What Car? says...
The Volvo XC60 large SUV is one of a number of cars that have changed the public’s perception of the Swedish brand in recent years.
Not all that long ago, Volvo was viewed as the fuddy-duddy, reasonably affordable, estate-focused alternative to the premium German triumvirate of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Well, these days, with its revamped range, it's not simply knocking on the door of that exclusive club – it's partying hard inside.
The XC60 sits above our 2022 What Car? Family SUV of the Year – the excellent Volvo XC40 – in the brand's SUV line-up. Its challenge is to match up to the price tag that comes with the manufacturer's premium ambitions.
To help with that, it's based on the same underpinnings as the car maker's flagship SUV, the luxurious Volvo XC90. The XC60 is shorter, several thousand pounds cheaper, and comes with only five seats instead of seven.
Volvo is aiming it squarely at other premium brand offerings in our large SUV category including the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. They're all well-suited to family life and provide space, a plush, well-built interior and strong, efficient engines.
So is the Volvo XC60 up to the challenge? Well, we've given it a thorough test drive, and this review will tell you whether we think it's as good as those rivals, what its performance is like, how big the boot is, which engines and trims make the most sense and much more.
When you've decided which SUV is best for your needs and are ready to buy one, don't forget we can potentially help you save thousands off the list price, thanks to our free New Car Buying service. It's the best place to find excellent deals direct from Volvo.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Volvo has given all engines in the XC60 range some form of battery assistance, with a ‘B’ designation for mild-hybrid versions. There's one diesel option, the B4, which has 194bhp and comes with four-wheel drive. While it won’t exactly squash you back in your seat, it has more than enough mid-rev oomph for easygoing pace, and is a perfect fit for private buyers. The 0-62mph in 8.3sec acceleration is a bit slower than the Audi Q5 40 TDI but slightly quicker than in the Land Rover Discovery Sport D200.
The petrol engine range starts with the front-wheel-drive 194bhp B4. We’ve yet to sample this engine in the XC60, but it impressed us in the Volvo V60 estate, with its punchy performance and decent fuel economy, so we’d expect it to be equally adept in the XC60. However, if you live in a weather-beaten part of the country, you might want to consider stepping up to the 247bhp B5, which comes with four-wheel drive as standard for better traction in adverse conditions. It’s also pretty quick, with a 0-62mph of just 6.9 seconds.
Next up are the two plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that fall under the ‘Recharge’ banner. The first is the company car driver-friendly T6, with a stout 345bhp and a sub-six second 0-62mph time (we clocked it at 5.4 seconds at our private test track). Pro T8 versions have 449bhp, making the XC60 remarkably rapid. More importantly, the electric motor has enough gumption to get you up to motorway speeds without calling on the engine. As for range, both the T6 and T8 have an official electric-only range of around 48 miles – further than the 30 miles offered by the BMW X3 xDrive 30e, but about the same as the Lexus NX 450h+. On our real-world efficiency route, our XC60 T6 test car covered 34.9 miles before the petrol engine kicked in, versus 33.4 miles for the NX450+ and just 24.1 miles for the X3 xDrive30e.
Suspension and ride comfort
The standard suspension fitted to most trim levels does a good job of dealing with speed bumps and road imperfection with a smooth edge. Expansion joints and ragged potholes tend to send a nasty jolt through the XC60, though, and it’s a problem exacerbated with larger alloy wheel options – we wouldn’t go larger than 20in.
If you opt for a top-spec Ultimate model, Volvo adds air suspension. That gives the car a generally composed and well-controlled ride that softens the edges off peaks and troughs at high speeds. An Audi Q5 Vorsprung on air suspension is still by far the best-riding large SUV, though.
If you want to be able to tweak the firmness of the suspension, you can only do so on Ultimate models with the T6 or T8 PHEV engine. Selecting the Dynamic drive mode will result in a slightly stiffer set-up, but frankly, it doesn't make a huge difference to the ride comfort.
