Volvo XC60 an excellent mid-range SUV

VOLVO pulled off the automotive public relations coup of the decade last month, when it announced that it would stop making diesel and petrol engines from 2019.

Volvo XC60 an excellent mid-range SUV

The company stole a march on every one of its manufacturing rivals and, more pertinently, its rivals among the exclusive band premium car-makers, such as Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar/Land Rover, and Audi.

In announcing that it was ‘going green’, Volvo assumed the moral high ground on industry efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

It was a simple and effective ploy, which caught everyone else off-guard and, of course, it was also a clever smoke-and-mirrors job that does not, as so many observers seem to believe, spell the end of the internal combustion engine.

What Volvo will actually be doing is making hybrid versions of their existing diesel and petrol engines, along with electric-only options.

But, with the confidence generated by the investment made in the Swedish outfit by the Chinese, Volvo was unafraid to put itself out there, not only as saviours of the planet, but front and centre of the latest technological era in the history of the car industry.

The bottomless pit of cash made available to it, as a result of its purchase by the Geely Corporation, has not only allowed Volvo to start making great cars again — as evidenced by the XC90 and the S and V90 model ranges — but has moved it into a new realm of hi-tech endeavour to allow the company achieve an unparalleled market reach.

The arrival of this week’s tester, the new XC60, mid-range SUV, will considerably assist these ambitions.

This time last year, we drove what was effectively the run-out model of the previous Volvo XC60, and so impressed were we with what was an end-of-the-line SUV that we predicted that the next version would be especially spectacular. It is.

I was as shocked as anyone when, two years ago, I selected the XC90 as Examiner Motoring’s car of the year. It was an unexpected, but deserving, result. Volvo wisely used the Chinese investment money to produce a car that, in time to come, will be seen as a landmark in the company’s history.

Never before had they had access to such money, and boy did they make good use of it. The XC90 pulled the company from near-oblivion to being a top-end premium manufacturer.

From wondering if it had any future to duking it out with the big boys was a pretty impressive leap.

Then, they rattled more cages, with the S and V90 models, and now they have underlined their credentials as a player by making the XC60 into one of the most desirable of mid-range SUVs.

Certainly, the competition is stiff, but Volvo has assuredly done enough to convert newcomers and appease lifers dedicated to their products.

We tested the D4 Momentum version of the car, which means that it is a regular, front-wheel drive machine — albeit with the addition of hill-start assist and hill descent-control, which add to the all-round ease of use.

The look of the car — given the success of its big brother — is of a scaled-down XC90 and that is no bad thing. It still exudes the necessary, attractive solidity, but sheds a lot of the bulk of the sever-seater, without losing much practicality.

The interior is appealing, Swedish minimalist design and while it might take a little time to appreciate the breath of capability of some of the functions, the upright, nine-inch touchscreen is a model of efficiency and user-friendliness.

The interior build-quality is top-class. The seating, once you’ve mastered its many adjustment settings, is supremely comfortable.

Built on the same platform as the XC90 — a positive start — the XC60 has been designed to appeal to as broad a church as possible and so it is more comfort-oriented than it is sporty.

That said, you have a choice of suspension settings that will cope with most road surfaces. Here in Ireland, that is a very good thing.

It is best to juggle those settings depending on the type of road. Thus, the ‘comfort’ setting will cope admirably with highway driving and cosset driver and passengers over long journeys.

Stray onto B-road territory, however, and ‘comfort’ won’t really do it, unless you’re happy with a setting that allows the car to wallow around the place and with an understeer that will not appeal to press-on types. Toggle up to the ‘Dynamic’ setting, though, and all that unpleasant vagueness disappears.

Many Volvo customers will not buy the car for its on-road dynamism, so the subtlety of this set-up will be lost on them. But, for the discerning pilot, having the option to switch the settings around will add greatly to the experience.

This being a Volvo, the level of safety kit is very impressive and some of the accident-prevention systems are inspiring, although some of them are a little too sensitive for my liking.

We are familiar with the (soon-to-be-defunct) 187 bhp D4 engine, which is very useable, with useful poke and decent economy. The eight-speed auto gearbox is also very accommodating.

So, if you needed further evidence that Volvo is putting the squeeze on the premium, mid-sized SUV segment, look no further. This car is proof positive of malicious intent on behalf of the Swedes. They are taking the market by the throat and giving it a good roistering.

And their recent hijacking of the green argument is a fine illustration of how sassy they’re feeling right now.

Colley’s VERDICT 

The Cost: €53,450-€60,045 as tested.

The Engine: The D4 two litre turbodiesel, which is decently quick and pretty economic too (5.3 l/100 km or 53.3 mpg).

The Specification: Surprisingly comprehensive.

The Overall Verdict: The opposition are looking over their shoulders.

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