It’s not hard to see why the Volvo XC60 is such a hit. In fact, seeing the XC60 is pretty much all you need to do to know that it’ll be a hit. Though quite evolutionary in its looks, the 2017 XC60 is a totally different car from its popular predecessor. New platform, new interior, new engines and all.
With two diesel engines, a petrol and a plug-in hybrid on offer (all of them four-wheel drive and automatic as standard), the Volvo XC60 offers a great alternative to rivals like the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Jaguar F-Pace, and Lexus NX. It’s set apart from its rivals mainly in its gloriously minimalist interior, complete with huge, portrait touchscreen system and unmistakably Scandinavian-style materials. The level of safety kit is another factor that could sway buyers towards the Volvo in the hard-fought, prestige SUV class.
|Body Style: 5 door crossover||Seats: 5||MRP: £37,205 - £57,895|
Did you know? The wood interior trim in top-spec Inscription models is inspired by driftwood found on the west coast of Sweden
The XC60 is one of the most competent SUVs in its class. It sets the standard for safety and interior aesthetics, and taking the generous kit into account, it’s also very competitively priced, if not better value than key rivals provided you go for a low-end trim.
All of the engines are on a par with others for efficiency, or the T8 Hybrid betters any reasonable alternative given the stonking performance it offers for very little company car tax. You’ll just need a company car scheme lenient enough to allow for a £50k SUV.
Sure, this isn’t the most comfortable nor the sharpest-handling car in the class – the Audi Q5 is that – but the Volvo is quiet, easy-going and sure-footed at all times, which is enough to make this one of the best choices in the class.
Interior look and layout
Plentiful standard kit
We Don't Like
Intermittently clunky ride
Top-spec models are pricey
There’s no doubting that the XC60 looks a lot like the bigger XC90, but that’s no bad thing given that the XC90 is itself a seriously handsome thing. However, at just under 4.7 metres long and 1.7 metres high, it is noticeably smaller and the way the ‘Thor’s hammer’ headlight design – all XC60s have LED headlights with the distinctive daytime running light signature – runs all the way into the front grille is a trademark of the 2017 XC60.
That grille is one of the easiest ways to tell what trim the car is, too, since you get vertical black bars on entry-level Momentum, horizontal bars on R-Design and vertical chrome bars on Inscription.
Even the cheapest XC60s come with 18-inch alloys, but R-Design (which is likely to be the most popular trim) and Inscription get snazzier-looking 19-inch alloys. Looks are a subjective thing, but certainly the clean, distinctive lines of the XC60 are sure to be one of its biggest selling points.
First things first – you can only get the XC60 with five seats. If you want seven seats in a premium product at this price point, you’re looking at the Land Rover Discovery Sport and, well, that’s about it. Otherwise, you’ll have to sacrifice a bit of the posh image and go for something cheaper, such as the Skoda Kodiaq, Peugeot 5008 or Hyundai Santa Fe.
Still, plenty of people want a mid-sized premium SUV like this, and if you’re one of them then the XC60’s interior is likely to be one of its most appealing aspects.
Slide into the driver’s seat and you’re met with a 9.0-inch portrait touchscreen that takes up most of the centre console (more about that in the Infotainment section) and is also how you change the climate control temperature.
This is where most of your interaction with the car’s systems will take place. You also get an 8.0-inch colour readout between the driver’s dials, but it’s a very affordable option to upgrade it to a 12.3-inch fully-digital display instead (or it’s standard on R-Design and Inscription models). It’s worth doing, since this means you can have the sat-nav map and various other useful bits of information shown in the dials, making it easy to glance at when you’re driving.
All of which complements the standard leather seats that are comfortable and have plenty of adjustment – manual as standard other than in Inscription. Visibility is good, although the boxier Audi Q5 is a bit better for that over-the-shoulder, rear three-quarters view.
The back seats are roomy enough to cater well for two adults – even very tall ones – and you get a centre armrest with cupholders as standard. If you want to squeeze someone in the middle, though, the seat cushion is raised and a bit hard, and they’ll have to straddle a low centre tunnel. Even kids will feel a bit squeezed for elbow room with three across, so it’s best to keep any five-up trips fairly short.
The Volvo’s isn’t the biggest boot in the class, but at 505 litres (the most practical rivals have around 550 litres) it’s a good size, with a floor that’s flush with the load lip and 60/40 split seats that fold down to leave a smooth extended loadbay. A powered tailgate is standard, too, and there’s a useful hidden storage area underneath the boot floor.
We’d have preferred 40/20/40 split seats and some levers in the boot to make it easier to drop them, but there is a well-priced Convenience Pack that includes power-folding rear seats (still in a 60/40 split), a 12v socket in the boot, a three-point plug in the back seat area and a cargo net. There are also some useful dealer-offered options, including a fitted dog harness and plastic boot floor.
All XC60s get the 9.0-inch Sensus touchscreen as the focal point of the dash, which comes complete with DAB radio, USB input, voice control, European sat-nav and free lifetime map updates. The only thing you'll probably want to add is the £300 Smartphone Integration, which includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus an additional two USB inputs.