If you want a competent-handling SUV that's easy to drive in town, you'll find the XC60 perfectly fit for purpose, but once you've been round a couple of faster corners, you'll realise it's no driver's car. It pitches and wallows in a manner not unlike the Land Rover Discovery Sport when pushed hard, and its light steering doesn't build a great sense of connection to the front wheels. Sportier SUVs in this class – such as the BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace – are much easier to position on the road.
The PHEV versions (T6 and T8) are even more sluggish to change direction because of the added weight of their batteries – the Lexus NX is better in this respect. If you live up a slippery lane, the four-wheel-drive models will provide you with the traction you need, but if you need an SUV with true off-roading ability, look to the Discovery Sport instead.
Noise and vibration
The XC60's B4 diesel engine emits a background rumble at tickover that seems out of place in a premium-badged SUV. The noise gets louder when you accelerate and is accompanied by some vibration, which, while not terrible, would raise the eyebrow of an Audi Q5 or BMW X3 owner.
The petrol engines are smoother than the diesel when you prod the accelerator hard, but you'll still hear them spinning away as the revs rise. They settle to a barely perceptible thrum when you’re cruising, though. The T6 and T8 models run almost silently on electricity alone (provided their batteries are charged) with barely any whine generated by the electric motors during acceleration.
You’ll notice a slight boom from the XC60's suspension when you encounter a pothole. There's also a bit of road noise on a motorway, where you'll also hear wind noise from around the door mirrors. Again, it's not terrible, but the Q5 is a more peaceful long-distance machine. The brakes on all versions are pretty easy to use smoothly, plus there’s regenerative braking on the plug-in hybrids. That makes the car slow down (almost to a stop) from the moment you take your foot off the accelerator.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
When you sit behind the wheel of the Volvo XC60, you look down on other road users and for many, that’s key to the appeal of high-riding SUVs. The only other premium large SUV that offers such a tall driving position is the Land Rover Discovery Sport, but that car's driver's seat isn't as supportive as the one in the XC60.
Seat height and lumbar adjustment are electric on all trim levels, but you have to slide the seat back and forth and recline it manually unless you fork out for the optional ‘power seat’ or step up to Plus trim. The central and door armrests are in a near-perfect position for most drivers to rest their elbows on, too.
The standard digital instruments are clear and dashboard buttons are kept to a minimum for a clean and uncomplicated look. The only problem with this level of minimalism is that most of the functions are incorporated within the infotainment touchscreen. That means you have to take your eyes off the road and prod away at its small icons, even to alter the interior temperature. Physical buttons and knobs, which the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 have, would make the process far less distracting.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
There's an excellent view out of the XC60, partly down to its big side windows and door mirrors. It also has relatively slim windscreen pillars that make it easy to navigate roundabouts and junctions. Even your over-the-shoulder view is good by large SUV standards.
Every XC60 comes equipped with front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera, making it easier to pilot the car’s considerable bulk into tight parking spaces. Models in Plus trim and above also benefit from a 360-degree bird’s eye view camera. At night, bright LED headlights are on hand to light your way clearly.
Sat nav and infotainment
The XC60's large 9.0in touchscreen is set into the dashboard in portrait, rather than landscape, orientation, with a convenient home button at the bottom (like an iPad's). The fact that it’s a touchscreen means you have to prod icons – some of which are rather small. That’s fine when you’re parked up, but can be distracting while driving. The Google-based software does allow you to use voice controls, but a physical rotary controller, like the one in the BMW X3, is easier for quick adjustments on the move.
The sat-nav system uses Google for its maps, and provides a clear and detailed display with real-time traffic information. A DAB radio, wireless phone-charging, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay come as standard. However, despite the system running an Android operating system, Android Auto smartphone mirroring is not available. Instead, you have to download the apps that you would usually use on your phone straight to the car instead.
