Two five-cylinder diesel engines are available in the Volvo XC60, the D4 and D5, with the former also giving buyers the choice of two- or four-wheel drive. Both provide decent pace, no matter how many wheels are driven, but they’re not as flexible as some rivals. There's also a T6 petrol to top off the range, which has enough oomph to trouble hot hatches, hitting 60mph in just over seven seconds.
The XC60 comes in both front- and four-wheel drive, and has good ground clearance and large alloy wheels, but either way it’s more at home on the road than off the beaten track. The standard model's steering is a little slow and light, but its ride is smooth, there’s plenty of grip, and body lean is well controlled, too. R-Design models sacrifice some comfort for even better body control and sharper steering, but we reckon the standard car provides the better compromise for family buyers.
You won't find many more refined cars in this class than the Volvo XC60. It's the low levels of wind-, suspension- and especially road noise that make it particularly impressive. It’s a shame, then, that the five-cylinder diesel engines are a little gruff when revved hard, but the noise is kept distant enough to stop it becoming annoying. All in all, the result is that the XC60 is an extremely cultured car.
The Volvo XC60 isn't cheap, but discounts on the list price are readily available and some rivals cost plenty more. You can also rest easy knowing that the XC60's resale values are among the best in the class. All diesel-engined versions give you good fuel economy, and the reasonable CO2 emissions mean it's affordable to run as a company car. However, owning the T6 petrol-engined model hits your wallet hard.
Dense, high-quality plastics give the cabin a real feel of classiness, and the XC60 appears built to last and should withstand the rigours of family life. Many components are borrowed from the rest of the Volvo range, so the mechanical bits should prove hardy – a feeling that was borne out by the 2012 JD Power survey, in which the XC60 finished inside the top 20 overall.
The XC60 scored a full five stars in crash tests, and its standard kit includes twin front and side airbags, cabin-length window airbags, and anti-whiplash front head restraints. It also includes Volvo’s City Safety system. At 20mph or less, sensors tell if you're likely to hit the car in front and activate a warning buzzer. If you don’t respond, it will brake for you. It won't recognise pedestrians and struggles with motorcycles, but it should prevent, or at least minimise, low-speed shunts.
There's plenty of leg-, head- and elbow room up front in the Volvo XC60, and the superbly supportive seats and two-way adjustable steering column make it easy to find the right driving position. Most of the controls are located on Volvo's snazzy ‘floating’ central instrument stack, which looks cool, but some of the buttons are a bit small to be easily found on the move.
The rear bench is elevated to give a good view of the road ahead - even for little ones. Specify the 40/20/40 split/fold rear seats with built-in child booster seats and a central picnic table, and add a pair of DVD screens, and we're talking nirvana for fractious nippers. Whip down the rear-seat backs and you're left with a flat floor and a cargo space that goes from a useful 495 litres to a mountain bike-swallowing 1455 litres.
With SE as the ‘basic’ trim level, every XC60 is well equipped. All have alloy wheels, rear parking sensors and four electric windows, plus climate and cruise controls and Bluetooth. Upgrading brings two choices: SE Lux is the luxury option, with leather upholstery and an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, while R-Design is the sporty choice, including a beefy bodykit and a sports chassis. Across the range, you can add the Nav pack, which adds voice-activated sat-nav and an upgraded stereo.
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The Volvo XC60 2.0 D4 SE S/S is our favourite model in the range, with all the space and safety kit of its dearer relatives, but cheaper to buy.