Volvo XC60: sleek, sophisticated and loaded with tech

Volvo's bold design change from recent years has paid off big time. Starting with the 2015 model of the XC90, Volvo has managed to dust off it's dull and boring image, and, brought new energy and confidence to brand. Volvo continues down that path with its refresh to the new XC60.

The XC60 is an incredibly important car for the Swedish brand. With premium rivals from Audi, BMW and Porsche muscling in on the segment, this second-generation XC60 needs to be pretty special.

Scandi chic

The XC60 is certainly a handsome-looking car, and we reckon Volvo has got the balance just right – it's not as brash as an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but it's sophisticated enough to stand out from the crowd, with some nice little touches like the 'Thor's Hammer' daytime running light arrangement.

Volvo clearly hasn't spent all of its design budget on the exterior – climb inside the XC60 and you're cocooned in a welcoming mix of matte woods and light colours. The quality of finish is superb.

The clean, minimalist look is thanks in part to the large 9-inch touchscreen interface in the middle of the dash. Rather than orienting the display horizontally, Volvo has opted for a vertical positioning specifically for navigation. 

The navigation system works a treat, but it's the overall user experience of the touchscreen interface that impresses. It's your window to pretty much every facet of the XC60's entertainment, convenience and safety functions, and it's very intuitive to use. 

The XC60 also offers plenty of connectivity. There's Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto options, and two USB connectors. You can also download apps directly to the car. About the only thing missing is a wireless charger for your phones.

There's a customizable 12.3-inch digital instrument display up front, which can also show the map, as well as road sign info and distance alerts. Our test car also came a heads-up display, which can project a similar array of information just below your line of sight; we found this incredibly useful, and rarely needed to glance down at the digital instrument display. 

Our XC60 was also equipped with a Bowers & Wilkins 15-speaker sound system that kicked out 1,100 watts. The sound quality is breathtaking – if you love classical music you'll love the fact that the system has been designed to replicate the sound as if you were sitting in the central seat of the Gothenburg Concert Hall, as well as a recording studio or stage.

World-class safety tech

Volvo built its reputation on safety, pioneering numerous features that are now standard on most cars, and it continues to burnish those credentials with the XC60. This is a car packed with features designed to keep you safe, including three technologies that are new for a mid-size SUV.

First up is Steer Assist, which automatically provides steering input in an emergency to help avoid a collision. Next is Oncoming Lane Mitigation, which is designed to prevent head-on collisions, while the third is the optional Blind Spot Information System with Steer Assist, which automatically applies the steering to bring the car back into its own lane and away from any vehicles that might be in your blind spot. Clever stuff. 

Our car also featured park assist which automatically parks the car and we tried it with parallel parking. It's a little unnerving at first, but once you've got over that initial fear and put your faith in the tech, it's brilliant. If you still prefer doing all of that manually, a 360 camera helps in reversing.

On the road

Every XC60 model comes with all-wheel drive, but our car was also equipped with electronically controlled air suspension – this enables automatic lowering at high speeds to improve aerodynamics, while the ground clearance can be increased by over 40mm when driving off-road. 

There are four selectable drive modes that adjust engine responsiveness and the height of the car, while individual settings allow you to tailor each element to your liking. Needless to say, the 320bhp/400 Nm supercharged engine is extremely responsive and fast- it goes from 0 to 100 in under 6 seconds. We do wish that it had a louder engine growl though.

Verdict

This latest XC60 embodies Volvo's core principles of practicality and safety, and builds on those with a sleek, sophisticated body that's complemented by a luxurious interior and advanced tech.

There's no denying that the Volvo XC60 is a hugely impressive SUV and those that follow Volvo would be lining up for it. But the challenge is convincing the other 99% of the market that the XC60 can compete, and even better other cars in this segment and for that, Volvo will need a very big push on marketing in the region.

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