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Safety first. Image by Jonathan Bushell.

Safety first
Volvo joins the compact SUV market with the XC60, and the Swedish carmaker's crossover is a very safe buy.

   



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| First Drive | Valencia, Spain | Volvo XC60 |

Cities are dangerous places, especially for us car drivers. There are distractions everywhere, with low speed knocks an ever-present danger. Volvo can reduce that risk: its new XC60 comes with 'City Safety', a system that will either completely prevent or reduce the severity of an impact by applying the brakes if you're not quick enough yourself.

In the Metal

Volvo's design language is familiar across its model range and the XC60 couldn't be anything but a car from the Swedish marque. The bold shoulder line that characterises the XC60's flanks gives it a solid stance and the new SUV shares much of its chunky style with the XC90. The lines may be familiar, but there's flair there, too: the rear lights are edged neatly with LEDs - the red strip they create beautifully framing the XC60's rear. An assertive grille wears a new interpretation of Volvo's 'iron' symbol badge and a neat crease starting from above the front wheel and finishing at the rear door handle adds tension to the XC60's profile.

The tapering glasshouse might suggest the XC60 will be cramped inside, but the interior feels bright and spacious, even for those in the back. Volvo's interiors get better with every new model; soft touch materials, simple, easy to read controls and the cool floating centre console make for an attractive, functional driving environment.

What you get for your Money

On a like for like basic against its key rivals the Volvo fares well on the toy count. There's one important piece of standard equipment though that's well worth singling out: City Safety comes standard on every XC60, the new addition to Volvo's always-impressive safety arsenal helping prevent low-speed collisions by automatically braking should the driver be too slow to react. If the speed differential between two cars is less than 9mph then City Safety can help avoid accidents completely by braking, with higher speed intervention intended to reduce the severity of an inevitable impact. Priced slightly below the big players in the market, the new Volvo XC60 competes with cars such as the BMW X3, Audi Q5, Land Rover Freelander and Volkswagen's Tiguan.

Driving it

Volvo soldiers on with its D5 turbodiesel engine in the XC60, the 2.4-litre five-cylinder unit never faring particularly well when compared to its rivals' engines for refinement or performance. Even so the 182bhp D5 will make up around 50% of XC60 sales, the majority of the remainder being the 161bhp 2.4-litre turbodiesel. The only petrol option, a 3.0-litre 281bhp six-cylinder, will be a very rare sight, with only around 3% of the 5,000 anticipated UK XC60 sales filling up with unleaded.

Mated to Volvo's six-speed automatic the D5 is smooth enough when not rushed, though it loses its calm when you rev it. That six-speed shifter isn't the quickest to react either, though its 9.4 second 0-62mph time is actually only 0.4 seconds slower than a manual car. The XC60 isn't a car that you're likely to hurry in though; it is far more composed as a comfortable cruiser. The ride is nicely judged with only the sharpest ripples felt inside, and the body control is impressive given the suppleness of the suspension. Flick through the car settings and there's the option to have three different steering weights: light, medium and heavy. All do exactly as they say, but none offer any real feedback as to what the front wheels are doing.

Worth Noting

It's easy to criticise the XC60 for lacking the response and feedback of rivals like Audi's Q5 and BMW's X3, but the Volvo makes up for this with its comfort. At motorway speeds the engine is quiet, with wind and road noise also commendably hushed. And the XC60 isn't a disaster on more challenging roads, its responses tidy and controlled - it is unlikely to disappoint the customers Volvo is aiming at. Economy and emissions are decent too, the D5 automatic boasting a combined consumption figure of 34mpg and CO2 emissions of 219g/km. Choose to change the gears yourself with the manual option and those figures improve to 37.7mpg and 199g/km.

Summary

Volvo stays true to itself with its latest offering by majoring on comfort, equipment and safety. Some might bemoan the ultimate lack of driver interaction that if offers in comparison to German premium rivals, but Volvo has ably demonstrated with its XC90 that not everyone wants a super-sharp, driver-focussed SUV. The XC60 is well priced, comfortable, neatly styled inside and out and comes with innovative safety equipment that makes it a very desirable family vehicle. Safety just got sexy.

Kyle Fortune - 26 Sep 2008



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2008 Volvo XC60 specifications: (D5)
Price: From 25,750 - 29,750 for D5 model.
0-62mph: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 124mph
Combined economy: 34.0mpg
Emissions: 219g/km
Kerb weight: 1990kg

2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Volvo.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.

2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Volvo.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Volvo.2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Volvo.



2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 

2008 Volvo XC60. Image by Jonathan Bushell.
 






 

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