Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
We recommend the 2.0-litre 188bhp diesel, which is badged D4. It's front-wheel drive only and won’t squash you back in your seat with its acceleration, but it has more than enough mid-range oomph for easygoing, everyday pace. True, an Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 is slightly brisker, but the D4 is decidedly quicker than the Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 180. There are also two diesel engines with four-wheel drive that make use of mild-hybrid technology: the B4, with 194bhp and the B5 with 242bhp. We've tried the B4 and, despite a bit more power and shove than the D4, it felt barely any quicker, so it's hard to justify the added expense.
If petrol is your poison, the entry point is the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre T4 with 187bhp. We'd suggest the more powerful 247bhp T5 (available with front or four-wheel drive) to get the kind of pace you'd expect, though. Meanwhile, the T6, which is both supercharged and turbocharged and produces 306bhp, feels grin-inducingly quick when you’re overtaking on the motorway or going along a country road, but neither petrol engine has the mid-range grunt of the diesels.
Suspension and ride comfort
The standard-fit steel suspension is still a pretty good choice for UK roads. Speed bumps and large lumps are absorbed smoothly, although expansion joints and ragged potholes can be felt with a thump. The larger alloy wheel options exacerbate the problem, but this is still the set-up we recommend. R-Design trim has lowered suspension that is slightly firmer, but still fine.
The XC60 gets the option of air suspension. This gives a generally composed and well controlled ride, although the Audi Q5 is still by far the best-riding car in the large-SUV class. Set the system to Comfort mode and the XC60 wafts over soft-edged peaks and troughs at speed, making it particularly adept for long stints on motorways.
Hit a sharp-edged ridge or pothole around town, though, and the thud is more likely to resonate through the body than in a Q5, but the XC60 still remains more composed than the Discovery Sport or DS 7 Crossback. Bear in mind, though, that the ride deteriorates badly when you fit 19in or bigger alloy wheels, so stick to 18in ones if you want the car to stay supple.
You’ll only need to drive the XC60 round a couple of corners to realise that it's no driver's machine. It pitches and wallows in a manner not unlike the Land Rover Discovery Sport when pushed hard and its steering doesn't key you into the road like some of the sportier SUVs in the class. These include the driver-focussed Porsche Macan and Jaguar F-Pace, and even the Audi Q5, all of which offer tighter body control and more direct steering.
The T8 plug-in hybrid is even more sluggish to change direction (thanks to the added weight of its battery), and going for the sportier R-Design trim doesn't turn the XC60 (no matter which engine you opt for) into anything noticeably more focused, either.
When all's said and done, though, if what you want is a secure-handling SUV that's light and easy to steer in town, you'll find the XC60 is perfectly capable. And, if you live up a slippery, lane the four-wheel drive models offer more traction, but for better off-roading ability choose the Discovery Sport instead.
Noise and vibration
The D4 diesel has a background rumble at idle that seems most out of place in a premium SUV and a buzz during acceleration that, while not harsh, would raise an eyebrow or two from the owners of super-smooth Audi Q5s. The B4 diesel (we haven't yet tried the B5) is harsher still, but no more so than the equivalent Discovery Sport or Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Naturally, the petrol engines are smoother, but they still emit a noticeable roar if you prod the accelerator and demand full power. They settle to a barely perceptible thrum when you’re cruising, though. Of course, the T8 can play its trump card of running near-silently on electricity alone for a limited distance.
You’ll also notice some slight boom from the suspension when you encounter a pothole. There's also a bit of road noise on the motorway, when you can also hear a flurry of wind noise from around the door mirrors — its not bad, but the Audi Q5 is a more peaceful long-distance machine.