No other premium segment is as teeming and full as the mid-size SUV segment. Earlier dominated by the likes of Audi Q5 and BMW X3, the segment has countersigned a lot of action in the last couple of years, thanks to the ever-practical Mercedes GLC and the stunning Jaguar F-Pace. Now, it’s bound to be even more difficult for those looking to buy a mid-size SUV as Volvo, too, have come up with an all-new model.
The car in question is the 2017 XC60. Now in its second generation, the XC60 is entirely new as it’s based on Volvo’s SPA (Scalable Product Architecture) platform. The drivetrain is all-new as well and so is the cabin and most of what’s on the equipment list.
Not too big, nor too small, the XC60 is the SUV sweet spot in Volvo’s range, however, is it good enough to keep up with the more established rivals?
The new XC60 has been conceived using the same design language as the XC90, the S90 and more recently, the V90. Naturally, it has the same basic design cues – clean, simple lines and striking details – as these other models. That said, the XC60 has a few distinctive bits.
The now familiar T-shaped daytime running lights in the headlamps, for instance, extend right to the edge of the front grille. The doors also have a heavily sculpted lower section, while the pronounced ridge that runs from above the rear door handle helps give the XC60 a broader stance. Also, the vertically stacked taillights seem to have been inspired by the old car, but they are significantly sharper looking and superbly detailed. All in all, the new XC60 expresses a lot through its design and despite the same design theme as other Volvos; it is distinct and looks different compared to the bigger XC90.
Like the exterior, the interior has been thoroughly refreshed and brought in line to current Volvo standards. The slab-like dash and the beige interior of the old car have made way for a far sportier cabin finished in some nice-looking brushed metal inserts and an attractive layout. Volvo has also used high grade leather, dull wood and chrome bits for the clean and rather cool looking dashboard. The lack of buttons and plenty of horizontal surfacing makes the whole dash clutter-free. The touchscreen display measures in at 9-inches and has the sort of functionality that’s like a tablet or an Apple device. Nearly all of the XC60’s functions can be engaged via the large touchscreen and while the display is slick and responds really well, we are not sure if it’s the most convenient way especially on the move. As for the quality, the XC60 is well built and is right up there with the leaders but some of the interior bits could be better finished – the main volume controller and the engine start/stop knob feel a little flimsy.
The XC60 has one of the best front seats (in terms of support) that we have experienced in a long time. They are large and adequately wide with just the right amount of contour and perfect cushioning. Also, it’s easy to find a suitable driving position in thanks to a plethora of steering and seat adjustment.
Similarly, the rear legroom is ample and the back seats are extremely supportive and leave little room for complaints – the backrest angle is near perfect and its nicely contoured for shoulder support. The only downside, as we see it, is the slightly less under-thigh support and the helmed in feeling that one may get from the small rear windows and the narrow ingress.
Volvo has truly gone to town with features and safety equipment. You get panoramic sunroof, head-up display, leather seats, paddle shifters, a sweet sounding Bowers and Wilkins audio system, 9-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, ambient lighting and lots more. The XC60 even gets heated and cooled front seats with massage function, heated rear seats and heated steering wheel, air suspension all-round and a plethora of driving assists including lane-keep assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and blind-spot assist. We tried out the lane-keep assist on the fast and windy ECR (East Coast Road) in Chennai and found the system to be fairly effective as long as the roads were properly marked.
Under the muscular hood of the XC90 rests Volvo’s 2-litre, four-cylinder diesel motor that makes a solid 235bhp and 480Nm of torque. Thanks to the class-leading output, the XC60 feels brisk from the word go. On part throttle, the car is quick to react both in the city and at higher speeds thanks to the flat torque spread and a quick 8-speed automatic. If anything, this engine behaves its best on part throttle wherein it can ride the wave of torque and allow the gearbox to upshift early. The midrange pull is particularly strong and even at the top-end, this motor remains composed. The overall refinement levels, in fact, are quite high with little in terms of engine and road noise entering the cabin at normal speeds.
The highlight of the XC60’s running gear is the electronically controlled air suspension with adaptive dampers. It not only constantly adapts to the road conditions but offers a whole lot more. For instance, it will keep the car at a constant height and level, irrespective of the passenger or luggage load. What’s more, when the engine is turned off, it will lower the car by 40mm for easy exit or entry. Finally, it will lower the car to its lowest setting at high speeds for better stability and increase the ground clearance by up to 40mm in Off-Road driving mode. Speaking of driving modes, the XC60 has five of them – Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-Road and Individual. Unsurprisingly, the Volvo feels the calmest in Eco, with its throttle response feeling mushy and the gearbox upshifting early. Switch to Dynamic and you get a steering that’s noticeably heavier and a gearbox that hangs onto lower gears and upshifts over 4,500rpm. That being said, we found the XC60 to be the most intuitive in Individual mode as it allows the driver to alter the steering, gearbox, brakes and the suspension separately to suit their mood.
The old XC60 wasn’t all that great dynamically but this 2017 model is a lot better. First of all, the steering is no longer vague off-center and it weighs up nicely as you up the pace – it’s fairly direct and heavy (though not to the point that its cumbersome) in Dynamic, giving you plenty of confidence through high speed corners. The ride quality, too, has improved with the 2017 model exhibiting plenty of composure over a few bad sections that we managed to find on our test route. Sure, you do hear the suspension working but there is hardly any lateral movement or unsettling jolts. On the highway, the XC60 remains composed with just a hint of up and down movement. Overall, it’s a great long distance car, one that will cover up kilometers for hours without leaving the occupants fatigued.
So is the 2017 Volvo XC60 good enough to compete with its rivals with more popular badges? It certainly is. As a premium mid-size SUV it nails the brief quite nicely, featuring a refined and powerful motor, well sorted dynamics and an exquisite cabin that’s loaded to the roofline. Although what sets it apart from the rest is its full suite of active features and that sense of individuality you get from driving a Volvo. So if you are in the market for a mid-size SUV that’s a little out there, the XC60 is worthy choice, if you can get around Volvo’s sparse dealer network, that is.
Pictures By Kapil Angane