In many ways this is one of the best systems out there. It’s the biggest standard screen in the class (electric-only Tesla Model X not included), screen graphics are excellent, and the portrait screen is so big that most icons are chunky enough to hit easily when you’re on the move. You can also pinch in and out to zoom on the map, so anybody used to using a tablet will likely get the hang of Vovo’s Sensus system pretty quickly.
However, it is quite hard to find seemingly simple menu commands, because you have to swipe sideways to reveal an otherwise entirely hidden menu. It’s also a bit slow to respond and can be prone to freezing momentarily, and when using Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, the nav map is a small, landscape readout in the centre of the screen – you can’t expand it to the full screen.
Even so, given that you’ve got the key phone connectivity apps (no MirrorLink, mind), plus you can add Spotify for music streaming, this is a well equipped standard system. The 10-speaker sound system is great, too, or if you’re feeling flush you can add a Bowers and Wilkins 15-speaker system (although it seems a bit pricey to us given how good the standard audio is).
There’s a rear entertainment pack with dual screens and TV on offer, too, but we’d save some money by just going for the official iPad holders and a trip to the shops for a few tablets.
The XC60 is pleasant and relaxing through and through, if not the sharpest handling nor even the most comfortable in the class.
The two diesel engines – the D4 and D5 - are varying power outputs of the same four-cylinder, 2.0-litre twin-turbocharged diesel. The D4, with 188bhp, isn’t the quietest diesel when you’re accelerating, but on a steady throttle it’s impressively hushed.
Standard driving modes alter the eight-speed auto gearbox responses (you can’t get a manual gearbox), the steering and throttle response, and suspension if you’ve got the optional air suspension.
The D4 always feels happier at a steady cruise, but it does put on a decent burst of speed without much hassle, so you can sneak into small gaps in the traffic. It’s the auto gearbox that’s a bit less ideal, since it's slow to respond when you prod the throttle for a burst of acceleration, but sticking it in Dynamic or using the wheel-mounted paddles gets around this.
While it’s not as slick overall as the auto in an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, it is smooth-shifting and more than good enough than you can generally just sit back and forget about it.
The 232bhp D5 diesel has something called ‘PowerPulse’, which sounds like a cheesy exercise video, but is in fact a compressed air system designed to help reduce turbo lag, making the engine feel sprightly from lower revs.
It works, too – the D5 is a great engine, which has a noticeably stronger response than the D4. It just feels more potent, more of the time, and if you’re the sort of SUV owner who likes to get a proper hustle on sometimes, it's probably worth the extra money.
The 251bhp T5 petrol is also a 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged affair. Clearly, with diesel now officially on the car industry’s naughty step, this is likely to be quite a popular choice. It’s really quiet, until you decide to give it everything when it suddenly delivers hot-hatch eagerness and a slightly whiny exhaust note. That gearbox is still a little slow at times, but ultimately if you can justify the running costs of the T5, it’s worth considering over the D4 diesel.
Or, there’s always the T8 - a plug-in hybrid that is scaldingly quick, despite super tax-dodging CO2 emissions. Chucking out some 314bhp from the supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that powers the front wheels, and 86bhp from an electric motor that drives the rear wheels, you really can surprise yourself and most other road users as you fire off the line in your stealthy XC60 performance hybrid. More pertinent is that you can do some 28 miles on electricity alone, provided you've got a full charge (which'll take around 3.5 hours from a domestic wall socket).
It is not always the smoothest transition from electric to petrol engine, particularly if you give it reason to fire up the four-cylinder engine when it's in Pure electric mode, but leave it in Hybrid and it's generally a smooth and unobtrusive powertrain.
Comfort and handling
This, then, is a car that has a really decent turn of pace in its fruitier iterations. And yet, you’re unlikely to really want to pedal them with any vigour because the steering is – while well weighted – entirely devoid of feel, real or artificial. It’s quite a slow steering response, too, which is why you’re unlikely to relish the idea of a good cross-country drive in your XC60.
However, the steering does offer enough sense of what's going on at the front end, so you can really lean on the car and enjoy its stoic grip. It’s easy and confident, but you’d never describe it as fun.
There are two suspension options – standard steel springs, or you can pay a wedge of cash for air suspension (or it’s standard on mega top-spec R-Design Pro and Inscription Pro). We’d save the money. The standard steel suspension is good enough most of the time, even on R-Design, which has a slightly firmer setup and is the only non-air car we’ve tried in the UK.
It does fidget and shiver a bit over rough surfaces, but even the air suspension will thud very heavily into sharp-edged potholes, and you get a touch more body float and lean with the air suspension. Ultimately, the XC60 is cushy enough as standard, although it is not the most cohesive ride and handling balance in the class.
Recommended engine: D4
If it could wrap you in cotton wool, it would. As it is, on top of the expected advanced ESP and traction control (and that standard four-wheel drive) every model has emergency braking, which will detect cyclists, pedestrians and large animals.
