THE XC60 is what Volvo might call the miracle child. Born in a time of global strife (2008) to the most unlikely parents – Land Rover and Volvo (both owned at the time by Ford) – it grew up to become the Swedish firm’s biggest-selling model. In fact, it accounts for one-third of worldwide sales – and that figure is about to get even bigger. The heady mix of comfort, safety and genuine off-road capability made it a sure-fire winner, especially in the US, where European cars are highly desirable.
The introduction of the super-sexy R-Design spec in 2010 brought that level of lust here, and with it the realisation that it was a genuine contender to BMW, Mercedes and Audi, who dominated the luxury segment.
Unlike the previous generation, this sumptuous mid-sized SUV is based on the same platform as its stunning big brother, the XC90 (the last was based on the V60). Like its big brother, it’s the last word in design, space and practicality while also being the safest in its class with a host of driver aids and collision avoidance technology.
First, the design, which is nothing short of breath-taking, with obvious sartorial tips from XC Senior. The Thor hammer lights are the most obvious, but massive air intake scoops in the lower bumper, razor sharp creases in the doors which complement the sills and the deep rear roof spoiler nestled under snazzy LED light clusters give this second generation bus a real touch of class. Inside, it’s a similar affair, with an almost identical 90 cabin, the only difference here being the five instead of seven seats. Volvo’s new cockpit is amazing, and one never grows weary of its minimalist feel. The gargantuan iPad-like centre console which is home to phone, music, sat nav and drive mode tech is crystal-clear and simple to use.The only thing that tested my patients was the default position of drive move which switched back to Comfort every time one left the car. This meant you had to manually select Eco drive on every re-start.That said, the cream leather interiorand matching steering wheel had the most calming effect, and no matter how inclement the weather it was the most serene place on Earth.
Available in three specs – Momentum, Inscription and R-Design – the entry model has plenty of goodies as standard including 18-inch alloys, leather upholstery, cruise control, sat nav, rear parking sensors, Hill Descent, Hill Hold and LED lights.
There are two diesels, both 2.0-litre and generating 190 and 235bhp respectively, and one hybrid 2.0-litre petrol with a combined 407bhp. We tested the more powerful D5 oil-burner twinned with an eight-speed automatic gearbox in all-wheel-drive. Featuring Power Plus technology which minimises turbo lag, this hulking machine (clocking in at almost two tonnes) has an impressive 0-100kph in just over 8.2 seconds, but it’s much more suited to longer jaunts where it wafts along almost silently.Granted, the Audi Q5 is a little brisker with quicker gear kickdowns and the BMW handles better in corners, but the elegance of the Volvo both inside and out is unrivalled. It’s perfect for the family too, with oceans of room for a growing brood – there’s 505 litres of space, which almost trebles with the seats folded flat.
A two-sided mat acts as a perfect protector of the rear bumper and a high-opening tail gate means awkward loads are a doddle. The only down side is the price, which starts at a hefty €53,950 and can quickly head north of €70,000 with a handful of optional extras as our testcar had. Still, it’s a serious contender for Irish Car of the Year.