In a very Germanic way, the Swedes are slowly mastering the art of slicing the sausage into different chunks for different folks.
But the latest in the line of fabled Volvo SUVs, the XC60 is a very important car for the brand not just in India, but globally. It forms the bulk of sales for the brand in every market it operates and is in many ways, the poster boy for Volvo. When you think of Volvo, you think of the safest car in the world and more often than not, it’s been a Volvo SUV for the last two decades.
The XC60 is that image and for 2017, it wears a sharper suit than ever with muscle, chrome and brilliant lashes of design quirks that are bound to become a template for many other products in the brand's portfolio. The most obvious and striking design change is the new interpretation of the Thor’s Hammer LED headlights. Instead of staying contained within the housing, they now extend into the central grille, accentuating the dynamism and sportiness that the XC60 is intended to highlight.
Around the side, strong shoulder lines, big 19in wheels and a chrome strip make for a distinct silhouette. It’s the rear where the least amount of surprises lie. By now, it’s a look that we are familiar with, thanks to the V90 Cross Country and the XC90, vertically stacked tail lights with sharp elements.
Volvo XC60 D5 - Drive of the future
Built on the Scalable Product Architecture, the XC60 like other cars built on this platform is ready for electrification at any point but for India, Volvo is bringing just one engine and one variant to begin with. The D5 diesel engine in the top-end Inscription trim is what we will get and it makes for a smart decision. The D5 makes 235bhp and more than 450Nm of torque, making this a driver’s car as opposed to the big XC90 with the lesser D4 variant available in India. Mated to a slick 8-speed auto transmission and helped immensely by Volvo’s own Power Pulse technology, turbo lag is all but imperceptible.
Accelerating is brisk and thanks to the all-around air suspension, you don’t feel when you’re into heavy-duty triple digit speeds, the body control lending a helping hand to bring in the smile around the corners too. After the V90 CC, this is another Volvo that is surprisingly punching above its weight when it comes to dynamics and handling. Sure, the steering is over assisted even in Dynamic mode but it never loses directness and agility. Direction changes are rapid and nimble, the superb road holding egging you on to go faster around sweeping bends and our test route from Mahabalipuram to Pondicherry provides plenty of such opportunities.
The only time I felt a bit of a lag was while downshifting a few cogs to make a quick overtaking move and that’s when it takes a moment to gather the necessary thrust but it’s insignificant enough given the broader strengths of this powertrain. The AWD drive system is biased for an 80:20 power split but can shift this balance up to 60:40 when conditions demand it and while on the move, it just feels like the smoothest SUV I’ve ever driven. The isolation is fantastic within the cabin and so is the noise suppression from the diesel engine, making any environment outside feel like Sweden on the inside!
Volvo XC60 D5 - Lap of luxury
Speaking of which, the interiors are simply a leap on the competition. The X3 and the ageing Q5 just look dreary in comparison and even the GLC feels ordinary next to it. The huge 9in tablet remains the centrepiece that runs on the Sensus navigation and infotainment system but the XC60 gets a unique open-pore driftwood trim that is unique in execution. It almost carves its way around the dash, creating an envelope of materials ranging from leather to matte chrome, punctuated by the freshness of unpolished wood. Even the instrument cluster is now all digital with 12.3 inches of crisp graphics and the Inscription variant gets Heads Up display too.
To list all the active and passive safety kit would require another essay in itself but rest assured, this keeps Volvo’s reputation as the world’s safest car alive. Blind Spot alarm, radar-based semi auto-pilot like cruise control, lane keep assist, auto-park assist, collision prevention system...its beginning to sound like the Batmobile, isn’t it? Thankfully, you won’t need to possess a bat’s hearing to appreciate the 15-speaker, 1100-Watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system. Although four speakers down on the V90 CC and XC90, you wouldn’t be able to guess from the way U2’s Lights of Home cranks its way into the cabin.
Perfectly balanced with no rattling body panels to interrupt Bono’s soaring falsetto’s, this remains the benchmark when it comes to stock audio systems in cars, price no bar. The hallowed ‘tweeter-on-top’ technology that B&W have migrated from its top-end home loudspeakers is used well in this configuration and makes all the difference to the overall clarity and imaging of the system, making every drive immensely more immersive and enjoyable. The different DSP modes allow you to choose from a Studio or Concert Hall acoustical setting and it boils down to personal preference, but each of them is offered with a variety of controls to dial in just the right amount of fill. Whether you’re the driver or the driven, a test drive will prove what I’m trying to illustrate, a good audio system is that big a deal in urban scenarios!
Volvo XC60 D5 - Initial Verdict
Volvo has been doing a lot of work even on materials it seems and the tactility is now tangible. The rubberised back of the paddle shifters feel inviting, the subtly dimpled steering wheels is a joy to hold, the indicator and other stalks have a heft and muted click that reek of quality. Nappa leather seats and the soft plastics everywhere, the panoramic sunroof...each of it makes you feel like you’re getting your money's worth. That really is the defining character of this car.
It offers comfort, luxury and tech in considerable more quantity than the status quo and it’s a matter of perception. Its longer, wider but shorter stance gives it a more sporty appearance than its predecessor and with its class-leading ventilated/massage seats and driving position, might also be the perch you don’t want to get out of.
It will officially be launched on the 12th of December and should be priced squarely against the Germans (and a Brit) but seems like a strong contender to usurp the line-up.
As expected, the XC60’s price has just been announced and at ₹55,90,000 (ex-showroom India price), it sits smack in the midst of accomplished company. Even then, it makes for a strong case for itself, featuring the most amount of tech (India gets the Inscription+Tech Pack variant), a healthy engine and build quality that’s posing a threat even to the estate shed German rivals. Until the proposed petrol or hybrid powertrains arrive, this XC60 in D5 diesel engine guise is the luxury SUV to buy!