The standard 10-speaker stereo sounds great, but music fans will appreciate the 13-speaker Harman Kardon system fitted to Plus models. The 1100-watt Bowers & Wilkins stereo on top-spec Ultimate delivers seriously crisp and punchy sound quality, but you’ll have to really love your tunes to consider moving up to this trim level just to get it.
When it comes to interior quality, Volvo can now count itself among the best in the business. The XC60 is as classy and elegant inside as the larger (and more expensive) Volvo XC90. That's seriously impressive, and there really is precious little to grumble about.
The liberal use of wood or metal trims, especially from high-spec Ultimate models, lends the XC60’s interior a wonderfully polished, premium feel. Some of the interior panel gaps are not as millimetre-perfect as they are in the rival Audi Q5, but every surface you touch feels suitably upmarket and reassuringly solid.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
As befits such a big car, you won’t have any trouble fitting in the front of the Volvo XC60, even if you’re very tall. The front seats slide back a long way to accommodate people who are especially long in the leg, and there’s also loads of head room.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is bigger still, but Volvo’s penchant for light-coloured interiors gives the impression of there being even more space than there actually is.
As for storage, there’s a deep bin beneath the centre armrest and a cubby by the gear lever with a sliding cover to keep valuables out of sight. The door pockets are easily big enough to each take a one-litre bottle of water. Plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models have shallower storage areas in the centre console and under the front armrest because of the position of the battery.
The XC60 is pretty roomy in the back. A Discovery Sport offers an extra centimetre of space here and there, but very tall folks will still appreciate the extra knee room you get over an Audi Q5. Head room is impressive, too, even if you add the optional panoramic glass roof – you get as much bouffant space as in a Lexus NX without a sunroof.
The XC60 is broader inside than many of its key rivals. Shoulder room for three adults sitting side by side is surprisingly good, but whoever gets the middle seat will find it rather narrow, and will have to straddle a raised tunnel along the floor.
Seat folding and flexibility
The XC60 has 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard and you get a ski hatch for sliding in long items between two rear passengers. It’s a shame that the seatbacks aren’t split in a 40/20/40 layout, a more flexible configuration that's available in many of its rivals.
It’s also a pity that you can’t have sliding and reclining rear seats, which are standard on the Discovery Sport and optional on the Q5. The Lexus NX also has a reclining rear backrest as standard. You can specify a pair of optional fold-out booster seats, which are built into the outer rear seats and suitable for smaller children.
This is an area where the XC60 can’t quite match the best large SUVs but is by no means bad. Officially, it has 483 litres of space to play with, which is about 10% less than you get in the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Lexus NX, and the boot is quite shallow.
Capacity is slightly reduced in the plug-in hybrid T6 and T8 models (down to 468 litres), because most of the electrical gubbins sits under the boot floor, raising it by a few centimetres compared with non-hybrid versions. The PHEV X3, the xDrive 30e, loses a far bigger percentage of its boot space to its batteries and ends up with a smaller boot than the T6 or T8.
There's still enough space in the XC60 for most families’ needs. We managed to slot eight carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf in non-PHEV versions, and seven in the T6 and T8 (the Lexus NX 450h+ also managed seven). There’s no lip at the boot's entrance, and folding down the rear seatbacks gives you a long, flat load bay.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Officially, the B4 diesel engine pumps out a little less CO2 than the equivalent Land Rover Discovery Sport and remains closely competitive with the equivalent Q5 and X3. It’s the same story with the petrol B5, but if you're considering an XC60 as a company car it’s worth noting that the T6 and T8 plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) will bring by far the lowest benefit-in-kind tax bills. Just be aware that, unless you charge the battery regularly and do lots of miles using electric power, economy won't be as spectacular as the official figures (with the battery depleted we saw just 30.2mpg on our real-world test route).
Equipment, options and extras
We’d stick with entry-level Core trim because it gives you all the essentials and quite a bit more on top. Climate control, cruise control, automatic lights and wipers, and heated leather seats all come as standard, so you only really need to add metallic paint to help out the resale values.
