Volvo XC60 main
Waving the flag high for safety, Volvo has been perceived as the old man’s wagon for many years.
But it’s 2015, in case you haven’t noticed. Even the bank vaults look sexier now and so does the modern Volvo. Full of curvy detail and creases along the bodywork, the XC60 may well be the best-looking SUV of the lot that’s on sale in India. Having undergone a mild mid-life facelift, it gets a new bumper with DRLs, a bolder grille and, most importantly, a new 8-speed auto transmission over the older 6-speed unit. It does turn heads even in this shade of white that gave our test car a sophisticated yet sporty look. The R-Design package adds even slicker wheels, scuff plates and an extra dose of attitude. We like it.
Step inside the all-black cabin and the sumptuous seats cradle you like a mother’s womb. The pliant ride quality is no different and keeps you isolated from most imperfections on the road. Handling isn’t shoddy either, with plenty of grip from the all-wheel-drive chassis. The steering isn’t the most communicative, but then again, this won’t be bought for track days. For intercity travel, there are few other cars that can match its effortless drivability.
The five-cylinder D5 diesel engine is a strong performer with 215bhp on tap and a pokey 440Nm of torque, making mincemeat of slushy off-road tracks and minor hills. There’s no low-ratio gearbox to play with, but it will go about most urban obstacles without any drama. The chunky steering with thumb rests and paddle shifts is inviting and won’t tire you even after hours of tacking peak-hour traffic or climbing to the peak.
If you’re spoilt by German engineering and ergonomics, you’ll find yourself at home here - it’s a similar logical layout of buttons and build quality. Sure, the textures and finishes aren’t as refined, but there’s no taking away from the solidity of the floating centre console and the ingenious airflow pictogram which has become an iconic element in its own right. The sound system by Harman Kardon is top notch, with controls for surround sound level, listener position and equaliser helping you shape the sound to your exact specifications. It’s crisp, deep and well-controlled and fills up the cabin with rich sonics.
You can use the Bluetooth for more than music, the on-board internet capability relies on your phone’s tethered connection to display the WWW on the screen. The multimedia system headed by the 7in screen isn’t as straightforward as BMW’s iDrive or even Merc’s COMAND, but it takes barely a few minutes to acclimatise yourself to the Scandinavian way of doing things. Sat-nav, rear camera, cruise control, automatic headlamps, panoramic sunroof and plenty more goodies will keep you experimenting for a while. Strangely though, the reverse camera doesn’t engage automatically on selecting reverse gear, something that should’ve been intuitive.
The instrument cluster is superbly designed, but the graphics quality lets it down a bit. Yet, on ignition and start-up, it creates sufficient intrigue to want you to fire it up and take it for a spin. The co-passenger will be treated to a fine throne and even the middle row is well-sculpted to give you ample support. We’d like more thigh support, but it’s still not a bad place to be in. There is no third row, but you get a big enough boot to swallow the birthday paraphernalia of a 4-year old. We happened to be invited to one, so it’s a true story.
The Volvo XC60 might be a slightly off-beat choice, but one that’s worth considering if you have around ₹70 lacs burning a hole in your pocket. Of course, with this obscene price tag, you get oddities like water repellent side windows, speed-sensitive power steering, gear shift paddles and enough to help you spend time in a traffic jam going through the owner's manual. Comfortable, well-built, adequately powerful and well-equipped, what it lacks in badge value, it more than makes up for in every other area.