Barcelona. Oh, the familiarity of it all.
This was the second time in a few short months we were heading back there. We were in Spain to try out the Mercedes E-Class Coupe last February and three months later, Volvo decided to hold its XC60 drive at the same place.
Not that we were complaining. Sunny Barcelona and its laid-back style did have its appeal to more than the route planners at Volvo.
So there we were to get a feel of one of the latest cars to have rolled out of Gothenburg since the brand rejuvenation by China’s Geely group.
Yes, it took a while for the new XC60 to reach Malaysia. Anywhere it’s finally here, and this drive report is timed to coincide with the local launch of the XC60 today.
The Malaysian market is getting the fully-imported T8 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) first with the locally assembled T8 PHEV and T5 petrol variants to be rolled out in April. No diesel version will be offered.
As the name suggests, the XC60 is the mid-size SUV that slots in between the XC90 and XC40, completing the SUV line-up in the Volvo range.
The new XC60 is riding on a wave of optimism, motivated by the stellar success of the original XC60, which in the nine years since its launch, became the top selling premium mid-sized SUV in Europe with nearly a million units sold worldwide.
A clue on how important this model is: it accounts for 30%of Volvo’s total global sales. Being picked as the top SUV of 2018 at the Detroit auto show earlier this week piles on the feel-good vibes.
The XC60 is the fourth model based on Volvo’s in-house Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, following the introduction of the top-of-the-line 90 series in recent years.
Smaller than the flagship XC90 SUV, there’s no mistaking the family resemblance in the XC60’s sheetmetal. It’s a handsome piece of work that manages to look fit and aggressive at the same time.
In terms of styling it’s not a massive makeover as the new XC90.
Designed to look sportier than the first-generation model, the new XC60 is lower, longer and wider with a rakish windscreen and a stout rear that has minimal overhang.
Volvo sought to put its best foot forward, supplying a fleet of the vehicles in the premium Inscription trim.
Sizing up XC60
All’s good in front. LED headlamps with Thor's Hammer accents connect with the chrome of a rich-looking vertical grille that fronts a prominent bonnet. Sculpted lines on the sides, coupled with chrome surrounds on the windows and lower body, complement large 20-inch wheels, striking an elegant profile. The back, lit up with sleek LED taillights, looks cohesive with the rear windscreen sloping outwards to meet the lower steel bodywork.
The interior is a picture of Scandinavian aesthetics – clean, stylish and inviting. Calm, restful colours define the cabin headlined by leather upholstery and a modern dashboard. A panoramic sunroof lets light in to project an airy environs.
A 9-inch Sensus Connect infotainment touchscreen takes centrestage with graphical updates for improved usability. It operates like a tablet via swiping and pinch-to-zoom gestures for access to system settings or other info.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, along with Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming. The optional Bowers & Wilkens stereo sound system with 14 speakers enriches the interior further with concert-hall ambience.
Generous space in both rows and well-designed seats mean five people can sit comfortably. A lower roofline, however, eats into boot volume but at over 500l left, it’s still enough practical space to allay concerns.
Volvo has built its core reputation around safety and in the XC60, it takes it even further.
Steer Assist has been added to the ground-breaking City Safety system. A new safety system called Oncoming Lane Mitigation uses steer assist to help mitigate head-on collisions, while Volvo’s Blind Spot Indication System (BLIS) now uses Steer Assist functionality to reduce the risk of lane-changing collisions.
Pilot Assist, Volvo’s advanced semi-autonomous driver assistance system, which takes care of steering, acceleration and braking on well-marked roads up to 130kph, is available in the new XC60 as an option.While Pilot Assist worked most of the time and with moderate bends, a sudden change in lighting (such as when exiting tunnels) may leave it flustered. Count on the technology to improve with time.
The XC60 is available with a number of 2.0-litre engines in various states of tune. Topping the list is the award-winning T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, producing a total of 407hp/640Nm and a combined fuel economy of 2.1l/100km.
Depending on markets, the new XC60 is offered with the petrol-powered T5 delivering 254 hp and the T6, which with both turbo and superchargers attached, outputs 320hp and 400 Nm of torque. The diesel D4 engine makes 190hp while the D5 with PowerPulse technology delivers 235hp.
How the T6 and D5 drive
CarSifu tried the T6 and the D5 XC60.
The current model line-up features an 8-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
As we hustled the T6 XC60 along, it rewarded with impressive pace. There’s ample power when you want it at most engine speeds. The 320hp/400Nm translates to a 0-100kph sprint of 5.9s and the vehicle can go on to a top speed of 230kph.
The steering had just the right weighting and felt accurate. At highway speeds, external noises are reduced to a hush, making for an enjoyable long distance travel. Turn-in is rapid and body roll is minimal when sweeping into corners, which seems to be at odds with a jacked-up vehicle.
With drive to all four corners, coupled with a well sorted chassis, it would take a lot to make the tyres lose their grip.
The optional air suspension, as fitted in the test vehicles, helped to make the journey even more agreeable as they damp out rough road surfaces along the way.
We had a go at the D5 XC60 on the sidelines even though it won’t make it to Malaysia (Volvo diesel engines are certified for B7 biodiesel use but the Malaysian government is pushing for B10 implementation. The situation is up in the air at this time). You do get the typical diesel clatter at idle but that goes away once the vehicle is on the move.
The cabin refinement and high noise insulation seen in the T6 are echoed in the D5. We do think the D5 offers a tad better smoother acceleration than its petrol sibling.
With the characteristic low-end torque of a diesel mill and better fuel efficiency, the D5 was the choice to go offroading for us as we braved unmarked dirt roads and undulating grassy plains outside Barcelona with chassis lifted higher up in Offroad mode. We assumed the D5’s 480Nm of torque wouldn’t let us down in case it got stuck in a mudhole.
Thankfully, the anxieties were unfounded as the D5 trudged through the offroad experience without incident. Bear in mind the XC60 is a softroader and can’t handle the really hardcore stuff that the likes of Land Rover Defender could.
If you are wondering if there's a worthy alternative to the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC, wonder no more. The XC60 has fought hard to arrive at where it is today.
And it shows in the build quality, the styling mojo and the safety innovations that everyone expects of Volvo.
Cast aside brand snobbery, and you will find the XC60 is able to take on the established players on its own terms.