Brave new world for adventurous Volvo

The pace of change mainly in product development at Volvo is pretty astonishing right now. 

Brave new world for adventurous Volvo

With the XC90 having already wowed the world, there are a slew of other machines coming quickly down the tracks that will see the company completely revise its model line-up in the space of just four years.

We’ve already seen the excellent new XC90 range and written effusively about it. Soon we’ll have on sale the S90 saloon and following hot on its heels will be the new V90 estate, with these cars replacing the S80 and V70.

Next year will see the new XC60 and the following year will see the S60 and V60 variants, while 2018 will produce the XC40, a new crossover to take on the likes of the Mercedes GLA and the Audi Q3 and in 2019 there will be all-new V40 and S40 models.

All this activity has been fuelled by the Chinese Geely Cars outfit which saved Volvo from going the same sad way as Saab and its investment has allowed the great Swedish tradition of automotive innovation not just to continue, but to move forward at a pace which is nearly unprecedented even in the automotive world.

The ambitious plan to revitalise the brand and its model line-up in such a short period of time looks to be spectacularly on track. And the plan now is to expand Volvo across Europe and north America and also into China and Asia, with the latter strategy involving the creation of a Geely sub-brand — in the same sort of way that Seat operates within the VW Group — which will utilise the Volvo parts bin and manufacturing processes.

New factories in China is expanding Volvo’s reach into that vast market and allowing the development of the Geely brand as well.

It is all very bold and very determined and, so far, it is working incredibly well, what with the XC90 having captured a load of awards — just this week it secured the Auto Express ‘Best Large SUV Award for the second year running — and there is considerable evidence to suggest that the S90 will do the same.

However, what of the XC60? Well we test one this week in SE LUX specification, and while the current model is slated to be replaced, that will not happen for at least 18 months or so and so Volvo is keeping the range alive thanks to a swathe of updates and technological additions aimed at keeping it competitive and saleable until its time runs out.

Adding specification and desirable kit while not tricking about with the pricing too much is pretty much common practice among manufacturers when it comes to phasing out models, but Volvo has resisted the temptation to simply slap on a new set of alloys and tart up the interior.

Great attention to detail has been paid here and the result is a car which will, I predict, sell very well right up until its replacement arrives and which will also be in high demand as a second-hand prospect long after that.

The mid-size Volvo SUV/Crossover, call it what you will, was always a massive seller for the company and its popularity was based not only on the fact it is very obviously a premium product, but also on its essential traits of practicality and mechanical soundness.

On top of that, the availability of some of Volvo’s new generation engines has made it more appealing still.

On offer in the test car is the 2.4 litre D5 turbodiesel with a healthy 220bhp on offer and an 8.3 second 0-100kph time and a top speed of 210kph. The car is plenty fast enough for those of us who like such things, but yet not so scary as to drive away those that don’t. The engine is allied to a six speed Geartronic transmission and both work together well.

Another factor which combines here is the car’s on-road abilities. Aside from having all-wheel drive, giving the car that added level of capability (even if few owners will ever probably take it any further off-road than their cobble lock driveways) any SUV should have, it is an excellent driving companion. Handling and ride are top drawer and grip levels are such that the enthusiastic driver will be keen to explore the possibilities on offer.

Aside from these first-rate characteristics, the XC60 also has real visual presence — so much so, in fact, you’ll find yourself admiring it as much if not more than interested passers-by.

Although rear legroom is a little on the tight side — surprising, given the overall size of the thing — the XC60 is plenty roomy and it is also finished to a very high level of quality.

Indeed, the quality of the materials chosen and the execution of the décor is second to none and completed with typical Swedish aplomb.

It is practical too in terms of cargo space because the amount of room available when you lower the rear seats is vast.

I would quibble with the fact that lesser models have to make do with one of those absolutely useless tyre- mending kits while the SE Lux version we tried did at least actually have a bicycle tyre spare.

Elsewhere, the spec on the car is fairly impressive, with loads of leather and wood in the mix as well as a host of new technology driving aids — the adaptive cruise control was particularly notable in my view — which will keep it competitive for some time yet in what has become a very overcrowded market segment.

Even knowing that the end of the line is nigh for this model, I still loved every minute with the car — a lot more than I thought I would. Volvo has kept the XC60 very relevant and not just in a defibrillator sort of way — stand clear everyone — by shocking it back into existence.

No, what Volvo has done here has been very well thought out and executed and completely fitting with the company’s new and very ambitious business model going forward.

If this one is this good, then the next one should be extraordinary.

COLLEY’S VERDICT

The Car: Volvo XC60

The Cost: from €39,995-€62,496 as tested.

The Engine: An excellent example of the new breed of turbodiesels from the Swedes. Impressively all in-house too.

The Specification: Lower grade models might look a little thinly bestowed, but not the SE Lux.

The Overall Verdict: Probably should not be this good.

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