Volvo’s XC60 has been the staple diet of the middle classes since it’s introduction in 2008.
What’s the big deal? Why don’t we ever hear bad reports about the XC60? Is it that good? It was about time we found out for ourselves.
Volvo were kind enough to supply us with a Bursting Blue example of the new Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design Pro.
Before we get too carried away we have to warn you, this is a spoiler alert. The XC60 is magnificent!
This is probably the most technically advanced car we’ve driven but is also one the most complete, accomplished packages we’ve seen. All of the driver aides (we’ll come on to them later) and all of the very impressive technology that make the XC60 what it is, work seamlessly and in harmony with each other.
What is the XC60? This is Volvo’s second generation of their mid-size SUV. There is a range of engine options from 4 or 5 cylinder diesel engines to a turbocharged petrol and even a supercharged and turbocharger petrol with an electric engine. Very clever.
Our test car was the T8 twin engine, meaning it had a 2.0L petrol engine which is supercharged and turbocharged, producing 320bhp, powering the front wheels, with an 87bhp electric motor powering the rear wheels. Together they provide a combined power figure of 407bhp, enough to get you to 62mph in 5.3 seconds and on to 140mph.
How does it work? Well, for a start it’s a plug in hybrid. That means it has a battery like an electric vehicle, which can power the car on it’s own for up to 28 miles when fully charged.
When the charge had been used, of if you accelerate briskly, the petrol engine joins in, seamlessly, to provide the extra acceleration.
There are several driving modes to choose from:
Eco (the most frugal settings)
Dynamic (a balance between performance and economy, consider this ‘normal’ mode)
Off Road (at low speed, makes the XC60 a serious off road tool)
Individual (allows you to personalise settings such as suspension, steering, gearbox etc)
In Dynamic, the car is simply beautiful to drive. It’s very fast, very smooth and very easy to drive.
If you have charge in the battery, at low speeds, on part throttle, you are essentially driving a big electric vehicle. It’s whisper quiet and silky smooth.
If you need more power, or the stored charge in the battery has been depleted, the Volvo switches over to the petrol engine, not so you notice though. From here in, there’s a constant cycle of petrol engine and electric motor working together.
To give you an example; you pull up to a set of traffic lights and when they turn green, you leave the lights on electric power and after maybe 20 or so metres the petrol engine takes over. As you continued to drive, the petrol engine provided the driving force and a small amount of charge for the battery. When you brake, more electricity is generated through the braking force (regenerative braking) which comes into play when you get to the next set of traffic lights…….and so on. It sounds complicated and clunky but believe us when we say, it’s astounding. The transitions from electric to petrol are seamless and smooth and that petrol engine is a masterpiece.
Volvo’s petrol and diesel engines across the XC60 range share some components. They are all aluminium-alloy with a common bottom end and steel piston liners (the diesels have thicker liners). They have twin, belt-driven overhead camshafts with low-friction roller bearings. Petrol engines have overhead direct fuel injectors and diesels have common-rail fuel injectors each with its own pressure sensor, running at 2,500 Bar (36,260 psi).
The diesels are turbo charged with 2 turbo’s arranged sequentially. This means at low speeds, one turbo spools up first, but when you need more power and there’s more exhaust gas, the second turbo joins in. But that’s not all. There’s always an element of lag in a turbocharged engine, but Volvo have a clever system called PowerPulse to combat turbo lag. This is a system that injects compressed air into the first turbo to get it to spin when it would otherwise be dormant, like a kind of polite antilag. Very clever.
Our car was the T8 twin engine which is slightly different in that it has only one turbo but also has a supercharger. The supercharger provides low down torque and the turbo provides power higher up the rev range. Coupled with the electric motor, this all makes the XC60 a very quick car. When we say quick we mean it. Stamp on the accelerator and the XC60 T8 reaches 62mph as fast as a Subaru Impreza STi.
Air suspension on the T8 R Design ensures a beautiful ride, soaking up the bumps and potholes of our roads with ease. The T8 is also fitted with adaptable, electronic dampers which means the suspension can be easily adjusted for ride and comfort, but more impressive than that, it constantly adjusts to the driving conditions.
Inside the Volvo is an exquisite place, elegant and graceful. The materials are the best we’ve seen and the fit and finish is beyond compare. R Design features such luxuries as a perforated leather multi function steering wheel with gearshift paddles, and nubuck leather upholstery. The sports seats are very supportive and infinitely adjustable and there is plenty of room inside for 5 adults in comfort.
Our test car car had the Bowers & Wilkins sound system which was incredible. 15 speakers and 1100 watts of power worked for us.
Technology and safety are key attributes with the XC60. Volvo have been at the forefront of automotive safety systems for years, starting in 1959 with the three-point Safety Belt, for which it’s estimated that over one million lives have been saved as a result of Volvo Cars waiving its patent rights so everybody could benefit. In 1972 they invented the rearward-facing Child Safety Seat. In 1991 Volvo came up with SIPS Side Impact Protection System and there have been many more since then that have saved countless lives.
This tradition continues with the XC60 which is bristling with safety systems. We will say at this stage that this car feels more coordinated and harmonious than any other we’ve driven. Some of the safety features on this car can be found on other cars, but in our experience they don’t always gel together and seem to be almost fighting against each other. Here they work together to enhance your experience and keep you, and those around you, safe.
As an example, lane assist is available on other cars and it’s a great invention. In the Volvo the system seems to see more and be more aware. It corrects if it needs to but then stays in the middle of the lane instead of constantly correcting like in some other systems we’ve tested.
Some of the safety features you will find on the new XC60 are;
Steer Assist and Autobrake. Automatically provides steering input in an emergency to help avoid potential collisions. It even works in the dark. It can also activate the brakes if a collision with a car, pedestrian, large animal is imminent. It will also detect if you have turned in front of another vehicle, at a junction for example, and apply the brakes.
Driver Alert Control and Lane Keep. As we mentioned, it keeps you in your lane but also monitors your driving and alerts you if your driving behaviour is deteriorating.
Park Assist Pilot. You’ve seen this type of thing before. The car steers the car and parks it for you.
There are many others and for a full list of them have a click here.
Our Volvo XC60 was genuinely breathtaking. It is the most advanced and the closest to an autonomous vehicle we have ever driven. The XC60 can steer, brake, and see better than us and uses these attributes to keep us safe.
Volvo see this car as; ‘a clear step in our work towards fully autonomous cars’.
It was a real pleasure driving the new Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design Pro.
Now we see what all the fuss was about………