16 Jan 2014

2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux Review

Matt Hubbard reviews the Volvo XC60.

2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

Not many years ago if you wanted to go off-road you would buy a 4x4, which would invariably be a Land Rover, Mercedes, Toyota or Mitsubishi.  Then in 2002 Volvo brought us the XC90 which was a proper off roader.  It joined the canon of 4x4s and would go on to be Volvo's best selling car, because it was very good.

At some point the market for 4x4s diversified and the term SUV was imported into the UK from the US.  The market wanted efficiency, cheaper running costs and to sit high up so they could see over the heads of mere mortals in their normal cars.

Volvo brought out the XC60 in 2008.  It was based on the V60 which itself was based on the same platform that also formed the basis of the Landrover Freelander 2 and Ford Mondeo.  The XC60 looks a bit like the Ford Kuga, but they aren't related in any way.  The Kuga is based on the same platform as the new Volvo V40.

The V60 and XC60 both have a 277cm wheelbase and a width of 186cm but at 171cm the XC60 is 23cm taller than the V60.  Thus, customer's desire to see over the heads of drivers of normal cars is achieved.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

SUVs are now a hugely important product for car manufacturers, and not just for the ability to drive across a field, but for height, road presence and internal space.  Car manufacturers introduced MPVs in order to accommodate the need for more room but MPVs aren't cool.  SUVs are cool.  Volvo knows this - hence the XC60 and XC90.

The XC60 is an efficient car but it is also 200kg heavier than the V60 so needs powerful engines to tug it along.  Thus the 136bhp D3 diesel (which I tested in a Volvo V60) is not included in the range.  You can buy your XC60 with a D4, D5 or T6 engine.  The lowest bhp is the 181bhp D4.  The test car had the D5 with 215bhp and 324lb ft of torque.

Another sop to modern customer's needs (and the need to hike up the price) is complicated model designations and options.  The test car was an SE Lux with Inscription and Driver Assist options, which I described in detail in my Initial Impressions article.

Introductions over and on to the car itself.

The styling is thoroughly SUV.  Standard Volvo front end with a wide grille and lights that wrap around to the wings, and DRLs underneath.  The XC60 eschews the XC90's simple, muscular styling and adopts a crease atop the flanks and under the shoulder line in order, presumably, to reduce the slab sided appearance that is a product of an SUV's height.

There is also a chrome strip running along the bottom of the doors which serves a similar purpose.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

The rear end is handsomely finished with lights running from the roof to the shoulders in typical Volvo style.

The overall impression is dominantly one of SUV that tries not to look too imposing.

Access all round is good with a large boot opening and a seat height that allows you to plonk, rather than climb, in.

The ground clearance is good with a 23cm ground clearance and short overhangs.  You can buy a two wheel drive XC60 but this one had four wheel drive - an instant traction Haldex system which is front wheel drive until the wheels slip and the rear wheels enter the fray.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

The interior is designed and trimmed in typical Volvo style - simple, functional but also extremely comfortable.  There are few modern cars at a similar price point with interiors as good as Volvo's.

The seats (part of the £2,500 Inscription option) are ├╝ber supportive and comfortable.  The leather is lovely and soft to the touch and the fixed head rests look good and are designed to support drivers of any height in a whiplash incident.

You sit high up, a very different seating position to the V60.  The legs dangle down to the pedals and, using the electrically adjustable seats (lumbar support is also electrically adjustable), any driver can find a driving position to suit.  The steering wheel is adjustable for reach and height.

Visibility is great all round with A-pillars designed not to impede the driver's view as well as strength.  You can also see over your shoulder well. The rear windows do narrow to a certain extent but not as much as in, say an Infiniti QX70.

The interior is spacious although the rear seat occupants don't have an enormous amount of leg room.  A 6 footer can sit in the rear behind another 6 footer but with not much knee room.

The boot is enormous with a flat floor and a real, actual spare tyre under the floor - unusual in this day and age.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

The instrumentation and interior layout is pretty much the same as in the V60.  The instrument binnacle is clarity itself with a large central, digital speedo and digital rev counter around that.  Engine temperature and fuel, both digital, sit ether side.  You can also scroll through several other readouts, via the left stalk, which cover mpg, average speed etc.

Incidentally the XC60 D5 is meant to do 44.1mpg.  Over a week of varying trips I averaged 32.5 mpg.  This compares well with a week in an XC90, with the same engine and gearbox, which did 21 mpg.

The central dash houses a touchscreen with satnav, media and various car options.  The satnav works as well as a TomTom (I tested them side by side) but the traffic management system sometimes goes a bit awry.

