Turbo twist for voluptuous Volvo
PUBLISHED: 12:54 03 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:54 03 February 2015
A refined turbo diesel gives another boost to Volvo's modern image, says motoring editor Andy Russell
The Volvo brand has always been seen as safe, solid and secure but not very sexy. A bit square, like some of its estate cars of the past. But now, across its modern range, it’s all voluptuous curves, which make these machines a treat on the eyes.
One of the best-looking (and best-selling) offerings in the increasingly desirable line-up is the XC60 sport utility vehicle. As well as its smart looks, it’s not difficult to see why it has won so many fans around the world – for an SUV, it’s extremely car-like to drive, while its all-round ability makes it easy to live with.
At the same time as giving the XC60 a subtle mid-life makeover designed to create more road presence, front-wheel-drive versions now get Volvo’s new D4 two-litre, four-cylinder Drive-E turbo diesel engine. Its 181hp power output is the same as the five-cylinder 2.4-litre D4 used in all-wheel drive models, but it’s quicker and much more economical, with lower emissions. So unless you need all-wheel drive, this is the one to go for.
What you really notice about the new engine is noise, or rather lack of it – barely a whisper in urban traffic and well muted at speed and under hard acceleration, which makes it a pleasant travelling companion with around 50mpg in real-world motoring.
Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, my test car had the new eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, a £1,550 option; a smooth, responsive shifter well matched to the engine’s low-down power delivery.
The R-Design model has proved very attractive to buyers but, thankfully, its sportier character has not compromised comfort. The ride is firmer than on SE and SE Lux models, with the R-Design chassis having a stiffer suspension, but not to the point of being unpleasantly hard. It is still able to soak up bumps with the minimum of fuss and that’s partly down to the standard 18in alloy wheels being shod with tyres that have a decent depth of rubber. Go for the optional 20in wheels with low-profile tyres and I expect the ride would suffer – a case of better to look at but not to live with.
Despite the model’s sportier image, it’s safe and predictable rather than dynamic, taking corners confidently with body roll in check and good steering feel. Front-wheel-drive models have good grip, with the merest hint of wheelspin before the traction control kicks in when accelerating hard in lower gears on slippery roads.
The XC60 doesn’t look that big on the outside so the amount of space in the tastefully-trimmed cabin comes as a surprise, with generous rear legroom for six-footers and plenty of headroom.
And it’s not at the expense of load capacity – the 495-litre boot boasts a wide opening and, despite being a little shallow, it goes back a long way. For extra capacity and practicality, the rear seats split and fold to create a long, uninterrupted flat bay.
The elegant fascia has a Scandinavian simplicity about it. The major control stalks and rotary knobs are chunky enough to use even if you’re wearing gloves but the little buttons on the centre console might look smart but are fiddly and difficult to use on the move. I did like the different driving information modes – red for performance, green eco and blue elegance.
Being a Volvo, the XC60 comes loaded with standard safety equipment and a host of optional electronic driver aids aimed at helping you avoid trouble in the first place.
With its excellent new turbo diesel and classy curves, it’s clear Volvo is shaping up nicely for the future.
■ Price: Volvo XC60 D4 automatic R-Design, £34,085 (range £31,260 to £43,720)
■ Engine: 1,969cc, 181hp, four-cylinder turbo diesel
■ Performance: 0-62mph 8.0 seconds; top speed 130mph
■ MPG: Eight-speed Geartronic automatic, urban 53.3; extra urban 64.2; combined 60.1 (six-speed manual 57.6, 65.7, 62.8)
■ Size: Length 4,644mm; width 2,120mm; height 1,713mm