Mid-range Plus is worth considering if you want a few more luxuries. It comes with a more upmarket interior, fully electric seats, four-zone climate control, keyless drive, a premium stereo and a whole host of safety features.
Even with air suspension, adaptive LED headlights and massaging front seats, we wouldn’t make the final step up to the aptly named Ultimate trim. It pushes the XC60’s price into the realm of altogether bigger and better cars, including the Land Rover Discovery and the Volvo XC90.
Volvo returned a below average score in the latest 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey, coming 17th out of 32 manufacturers, behind BMW and Lexus, but ahead of Audi, Mercedes and Land Rover.
All versions of the XC60 come with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty as standard, as well as a three-year paintwork warranty and a 12-year warranty for rust. Recharge models also come with an eight-year, 100,000 mile policy for the battery pack. This is all par for the course in the premium large SUV category.
Safety and security
True to Volvo form, the latest XC60 has some of the most advanced safety features in the large SUV class. It was awarded the maximum five stars in its Euro NCAP safety test, with an excellent 98% adult occupant protection score and 95% for safety assistance. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is standard on all trims and recognises not only other cars but also cyclists, pedestrians and large animals.
Blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist (a semi-autonomous driving function that can help steer the car along its lane on the motorway, although you still need to keep your hands on the wheel) comes as standard on Plus trim and above. You can also specify those features as part of a Driver Assist pack on entry-level Core models.
Every model comes with an alarm and an immobiliser. Security experts Thatcham Research awarded the XC60 the maximum five stars for resisting theft and four stars for its resistance to being broken into.
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Not particularly. Petrol versions of the Volvo XC60 finished in the middle of the table for large SUVs in the 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey with a lackluster 94.3% score. Diesel versions did much worse, with an 91.5% rating, placing them 12th of 18 car models – ahead of the Audi Q5 diesel and the Land Rover Discovery Sport but behind the Audi Q5 petrol and BMW X3 petrol. Read more here
The Volvo XC60 is not available as an electric car but mild hybrid (MHEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) versions are offered. The MHEVs have a petrol or diesel engine, plus a small electric motor. They cannot run on electric power but the motor should help with performance and efficiency. The PHEVs have a much larger motor and a battery pack, and can officially travel up to 48 miles on electricity alone – a class-leading range. Read more here
The 194bhp Volvo XC60 B4D diesel will suit most people perfectly well, although company car buyers should consider the T6 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) for its tax-busting 48-mile official electric range. Core trim offers the best value: you get all the essentials, plus luxuries including climate control, cruise control and heated front seats. Read more here
Ultimate is the most expensive trim in the Volvo XC60 line-up and adds luxuries including a Bowers & Wilkins sound system, massaging front seats and a head-up display, among plenty others. The Plus trim is significantly cheaper but still offers plenty of luxuries, including a more upmarket interior, fully electric seats and four-zone climate control. Read more here
It should be a very safe car. The Volvo XC60 was awarded the maximum five-star safety rating by the independent experts at Euro NCAP when it was tested in 2017 (although bear in mind that the tests have become much tougher since then). It recorded an impressive 98% score for adult passenger protection. Read more here
The Volvo XC60’s boot isn’t as big as those in rivals such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, with enough room for eight carry-on suitcases in mild-hybrid (MHEV) versions or seven in the plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The PHEV version’s boot is larger than you’ll find in alternatives including the BMW X3 xDrive 30e PHEV. Read more here
Some car makers, including Volvo, are now selling direct to customers instead of via franchised dealers. You can still visit a showroom if you want to test drive the model you’re thinking of buying, but the cars in it are owned by the manufacturer instead of the dealership. This new approach is known as the agency model.
|RRP price range||£47,560 - £69,385|
|Number of trims (see all)||5|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, hybrid|
|MPG range across all versions||256.5 - 35.3|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£784 / £4,550|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,567 / £9,099|