What is it?
Why would I buy it?
Striking design, more spacious than before, safety features, long distance capability
Why would I avoid it?
Sparse network, low rear seat
Having introduced the 90-series vehicles such as XC90, S90 and V90 over recent times, Volvo is now set to unleash its mid-size luxury SUV, the new XC60 onto our roads on 12 December. The all-new XC60 is a manifestation of the Swedish brand’s current design language, one that combines crisp design lines with gorgeous detailing. This high-rider is also based on the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, which is what essentially underpins their bigger XC90 too. To give you a perspective, the new XC60’s wheelbase has shot up by 44mm, is 11mm wider and sits shorter by 14mm. Plus, to keep things simple, it will only get the diesel engine (D5) and in the Inscription variant which gets all the bells and whistles.
In fact, when viewed from the front, I almost thought I was glaring into the XC90’s face! And that’s a good thing. Mainly due to the resemblance of the classy chrome-tipped grille to the similar looking sensational Thor’s Hammer LED head lamps. But that’s just about it. From the profile section, the XC60’s more raked A-pillar is visible, and so is the angled quarter-glass with the prominent crease underneath. At the rear, the tail gate continues to have a bulge between the towering tail lamps. On the whole, this iteration has an air of elegance and sophistication which was absent in the previous model.
How is it on the inside?
While the interiors of the XC60 retains vestiges of the beauty of the XC90 and S90, its out-of-the-box design cues incorporate a sense of simplistic exquisiteness. Then there’s the large glass area and a huge panoramic sunroof which provides an airy experience that’s simply astounding. The black soft-touch dashboard here is elegantly highlighted by matte wood trim, and the nine-inch vertically positioned screen continues to allow access to most on-board functions (including the air-con). Our only gripe is that it gets the driver’s eyes off the road.
The front leather seats offer incredible support thanks to the sculpted contours and premium cushioning. While these cooled/heated seats can also be electrically adjusted for lateral, lumbar, and thigh support, there’s ample head and knee room here too. But it’s definitely the massage function and the heated steering that takes comfort to an all new level. The rear seats themselves are comfy overall with superior cushioning and contours. They have a great backrest angle, offer lots of headroom and adequate leg room too.
For the rear occupants, though, there’s only the heated seats option, and the bench itself could have come with better under-thigh support. Besides you’ll have watch out to prevent your head from bumping into the C-Pillar since the door enclosure is visibly narrow. Although seating a middle passenger is possible, they’d have to deal with the flat cushioning and a tall transmission tunnel. On the boot front, the space-saver spare wheel has been neatly tucked away under the storage area. This makes for a boot that’s large enough for a weekend trip that includes some suitcases and soft bags. But the smart bit are the buttons to electronically lower/heighten the rear of this SUV to aid luggage loading.
Being a Volvo means the inclusion of a number of safety functions. These include collision warning, distance alert, lane keeping aid, road sign information, driver alert control, automatic braking, adaptive cruise control and a 360 degree camera. Other highlights are the active bending head lamps, panoramic sunroof, massage/cooled/heated functions for the front seats, heads-up display with road signs and warning alerts, semi-automatic parking and a Bowers and Wilkins infotainment system.
How does it drive?
The all-new XC60 gets the same 2.0-litre 235bhp/480Nm engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission that does duty in the XC90/V90 (power is sent to all four wheels). On cranking this motor, you will find some diesel clatter, but thankfully, superior cabin insulation keeps external noises at bay. On the go, despite the power delivery from this motor being linear, you can feel the strong midrange that picks up post 1500rpm and goes all the way to the 4000rpm limiter, and it undeniably makes for a wide power band.
The eight-speed gearbox (with paddle shifters) complements the character of the engine. However, we felt that the short shift lever was a little tricky to use when actuated in a hurry. To derive the best out of the motor, there are five preset drive modes that alter the engine/gearbox characteristics. On the go, the snazzy looking rotating switch requires extra effort to switch modes.
With Eco, Comfort, Off Road, Dynamic and Individual modes to choose from, Eco is meant for the best possible efficiency. It also makes for easy driving since the upshifts are quicker and the engine runs smooth all the time. That said, Comfort offers a slightly better response for a bit more excitement behind the wheel. This brings us to the Dynamic mode that offers a more spirited driving experience as the transmission clings on to lower gears for instant response. Individual mode, on the other hand, is customisable, and allows the driver to mix and match the preset modes to alter the steering, powertrain, brake and suspension responses. We found ourselves driving in this mode to match our personal requirements.
On the suspension front, the all-new XC60 gets an air suspension setup for all wheels and the driving modes also have preset adjustments for the damping characteristics. Off-road mode can only be activated while doing speeds of up to 40kmph, and it gets the system to channel more torque to the rear wheels. Additionally, ground clearance is automatically increased to a maximum of 223mm. We shall reserve our judgement of the new XC60’s off-roading skills for a later date since we didn’t get the opportunity to get off the road.
In Eco/Comfort mode the ride at low speeds is great and although you can hear the suspension working its way over harsh bumps, you never really feel them in the cabin. However, there is some up and down movement at higher speeds. But as soon as you shift into Dynamic mode, the ride gets noticeably flatter, and the XC60 drives with good stability at highway speeds.
Let’s talk about the steering now. The XC60’s steering is adequately quick off the centre, and also feels light in Eco and Comfort modes. It goes without saying that this makes driving in the city an easy affair. But having said that, although the steering gets slightly heavier in Dynamic mode, we found the steering response in Comfort mode more natural, and eventually stuck to that. Volvo also seems to have got it spot-on with the brakes since it is remarkably progressive with excellent feedback. On the whole, we thoroughly felt that the XC60 will do a great job in covering great distances in good comfort.
Should I buy one?
The all-new Volvo XC60 is a huge improvement on its predecessor, especially in terms overall space, comfort, and features. Plus, it has all the things you love Volvo for - tough build, ease of driving, safety features, easy to living with, and the styling is nothing short of eye-catching too.
While the overall emphasis is certainly on luxury, the sprightly motor makes driving in and outside the city a breeze too. If you look at these points, it spells the right recipe for a great product. However, the deciding bit would be the price, and going by how the XC90 and S90 was priced, Volvo should have that covered when the car gets launched on 12 December.
Where does it fit in?
The all-new XC60 will lock horns with the Jaguar F-Pace, Mercedes-Benz GLE, BMW’s X3 and the Audi Q5. In fact, BMW and Audi are expected to globally launch their new X3 and Q5 in the first half of 2018.
Pictures: Kapil Angane