The media system includes DAB digital radio, FM, CD and either bluetooth or cable link to your smartphone.  The sound quality is fantastic and the controls uncomplicated.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

Various other options include lighting, locking, climate and preferences.  You can, for example, set the heated seats, heated windscreen and heated steering wheel to all come on the moment the car is started in cold conditions.

Climate functions can also be controlled via a series of sensibly laid out buttons fore of the gear lever.

The materials used in the cabin are all pretty classy.  There's no cheap plastic.  The dash top is leather, as part of the Inscription package.  Even if you don't tick the Inscription option box the plastic used is soft and squishy.

The gearbox in the test car was a 6-speed automatic with fully automatic or manual controls, and a sports mode.  Unlike the V60 you get rather snazzy aluminium, wheel mounted paddles.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

The engine sounds good for a diesel.  It's a 5-cylinder and is one of the least clattery units I've heard.  At full bore it sounds pretty meaty.

The drivetrain package - 2.4 litre, 215bhp D5 engine and 6-speed Geartronic gearbox - is almost perfect for the job.  You never feel the car has changed gear too early or too soon.  A light touch of the throttle instigates kick-down.

The engine has plenty of oomph from very low revs with only a small amount of hesitation from a standstill whilst waiting for the turbo to kick in.  It's quite a fast car, with 0-60mph taking 7.8 seconds.  For what it is you never find yourself wanting for more.

It's also a smooth engine with no vibrations transferring into the cabin.

As mentioned the gearbox is very good.  You rarely need to use the paddles.  The sport mode is a little superfluous.  When engaged it holds on to the revs for too long.  The sheer torque of the engine means standard mode is perfectly fine for any occasion other than racing hot hatches away from the lights.

Having said that, the driving experience is one of comfort and insulation rather than sportiness.  Cocooned in a comfortable cabin the occupants don't hear or feel much in the way of what's going on outside.  The steering is a touch too over-assisted for my liking and feedback lacks somewhat - but that's what you get in an SUV.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

Turn in is good and roll is reasonably limited.  Traction is good too but push too hard and understeer is the order of the day.

The car was fitted with adaptive cruise control as part of the £1,900 Driver Support pack.  In other Volvos I've driven this works brilliantly but in the test car it malfunctioned on a number of occasions. I put this down to filth from the winter roads blocking the sensor.  If you keep your finger on the cruise button for two seconds it converts into normal cruise control.

Driver Support also adds several safety features the most useful of which are blind spot assist and lane departure, and possibly also city assist, which brakes the car automatically in the event of an impending low speed collision.

Because this is a Volvo the lights are brilliant.  At night the road ahead is lit with a clear, bright pool.  Set the light switch to Auto and it'll shine it's main beam (or high beam as Volvo calls it) far and wide, and not dazzle other drivers.  I drove 110 miles one evening in the dark and left in on auto mode the whole time.  It moves the lights and creates shade in the spaces occupied by other vehicles - and frantically moves around on busy roads.

The internal lighting is also excellent and can be tuned to the driver's taste in terms of what comes on and for how long.

For the average driver, and family, the XC60 delivers what they need.  The Volvo brand has moved upwards over recent years, almost into the premium league (prices also reflect this) and it's got plenty of space, practicality and cachet.  The engine and gearbox are superb and the interior fabulous.  The only limiting factor is the rear leg room.

The CO2 output of 169 g/km isn't bad for an SUV and will help keep the tax bills down, which is all important in this sector.
2014 Volvo XC60 D5 SE Lux

I personally prefer the V60 as a car and the XC90 as an SUV.  The XC60 sits between the two and you can't ignore the fact it has more space than a V60 but returns at least 10 mpg more than an equivalent XC90.

In terms of competition the BMW X3 is similar in terms of pricing and probably more so in terms of brand cachet.  But the XC60 is a less brash affair.

You can buy a base model XC60 for £30k but this one cost £40k - plus £5k worth of options.  Volvo is confident it can pitch its product in the premium sector and it has good reason to.  Volvo's attractions of comfort, safety, practicality and convenience are all covered in the XC60, but at that price you'd have to think seriously when choosing one over an Audi or BMW.

Overall I liked the XC60 a lot.  It delivers almost everything required of it in an appealing package.

Stats: 


Price - £40,230
Engine - 2.4 litre, 5-cylinder, turbocharged, diesel
Transmission - 6-speed automatic
0-60mph - 7.8 seconds
Top speed - 127 mph
Power - 215 bhp
Torque - 324 lb ft
Economy - 44.1 mpg
CO2 - 169 g/km
Kerb weight - 1,864 kg

Review by Matt Hubbard