First Drive: New Volvo XC60 SUV is fun to drive
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Swedish luxury car brand Volvo’s new XC60 is a mid-size luxury SUV that does almost everything right.

But safety is first for Volvo and the brand is known for that the world over.

After driving the four-wheel drive XC60 extensively on highways, now I can tell why this car has been the largest selling model with nearly a million units sold globally as well as in India.

In fact, it makes up almost a third of Volvo’s total sales in this competitive luxury car market in the country, dominated by German brand Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and British Jaguar Land Rover.

The new car is designed to provide a wonderful driving experience with its enhanced technology, luxurious comfort and robust preventive and protective safety features.

While driving the XC60 on the highway the car immediately braked automatically with noise to even alert me when it came close to a speeding car. It also braked while passing through a thick tree shadows on the road at noon, which it mistook for an obstacle through the ghats through the Sahyadri jungle in Maharashtra and Karnataka borders. That is safety for you.

The other commendable and the most notable safety features and assistance systems are front, side and curtain airbags, collision mitigation support at the front and rear, emergency steering assist, and lane keeping assist.

The second generation XC60 is marginally larger than the model it replaces but it is not an imposing SUV. It is a city-friendly car to drive around with ease.

For the time being, the XC60 is available with a single engine option and in a single fully-loaded version.

The new XC60 is powered by Volvo’s modular 2.0-litre diesel engine, albeit in the higher of its states of tune. In D5 form as on the XC60, the engine makes a solid 235hp and 480Nm of torque, giving this version a heads-up over rivals in the class.

The engines comes mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that channels power to all four wheels. This motor performs effortlessly and builds speed in a rather athletic manner.

Interestingly, all throughout the rev range, there is always adequate torque on tap and the punch at mid revs especially is very strong. Undoubtedly, this engine is very smooth and sound levels inside the cabin are really low. Even when the engine is spun faster, it still does not lose its refined nature. The eight-speed gearbox is quick to respond and shifts seamlessly. And there are paddle shifters to change gears manually too.

For the Indian market, the new XC60 comes with four-corner air suspension as standard, and the damping characteristics can be adjusted too. The suspension raises and lowers itself based on the driving modes and the ride firmness too varies noticeably. The car offers Eco, Comfort, Off-road, Dynamic and Individual modes to experience a range of driving pleasures depending on the terrain.

Typically, like cars with air-suspension, the XC60 tends to float a bit over wavy roads, but bump absorption is very impressive. Stability at speeds is excellent and it feels quite agile and eager to change direction.

The steering is feather light but it is easy practically on all the driving modes.

Although, I did not take the XC60 for proper off-roading adventure, its 223mm of ground clearance (with the suspension at full extension) and all-wheel drive promises to tackle mild trails without any hassle.

Like the larger Volvo S90 sedan and Volvo XC90 SUV, the XC60 also is built on the Scalable Product Architecture - a modular platform that allows Volvo's engineers and designers to customize the dimensions of the car to suit various body-styles.

The distance between the front axle and the dashboard remains unchanged on all SPA cars though and this works in the XC60's favour by giving it proportions appropriate for a premium crossover. Compared to its highly successful predecessor, the new XC60 is 44mm longer, 11mm wider and 14mm shorter and the result is a crossover that has an athletic stance and looks very proportionate.

Inside, the XC60 bowls you over with the luxury it offers, despite strong resemblance to other Volvo cabins. The all-black dashboard finished in soft-touch plastics, replete with unlacquered wood trimmings, looks exquisite and the front seats that come draped in Nappa leather are supremely comfortable.

Several bits like the buttons and knobs are carried over from the XC90, so quality levels are up there with cars even higher up the price ladder. Like the newer Volvos, the 9.0-inch centre touchscreen is your go-to control for most settings and it has been tweaked for better usability.

In fact, Volvo has gone all out with good equipment. Apart from little things like a floor-mounted accelerator pedal and auto hold function, the XC60 comes with cooled/ heated front seats that also get a massage function (a segment first), head-up display, a brilliant Bowers and Wilkins sound system, a panoramic sunroof and the steering-mounted paddleshifters.

The car also offers driving aids like a 360-degree camera, semi-automatic parking, blind-spot assist and lane departure warning. Importantly, the XC60 is the latest Volvo to feature radar-based safety aids like adaptive cruise control that can automatically adjust speed depending on the speed of the vehicle ahead.

The rear seats are also very comfortable, with ample support for the lower back and thighs. There is good amount of legroom and adequate headroom too. Some buyers may be disappointed to note that there is no massage or cooling function for the rear seat but the seats can be heated – helpful in harsh North Indian winters.

Should I buy one?

This new XC60 SUV is fun, luxury and practical, having all the right ingredients. It is not only smart-looking, beautifully turned-out on the inside but it also comes loaded with equipment.

The car scores well on comfort and is quite pleasant to drive too. It strikes a great balance between sportiness and comfort, and perhaps this balance will influence the buying decision. With a price tag of Rs 59.90 lakh at pan-India showroom, the new XC60 could be the best bet in the mid-size luxury SUV segment in the Indian market.

michaelgonsalves@mydigitalfc.com

Columnist: 
Michael Gonsalves