than a hint of the XC90. However, it is much easier on the eye than the outgoing model, benefiting from a smoother, better-proportioned shape.
It also sports Volvo’s new signature front end, first seen on the XC90, complete with ‘”Thor’s hammer” LED headlights.
Under the bonnet there’s a choice of two 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engines, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, plus a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid.
Unusually, all models are four-wheel drive paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
I tested the two diesels which are expected to be the biggest sellers. The 190bhp D4 is good for 55.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 133g/km, while the more powerful 235bhp D5 PowerPulse can return up to 51.4mpg, with CO2 emissions of 144g/km. If my experience is anything to go by, I suspect real world economy may be closer to 40mpg.
The D5 is slightly swifter to 62mph (6.8s vs 8.4s) with a top speed of 137mph – 10mph faster than the D4 – and is the best choice, especially if you use your Volvo for towing.
Both engines are refined, unless really pushed, and while the extra power in the more responsive D5 PowerPulse is noticeable, the D4 has enough grunt for most.
Stepping into the XC60 is like a breath of fresh air – literally. The new CleanZone four-zone climate control system removes harmful pollutants and particles from outside the cabin, sucking in Scandinavian-fresh air on the inside.
You can also go for the Scandi interior look with panoramic sunroof, blond Nappa soft leather seats and steering wheel, plus driftwood trim on the dashboard.
Quality materials are used throughout, while the addition of the 9-inch portrait-shaped Sensus infotainment screen has enabled Volvo’s designers to give the dashboard a more minimalist feel.
Virtually everything is controlled via the slick touchscreen which allows you to swipe, tap and pinch your way through various menus, while up ahead there’s also a digital driver’s display and a head-up display (HUD) showing everything from speed info to navigation. The HUD works well, even it’s just a little on the small side.
Elsewhere inside the cabin, it’s roomy with plenty of space up front and behind, though the middle rear seat is on the firm side. Combined with a smooth ride, it makes for an extremely comfortable all-round experience.
There are three trim levels – Momentum, R-Design and Inscription – plus a Pro version of each, adding various optional extras, but frankly the basic Momentum is very well equipped. Highlights include LED headlights with active high beam, two-zone climate control, heated front seats, a powered tailgate and 18” alloy wheels.
Priced from £37,205, the XC60 is definitely a premium offering, but go steady with the trim choice and optional extras or you’ll end up with little change from £50,000.
Needless to say, the XC60 is also loaded with safety tech and boasts a maximum 5-star Euro NCAP crash safety testing.
Volvo’s City Safety system is fitted as standard. It includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, plus the world-first application of Steer Assist which helps to avoid or limit the severity of collisions at low speeds by assisting with the steering in an emergency by swerving to avoid an obstacle.
There’s also Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which senses a head-on collision and uses steering assistance to guide you back into your lane, plus Blind Spot Information with Steer Assist which automatically steers you back into your line and away from vehicles in your blind spot.
Pilot Assist, a step towards autonomous driving, is also available as an option. It allows you to take your hands off the wheel for limited periods, assisting with the steering to keep the car within lane markings and at the desired cruising speed or distance from any vehicle in front.
So what’s it like to drive? Well, the XC60 is definitely more agile than its predecessor. Set up to be comfortable rather than sporty, body roll is nevertheless well controlled and there’s great traction, thanks to AWD. The automatic gearbox is smooth and seems well matched.
If you’re after a more engaging experience, you can always flick the drive mode to Dynamic and use the steering wheel paddle shifters, but you’ll have to wait for the upcoming Polestar performance versions if you want to get closer to the class-leading dynamism of the Porsche Macan.
We didn’t get to test the XC60 off-road, but to be fair, Volvo isn’t marketed the the car as a hardcore all-terrain car. You can be sure that AWD will be enough to give you a little more peace of mind in challenging weather conditions.
Special mention for the optional Bowers and Wilkins sound system, which features 15 speakers and a total output of 1,100W, and includes an awesome “concert hall” setting (especially good for classic music and ‘live’ performances), plus a new lower door/sill design which seems to eradicate the old SUV issue of mud on the back of your legs when exiting.
Verdict: Solid, safe, well-equipped, comfortable and oozing with Scandi style, the clever new Volvo XC60 is a class act.