The XC60 is Volvo’s answer to those who find the ageing XC90 too big and don’t really fancy an estate car. Some people may call it a crossover, others may claim its an SUV, but let’s just settle on the fact that it’s a large family car. It was introduced in 2008 and is manufactured in Ghent, Belgium. Prices start just shy of £30,000 and it’s available with a choice of petrol or diesel engines and two or four-wheel drive.
As it’s by far and away the best selling Volvo in the world, PetrolBlog was keen to give it a thorough test. What better way of taking it on a family holiday to Wales then? Read on to find out how it fared.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. I had wanted to review the XC60 for some time, so the chance to coincide a test with a family holiday seemed to make sense. It’s all very well attending lavish press launches and driving the cars in beautiful sunshine on beautifully smooth roads, but what really matters is how a car copes in a real world environment. And things don’t get more real world than a family holiday. All good so far.
But when the XC60 arrived on the day of departure, my heart sank. Not through disappointment you understand, rather the fact that the car was brand spanking new. The only miles of significance were those racked up during delivery to Devon. What’s more, it was the R-Design with Polestar upgrade and just about every option box ticked. I didn’t dare check out the value of the thing until I reached home, but let’s just say it was in excess of £45k. Quite easily the most expensive car to undergo a full PetrolBlog review.
To make matters worse, Volvo had kindly supplied a roof-mounted bike rack – brilliant. Only it could only handle one bike and we had four to take. So we were faced with two options. Either leaving the children’s bikes behind (clearly not an option), or dragging the Audi’s boot-mounted bike rack out of retirement and fitting it to the Volvo. Knowing full well that every single scratch would be down to us, we spent a full hour and a half mounting the rack, lovingly adding plasters and tape to every point where the rack met the car. We stopped just shy of using cotton wool.
But with the bikes safely mounted and just about every bit of the 495 litres of boot space filled with the stuff needed for a self catering holiday in Wales, we set off to the sound of Cliff Richard’s ‘Summer Holiday’. One bit of that last sentence may not be entirely accurate.
We left just after lunch on a Friday described on the radio as the ‘great west country getaway’. Traffic heading north on the M5 was therefore heavier than normal, so despite knowing the way to go, we programmed the sat nav, looking to take advantage of the in-built traffic service. In short, if the sat nav picks up on a delay, it will choose an alternative route to take.
It wasn’t long before it was called into action, picking up on an accident just north of Taunton. To be fair, it alerted us to the delay quicker than the radio, so we took its advice and turned off the M5. It was the last time we took any notice of the sat nav. Crawling through Taunton and then following slow moving vehicles on the A38 was bad enough. But seeing a relatively free-moving M5 running parallel with us was just plain annoying. To compound our misery, it re-routed us back on to the M5 straight into congestion that seemed to last right until Weston-Super-Mare.
Good old fashioned intuition led us into taking the Severn Passage route to the old Seven Bridge, therefore avoiding the severe delays on the M5 west of Bristol. After a quick stop at the comically retro Severn View services, we paid the £6.00 needed to cross into Wales and headed across country to deepest Mid Wales.
The destination was the wonderfully remote and beautiful area near the Abergwesyn Pass in Powys. Its remoteness wouldn’t be for all, but for stunning scenery, mountain biking, driving and peace and quiet, it’s just about second to none. We arrived just before the sun dropped behind the mountains that surrounded our cottage. The XC60 D5 Polestar had been a brilliantly relaxed and effortless way to spend a long journey. So often the journey is a fraught and stressful experience. Not so in the Volvo. The holiday starts the moment you leave the house.
So the scene is set – how did the XC60 perform as an allrounder?
The XC60 swallowed everything needed for a self catering holiday in Wales with ease, which included a week’s worth of shopping, clothes, outdoor gear and a few teddy bears. In addition to the 495 litres of space in the boot, there are a number of cubby holes, plus a handy secondary boot floor that raises up and allows for small items to be strapped in. On the way back we even managed to fit one of the children’s mountain bikes in the boot.
The D5 Polestar is no slouch. The Polestar upgrade takes the power up from 215 to 230hp, with 470Nm of torque. Volvo won’t supply official 0-62 times, but I’d say it takes half a second off the already impressive time of 8.1 seconds. It’s a £660 upgrade which is difficult to justify as I haven’t driven a standard XC60 D5, but accelerating away from corners is highly impressive. And you do get a rather lovely Polestar badge for the boot!
On the empty and twisty roads of Mid Wales, the XC60 was a pleasant car to chuck about. With the family in the car, I didn’t have many chances to enjoy a spirited drive, but when the opportunities arose, the XC60 made a good account for itself. It isn’t as sporty as Volvo would have you believe, but for a large SUV, the ride and handling is good. The R-Design spec offers a stiffer chassis and stronger dampers, so body roll is kept in check and the ride is exceptionally good. As is common for most Volvos, the steering lacks feedback, but it is nicely weighted and very direct. The gearbox is also very good, allowing for silky smooth changes that led some passengers into thinking it was an automatic!
The track leading up to our cottage was a typical Welsh forest track, with a very loose surface and numerous bumps. We also found some remote byways to properly test the car’s off-road capabilities. Once again it managed to impress, with strong off-road manners and a definite surefooted feeling. The standard hill descent control also worked very well.
Overall, the XC60 D5 Polestar is an impressive car to drive. Deeply satisfying, with superb cross country pace and supremely high comfort levels for both front and rear seat occupants. Top marks, Volvo.
