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Driven: Volvo XC60 R-Design. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo XC60 R-Design
What do you get if you shrink the magnificent XC90? Our favourite mid-sized SUV, thatís what.


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Volvo XC60 R-Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: Lovely looks, typically majestic Volvo interior, generally high refinement, sharp handling as R-Design

Not so good: R-Design sports tyres make too much road noise

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo XC60 D4 R-Design AWD automatic
Price: XC60 range starts from £35,655; D4 R-Design AWD automatic from £39,705
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, eight-speed automatic
Body style: five-door SUV
CO2 emissions: 136g/km (£200 VED first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 54.3mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 8.4 seconds
Power: 190hp at 4,250rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

This is our new favourite mid-sized SUV. Like its big brother XC90 in the class above, the Mk2 Volvo XC60 is a sublime creation. But it's hard to say precisely what it is about these new SPA-platform Volvos that makes them so appealing. Your head tells you that, excellent though they are, they're not quite as good as the most highly polished of German opposition. And yet, if someone asks you for your recommendation for a good premium car, you'll say 'XC90' or 'V90', before you say 'Q7' or 'E-Class Estate'. Not so sure about the S90, though.

Nevertheless, the XC60 joins the club of 'first recommendations'. The only dilemma with this SUV is whether you have it in R-Design trim or not. This is something we've grappled with on other new-era Volvos, too. On the one hand, the R-Design spec undoubtedly bolsters the appearance of the model in question, with chunkier lower body-styling, nice big alloys and some absolutely gorgeous sports seats in the front. On the other, R-Design seems to harm these SPA Volvos' ride quality, while simultaneously ramping up tyre noise to reduce the rolling refinement.

And as these new Volvos seem to major on dignified cabin volumes and plush suspension first and foremost, then trying to firm them up with the R-Design suspension seems a bit daft. Except... this XC60 D4 R-Design is the first SPA Volvo we've tried that felt sharper to steer. There was lovely weight and detail at the steering wheel, there was improved lateral grip, there was a feeling that the big SUV would be a bit of a laugh on the right road, in the right conditions.

This is most welcome. But, even so, we're not about to call the XC60 R-Design a Macan-beater for dynamics. It's still just a little bit too aloof, a touch too safe, to call it genuinely exciting. Yet we adore it nonetheless. The XC60 has the same wonderful cabin as the XC90, dominated by that portrait Sensus touchscreen and a pack of TFT digital instrument cluster dials. Everything feels and looks marvellous, giving lie to the belief that every surface in a premium car simply must be soft-touch. There's acres of space in the back and a big boot at the rear, the practicality levels making it ideal, when all's said and done, for what it was intended for - use as a family motor.

Then, on the outside, the XC60 is just gorgeous. Shrinking the glorious XC90 was no bad move but a few detail design changes - like, for instance, the more V90-esque rear light clusters that bisect the bootlid of the XC60 - do enough to give the five-seater SUV an identity of its own. It's certainly the best-looking machine in this class, we reckon.

Aside from the slightly too rumbly tyres and the slightly too firm ride, neither of which we'd call exactly deal-breaking, everything else the Volvo XC60 does is sheer class. Those magnificent seats make covering long distance in the Swedish SUV a total doddle. The steering, so impressive for the handling, is nevertheless light and accurate when all you need to do is minutely adjust your line on a motorway. The visibility out is perfect in all directions. Everything you need, in terms of major controls and secondary equipment, is right where you could possibly want it to be. There's just a feelgood factor to driving one of these Scandinavian cars, like you're detoxing yourself of all poisons while relaxing in a health and sauna resort somewhere on the fringes of the Arctic Circle.

It's a cliched analogy, yes, but a sort of indefinable 'cool' factor is what makes these new Volvos so alluring, the XC60 included. It's not as invigorating to drive as the Jaguar F-Pace, BMW X3 or Porsche Macan. It doesn't quite have the badge-cred of the similarly talented Mercedes GLC. You could make the case that the Audi Q5 still has the edge on cabin finishing, although we'd disagree. And, if you like being different, the jagged appearance of the Lexus NX is going to stand out more than the Volvo's urbane lines.

Yet the XC60 gets extremely close to all of these SUVs in their strongest areas, without having some of their quirks - the Jaguar's sub-par interior finishing, the BMW's lack of visual drama, the Porsche's cramped rear cabin, the Audi's dullness, the Merc's wilfully arcane ergonomics, the Lexus' deeply dissatisfying hybrid drivetrain. The Swedish machine just blends a massive amount of all-round talent with a snifter of character to create the perfect mid-sized SUV package. The only reason we've docked it half a star is because we think you're better off going for comfort with the XC60 and ticking the 'Inscription' spec box when ordering. That way, you'll get an undisputed five-star machine.

Oh... and one final addendum: we happen to have a 66-plate version of the Mk1 Volvo XC60 on our driveway, a black D4 R-Design, of all things. The only difference being our own car is front-wheel drive, while our test Mk2 was all-wheel drive. That does make a difference to economy, with the newer XC60 turning in 34.7mpg on slow, local roads driving (with a best of 45mpg on a 50mph-limited route) while the older Volvo is showing about 48mpg (over many thousands of mainly motorway miles). But, thirst aside, we were clear: good as our trusty old original Volvo is, before too long the Mk1 XC60 D4 R-Design will be replaced by a Mk2 XC60 D4. Maybe, just maybe, though, not an R-Design...


Audi Q5: Like the Volvo, the Audi has just evolved into its second generation and it majors on comfort and interior luxury before any sort of handling acuity. We think the XC60 is slightly better.

BMW X3: BMW continues to focus on making its SUVs sharp to drive and, Porsche Macan aside, the all-new third-gen X3 is hard to beat for keen drivers. The Volvo looks nicer and has a better cabin, though.

Mercedes-Benz GLC: Considering Mercedes never sold the GLK predecessor here in the UK, the GLC is a storming product that we prefer to the Audi and BMW rivals. But we'd still go for the Volvo.

Matt Robinson - 17 Aug 2017    - Volvo road tests
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2017 Volvo XC60 drive. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo XC60 drive. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo XC60 drive. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo XC60 drive. Image by Volvo.2017 Volvo XC60 drive. Image by Volvo.


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