It’ll also nudge the steering back into lane if you drift over the white line without indicating. Rear parking sensors, automatic headlight adjustment to the LED lights, traffic sign readouts on the dash, and a full complement of air bags including driver’s knee airbag, makes this about as safe as a car gets.
On top of that, for a reasonable sum you can add a pack that adds a host of extra driver aids including blind spot radar cruise control, and a system called Pilot Assist where the car will virtually drive itself. You have to keep your hands on the wheel, and it’s not infallible so you’re still going to need to stay very alert, but it steers itself, adjusts its speed, stops itself and keeps its distance from the car in front.
It’s impressive, although it’s best for taking the strain out of busy traffic in town rather than any faster stuff, and it’s a bit alarming the way it doesn’t always centre itself in the lane particularly well. You can also add a heads-up display, although with the excellent digital dials so easy to read anyway, it’s an expensive option to justify.
There’s a range of official Volvo child seats and integrated booster seats, and there’s a very cheap optional button that lets you turn the rear child locks on or off from the front seats. An alarm and immobiliser are standard. It's no surprise, then, that the Volvo XC60 got the full five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests including an impressive 95% for safety assist, and 98% for adult occupant.
Momentum or Inscription trims only have one standard colour – solid white. R-Design (a more style-led trim) you have the option of a bright red (not offered on the other trims) or solid white, but there’s a palette of 11 metallic hues to choose from across the range. That R-Design red is the only really in-your-face colour; the rest are all quite subdued but suit the XC60’s clean lines.
The Volvo is one of the best equipped cars as standard of its immediate rivals. There are only three trims – Momentum (for lots of kit at the best price), R-Design (for sportier looks), and Inscription (for the lavish look and feel). There are also ‘Pro’ trims of each of these, which are targeted primarily at company car users. Momentum is the best value trim, and comes with masses of kit as standard including climate control, cruise control and leather seats, but you can’t have it with the D5 engine.
The R-Design looks snazzier, with rectangular exhausts and various exterior style tweaks, plus the excellent sports seats, and is the best bet if you want the D5 engine.
Inscription is fully-laden with lovely stuff, including posh wood trim that’d be at home in any exclusive hotel, but you’ll still probably want to add the panoramic glass roof and the full-fat safety Pilot Assist stuff, so you may as well go for the cheaper R-Design.
The ‘Pro’ trims all add active headlights, heated windscreen wiper blades and windscreen, and powered seat adjustment, among other extras.
Size and Dimensions
Max towing weight unbraked - braked
750 - 2,400kg
Both of the diesels have decent claimed economy, and will likely do well over 40mpg very easily in the real world. They’re also right up there for company car costs and CO2 emissions, while resale values should be very strong.
The petrol T5 is an interesting prospect, but its running costs are its big weak point. The potent petrol motor might have a claimed economy of around 40mpg, but the low 30s are likely to be a lot more realistic. Still, that’s not too bad for a powerful petrol car.
The T8 hybrid is a funny one. It’s got fantastic claimed economy and emissions, and you’ll get up to 28 miles of pure-electric usage - more like 20 realistically - before the petrol engine kicks in. But when the petrol engine is in use you'll be very lucky to see 30mpg, so it’s definitely one for those who mostly just do short urban journeys.
Surprisingly, the Volvo XC60 is a fraction more expensive to insure than rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
Reliability and servicing
Tricky to say, but Volvo has a good reputation for reliability. Its servicing intervals have generous mileage allowances, too, and a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty. You can take out fixed price service plans to cover the car for up to six years, and you can take them out up to 48 months after you’ve bought the car.
Surprisingly, the Volvo XC60 is a fraction more expensive to insure than rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. You get three year’s European roadside assistance as standard, and they’ll carry on the cover for free after that if you service the car at an official dealer.
12 months or 18,000 miles
24 months or 36,000 miles
On list price alone, the Volvo XC60 is very competitive – especially given the fact that it’s got such generous equipment levels. It gets LED headlights, for a start, which are optional on the Audi Q5, although it’s not like any of them are short of night-time illumination.
Finance costs are also really good. For an entry-level D4 Momentum, a circa 20% deposit will get you monthly payments of around £400 on a 36-month PCP deal – you could be looking at 48 months of the roughly the same payments and deposit for the equivalent Audi Q5.
Company car costs are about on the nose, too, or of course the T8 is super-cheap on BIK tax. Having said that, it'll cost a lot to lease or buy outright, so persuading your company to foot the bill might be tricky.
The higher specs are more about style and comfort than gadgets; go for Momentum, and add the 12.3-inch digital dials and the safety pack with Pilot Assist.
D4 Momentum is the best value model, and promises to be the cheapest to run for private or company buyers
Inscription. The pale wood trim looks stunning, and makes this the sort of interior that you’d look for in a plush hotel. If we were to have a car maker do our living room, it’d be Volvo.
More cohesive ride and handling, but pricier on PCP.
Sharp drive, but refinement and ride are a bit questionable.
Better CO2 emissions, but ride comfort is iffy.
Looks outstanding and handles with panache, but not the most practical and the interior feels a touch flimsy in some areas.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
The only seven-seat option, and cheaper, too.