Now here’s where the Supernanny reference comes from. Under normal circumstances, when children are faced with a long journey, they tend to get bored and irritable after ten miles or so. Not so with the XC60. Even after six hours in the car, they were relaxed, calm and chilled out. In fact, the effect lasted throughout the journey. I put this down to a number of factors, including the ride quality, raised rear seating, space, the amount of light in the cabin (helped by the £1,200 panoramic sunroof) and the very low level of wind and road noise. Naturally, the ability to watch CBeebies on the in-built TV screen when stuck in traffic also helped.
But to use a well worn cliche, the XC60 is an incredibly nice place to be. As motoring writers we tend to get fixated with how it makes us feel and how good it is to drive. But spending a week in the XC60 with the family onboard is a good reminder that passenger satisfaction is an equally important factor. And if my family is anything to go by, the XC60 receives a massive tick in the box for comfort and convenience. It’s a very easy car to live with.
And not once did we hear the dreaded ‘are we nearly there yet?’ question.
Where do you start? Naturally being a Volvo, many of the ‘toys’ are safety related, but the D5 R-Design offers a good level of optional equipment. The favourite option seemed to be the power tailgate, which can be operated using the remote control, or via a button the boot. Even after a week, the children didn’t tire of seeing the tailgate raise by itself. It’s then closed using a button on the underside, leaving it to shut silently in a way that would delight those who enjoy soft-closing kitchen drawers and CD units. Step forward, Mr Alan Partridge.
The optional £750 digital TV is a nice additional feature for the children, although I much preferred the optional digital radio. At £325 it represents much better value, especially as it allows for 5Live to be listened to after the sun has gone down.
The £550 Personal Car Communicator (PPC) is also a ‘must have’ option, not least because it allows for automatic unlocking via a button on the door handles, plus keyless start. More evidence of the XC60 being an easy car to live with.
In truth, the list of standard equipment on the R-Design model is extensive, it’s hard to believe anyone would be disappointed.
Safety and support
Up until the launch of the V40, the XC60 was the safest car Volvo had ever produced, so there’s no doubting its safety pedigree. Things like City Safety, ISOFIX attachments, multiple airbags, whiplash protection and side impact bars come as standard, but there’s a host of other options available. The Driver Support package costs £1,850 and includes Volvo’s Blind Spot Information Service, Lane Departure, Pedestrian Detection and Adaptive Cruise Control.
A week with the XC60 has done nothing to change my mind on the effectiveness of these. The blind spot tool is good, but when it picks up sheep and cattle, you tend to lose a little confidence. The lane departure tool is just plain annoying and needs to be switched off permanently. But the Adaptive Cruise Control remains a thing of genius – I love it.
I also had a chance to play with the road sign recognition system and Active High Beam technology that I last saw on the launch of the new V40. Having used the road sign recognition tool once on the first day, I failed to use it again and see it as a bit of a gimmick. The Active High Beam system on the other hand is very impressive. It switches to low beam at the first sight of a car in front or heading the other way and is able to switch back almost immediately once the car has passed. Just occasionally it would be fooled by parked cars or illuminated road signs, but on unfamiliar pitch black Welsh roads, it was rather welcome.
If you had asked me for my thoughts on a Rebel Blue paint job on the XC60 before my holiday, I’d have been rather dismissive. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I now believe that it’s the only colour to spec an XC60 in. Why have a ‘me too’ colour like black, white or silver when you can have Rebel Blue? Take it from me, in the metal, it looks stunning.
In fact, the XC60 is a rather good looking beast, with good proportions that belie the space on the inside. It upstages its big brother, the XC90, and is also one of the best interpretations of the modern Volvo design language.
Having said all of that, much of the appeal of this particular test car comes from the Rebel Blue paintwork, R-Design styling tweaks and optional 20″ alloy wheels. The lesser models don’t look anywhere near as impressive.
Here’s the ‘big but’. The fly in the ointment. The fall at the last hurdle. Cost.
On the face of it, the XC60 is relatively good value for money. Ownership starts at less than £30,000, with even a D5 R-Design costing just shy of £35k at £34,945. But start ticking a few option boxes and the costs rise quite dramatically.
Playing around with the online car configurator is confusing enough, but by my reckoning, our family test car would have set us back nearly £47,000. Admittedly, this isn’t an issue solely restricted to Volvo, it’s no different when choosing an equivalent model from Audi or BMW, but making your XC60 just that little bit special is going to require a deep wallet.
On the plus side, the D5’s CO2 figure of just 149g/km puts it in band F for road tax, equating to just £135 per annum. Pretty damn good for a large and slightly bonkers diesel SUV.
What’s more, even with bikes on the roof and the back, lots of luggage, four people and mixed driving, we averaged just over 30mpg throughout the week. In fact, we did the whole holiday, including a 400 mile round trip to get there and back on less than two tanks of diesel. At cruising speeds, the MPG figure rose to around 50mpg.
It’s another one of those Volvos that is going to be very attractive to PetrolBlog in a few years time.
The Volvo XC60 made a big impression on the family holiday. It didn’t just take us on holiday, it became part of the holiday. My children said goodnight to it every evening and Mrs MajorGav was speccing a Volvo XC60 on the Volvo website before we had reached the Severn Bridge on the return journey. What’s more, it was a joy to drive, easy to live with and it coped with everything we chucked it, including some Welsh off-road tracks.
Yes, it’s pricey, but there’s real sense that the XC60 is a car you’d buy when you’ve got small children and it will still be with you when you’re transporting them to university in years to come. By which time the purchase price and inevitably steep depreciation would be a distant memory.
It’s a quality car that deserves your attention. Take a look – your family will thank you for it.
Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design Polestar
Details of scoring can be seen here.