VOLVO XCEEDS EXPECTATIONS WITH THE XC60
Let’s not beat around the bush; stating that a car, any car, is ‘the safest in it’s class’, shouldn’t be taken too lightly. And lets face facts, when a manufacturer like Volvo make such a bold proclamation, they must be pretty confident that they have something special in store. And what is it? Well, it’s a double delight. Firstly, it’s the XC60, the new kid on the premium compact SUV block, and secondly, the City Safety system they’ve invented (which is also due to become standard fit right across their whole model range).
So lets start with City Safety. The best way to describe what it does is quite simple; at speeds between 9-19mph it becomes active. Lasers monitor the car in front and determines if a collision is likely to occur – second guessing that the drivers’ concentration might be elsewhere if the car in front suddenly stops. The on-board computer then goes into self-preservation mode and slams on the XC60’s anchors, bringing it to an abrupt halt. And the rest of the XC60 is just as impressive. I was won over as soon as I stepped inside and immediately liked what I saw. We, the motoring fraternity, wax lyrical about Audi interiors, and this is equal to anything the Germans can muster up. There’s a true premium feel to the cabin, granted the colour combinations on the test cars –army green paintwork with lime green leather – were not going to be everyone’s liking, yet in a safer hue – black, silver, red, etc – I’m sure it will look much smarter. That is, only when viewed from certain angles, like the rear three quarters (loved the swoopy rear light cluster) but from others, the wedgy profile is reminiscent of a 1970s Austin Princess, and that’s not a good thing.
Although there will be two diesels when it’s launched in November, I only had the luxury of testing one of them; the 2.4-litre D5 diesel (the 2.4D was not yet available). Nor, for that matter, was the 6-speed manual transmission, so I’ll have to go with what I know. When this diesel was first fitted into the S60 it was feted as being one of the best on the market, now though, in comparison to what else is available, it does appear a little dated – the same way my last years’ upgraded Sony Ericsson phone is to the Apple iPhone. That in itself shouldn’t be enough to put you off, because it is still a fine piece of engineering. The 6-speed automatic Geartronic transmission, however, isn’t. Away from the Spanish motorways of our test routes and around the twisty roads surrounding Valencia, the auto box took a stab at one of the six gears on offer, and then couldn’t decide if it had made the correct decision and chose another. The ride however, goes some way to compensate for the lethargy of that auto gearbox. This, in part, can be attributed to RSC – Roll Stability Control – and the Four-C active suspension. Add into the mix, Dynamic Stability and Traction Control and again, the XC60 can more than hold its own against others in the same segment. The 4WD system is there for extra road grip rather than yomping its way across the Artic Circle. That said, 230mm of ground clearance and the very accomplished Haldex AWD system might make you think otherwise.
Volvo are keeping the trim levels to the tried and tested formula of S, SE, and SE Lux, with prices starting at £24,750 for the 2.4D S. All model will included the normal vast plethora of safety equipment we’ve come to expect from the Swedes.
RIVALS: AUDI Q5 2.0 TDI SE, BMW X3 xDRIVE20d SE AUTO, LAND ROVER FREELANDER 2 2.2 TD4 SE AUTO
- Engine: 2400cc, 5-cylinder turbodiesel
- Gearbox: 6-speed automatic
- Max Power: 182bhp at 4,000rpm
- Max Torque: 295lb ft at 2,000-2,750rpm
- Max Towing Weight: 2,000kg
- Combined Consumption: 34.0mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 219g/km (F)
- 0-62mph: 9.9secs
- Max speed: 124mph
- Insurance Group: 14