Motoring Review - Volvo XC60
PUBLISHED: 15:45 30 April 2010 | UPDATED: 15:46 20 February 2013
Let me start this review by making two stereotypical statements: firstly, men love gadgets and secondly, Volvos are synonymous with safety.
Both statements bring me onto the new Volvo XC60. I have to confess that I am a big fan of Volvos, so much so that I have owned two within the last six years. So I will try my best not to appear biased.
The XC60 is to all intents and purposes the junior version of the popular XC90. The recently launched crossover vehicle I was driving - the 2.4D SE Lux Auto model - is close to the top of the range model and comes in at just under 30,000 on the road.
The minute I was shown the car, which was kindly supplied by Stratstone of Derby, I felt like the proverbial child in a sweet shop. It was gadget heaven. The first thing I learned was that it had been fitted with the world's first City Safety technology as standard. This means if you are travelling at anything less than nine miles an hour, it is physically impossible to crash the car. A laser-based sensor automatically brakes when the car approaches anything below that speed and brings the car to a standstill. Although this was amazingly reassuring, it did immediately make me wonder how I could go about testing it.
So my partner and I took the car out onto the roads of the Peak District to give the XC60 a chance to shine, the perfect testing ground for this all-wheel drive crossover vehicle. As a keen cyclist I couldn't ignore the opportunity to pack my bike into the car, so when we reached Ashbourne I told my partner this was her opportunity to give the car a 'going over' while I followed on two wheels. This was a baptism of fire for her as I knew she would be reluctant to drive such a big car on such narrow winding roads.
An hour and a quarter later, I rolled into Buxton dishevelled and gasping for breath, to find her sitting in a quaint coffee shop coolly supping her latte. She'd thoroughly enjoyed the experience and told me that, thanks to the all wheel drive, she had found the car easy to drive. I was amazed - this was possibly its greatest endorsement yet! To further compound things, the front and rear parking sensors meant she had easily parked the car into a tight space - something which, she admits herself, is her Achilles heel.
It was now my turn. My first impression was that the 2.4 diesel engine was a little sluggish but after a few minutes I found this strangely reassuring. To be honest, a lack of speed is synonymous with Volvos - they are heavy cars so you accept that acceleration is not going to be a strong point. Once you acknowledge that, you soon settle into relaxed mode, making this one of the most comfortable cars to drive. The automatic gearbox with its smooth changes enhanced this feeling and the all wheel drive gave fantastic road holding for such a big car.
Then I decided to test some of the gadgets. Variable cruise control allows you to maintain the same distance between yourself and the car in front, with the option of varying the distance. This was enlightening if a little unnerving. To have your feet off the pedals whilst at 50mph along a country road and feel the car braking was a strange sensation and took some getting used to. A light that warns if something is in your blind spot allowed for safe overtaking manoeuvres when the rare opportunity arose on the winding roads. And if that isn't enough to ensure that you are concentrating, an alarm sounds when you veer across the road, also preventing you from falling asleep at the wheel. This was most certainly a Health and Safety Officer's dream car!
Driving along the narrow roads of the Peak District provided the perfect opportunity to test the XC60's versatility and drive. It passed with flying colours. Its size could have caused problems on these roads, but it is remarkably nimble and was able to negotiate bends without a moment's hesitation. It is testament to the 2.4 litre diesel engine that we remained unflustered and were able to cruise along with an equally impressive fuel consumption. My partner said it was a dream to drive and she didn't find its size in anyway intimidating - glowing praise indeed.
It's a fantastically versatile car, a roomy five-seater for the family or, for someone like me, perfect for packing the bike with the seats folded down and still leaving extra storage space. To return to my opening statements, the XC60 is both full of useful gadgets and as safe as houses (perhaps not the best comparison to make at the moment). To borrow another brand's slogan, the Volvo is reassuringly expensive.