It’s Europe’s best selling SUV, which isn’t surprising when you consider it’s bigger brother is one of the best selling SUVs ever.  But with an increasing weight behind moving to greener technologies, the Volvo XC60 is yet to adopt the full range of Volvo’s Drive-E engines.  Ahead of the full upgrade to new tech – only scheduled for the next gen XC60 – we got to grips with one of the current crop, in D5 AWD format.

 

When the Drive-E engines take over fully in the next generation Volvo XC60, the diesel mill found in this Volvo XC60 D5 AWD will be one of the most noticeable departures.  Where Drive-E engines are all 2-litre in displacement and 4-cylinder in configuration, the current D5 boasts a 2.4-litre inline 5-cylinder motor.

 

Although the new motors are incredibly refined, the smoothness of the 5-pot is impossible to ignore.  Outputs of 162kW and 440Nm are delivered in the smoothest of fashions and accompanied by arguably one of the best soundtracks to support a diesel engine.  But of course the 5-pot is compromised due to its higher displacement and configuration, and achieved consumption figures of 8l/100km do little to support the continuation of such a motor.

 

It’s a pity – it really does sound spectacular, although the diesel’s low rev cut off point starves you of the revs required to really get a 5-cylinder howling, and so you’re perennially left chasing a 6000rpm mark that doesn’t materialise.

 

Despite the AWD moniker, the Volvo XC60 D5 AWD makes use of a front-wheel drive based Haldex-drive system to power the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission.  Should slippage occur at the front, the Haldex coupling engages the rear wheels for additional grip.  It’s not a genuine AWD system, but it helps improve economy figures somewhat.

 

The 6-speed transmission, despite its age, is still half decent.  It lags behind the latest crop of 7-, 8-, and 9-speed autos from the likes of ZF, and it’s definitely a far cry from any dual-clutch unit – but as far as standard slush-boxes go, I’ve driven far worse.  The ‘box slips from one gear to the next without much fuss or eventfulness, and the shifts themselves aren’t what I’d deem lighting quick, or even quick for that matter.

 

But in the area of gear selection its spot on, picking out the right gear, 2 or 3 ratios down from current without erring in the wrong one for even a moment.  Slap the gear lever sideways and into Sport, with the option to shift manually via up/down nudges of the stick (there are no paddles unless you opt for the R-Design package) and the Volvo XC60 cranks up the ferocity a touch with marginally quicker shifts and a more aggressive preemption for downshifts.

 

Weight is the Volvo XC60’s enemy though – Sport mode hardly feels exciting thanks to the 1796kg kerb weight which puts a damper on the 162kW on offer.  The suspension does well to cope with the heft of it all though, but the XC60 never feels like a ballet dancer, ready to leap frivolously across the roadway.

 

It feels heavy set and planted, resting back on its haunches rather than up on its toes.  The feeling of solidity this affords is comforting on the open road, and more so on dirt roads where the rapid-response damping soaks up the bulk of the vibrations, whilst the springs cushion the larger blows.  Truth told, the Volvo XC60 feels far more agile and compliant than its mass might suggest, and at a push it can even execute some impressive cornering.

 

It’ll never be sprightly, but it is a comfortable and lush place to be sat in, on any road surface, at any speed.  It would seem as if a massive chunk of the mass n the Volvo XC60 comes from extensive amounts of sound deadening within the cabin – insulation is at a very premium level.  Road and wind noise are completely absent, and even on rough, corrugated dirt roads the dash and interior panels refuse to rattle.  There’s real substance to every panel inside the cabin, and even though not everything is leather clad or soft-touch, even the standard plastic feels of a high quality.

 

 

The interior, despite its quality, has aged tremendously since the Volvo XC60 debuted 6 years ago in SA.  The dash and centre console design feels entirely one dimensional and long in the tooth – not helped by the fact that there’s an actual telephone dial pad present, with all other infotainment buttons orientated around it.  When was the last time you saw one of those?

 

The buttons are awkwardly placed and difficult to negotiate when driving, so it’s just as well all functions – media, Bluetooth audio, telephone, radio, and navigation – can be controlled via the steering wheel satellite controls.  Also controllable via the wheel, the standard cruise control and onboard computer and digital instrument cluster, the latter of which features a vast array of functions including three themes for Eco, Performance, and Elegance – each displaying relevant information and colour highlights for that driving style.

 

Elsewhere in the interior, the Volvo XC60 shares the same attention to detail that’s endeared its bigger sibling, the XC90, to us.  The frameless rear view mirror, for example, adds a true touch of elegance, as do the active bending bi-xenon headlamps that swivel with the angle of steering input.

 

Standard kit levels are impressive too, the Volvo XC60 boasting cruise control, standard leather upholstery, power-operated tailgate, electric front seats with memory function, dual-zone climate control, and rear parking sensors.  The additional Techno Pack (R27 000) fitted to our test unit add in heated front seats – which made the recent cold front a bit more bearable – navigation with traffic monitoring, keyless entry and start, front parking sensors, and a rear view camera.

 

Pricing in at R704 475 as tested, it’s a fair sum of money – but the Volvo XC60 is a substantial piece of machinery.  Capacious, capable, and loaded with standard features, not to mention Volvo’s penchant for 5-star Euro NCAP ratings – the only real flaw is the dated interior.  The outdated, slightly thirsty five cylinder engine could be seen by some as a fault, but it adds a layer of character devoid from most of the cookie-cutter SUV’s on the market today.

 

That character, the attention to detail, and the massive levels of refinement prove the Volvo XC60 is more than just a handsome face – it’s one of the best all-rounder SUV’s the marketplace has to offer.

 

Volvo, Volvo XC60, XC60, D5, Inscription, Torquing Cars

Photos: Roarke Bouffe, Lance Humphrey

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