Perfectly tailored to its market – but no leader
There can’t be too many occasions in the history of the brands when the names of Lotus and Volvo have sat shoulder to shoulder in the same sentence, but that is soon all to change. With the acquisition of Lotus by the Chinese Geely corporation, both companies now have the same proprietor. And if Geely shows the same trust in Lotus and understanding of its values as it has with Volvo, it’s probably fair to say that the future of the habitually embattled British brand has rarely looked brighter.
Evidence of the sure touch that Geely has brought to Volvo can be found all over this new XC60. If ever Volvo was going to create a winner, this surely would be it: in its style, practicality and perceived safety, there is no other car that speaks more clearly of Volvo’s market positioning and aspirations than a crossover SUV. The proof is that the old XC60 was a class best-seller without once ever being a class leader, or close to it. And I can see no reason why this one will be any different.
The new XC60 is even more handsome than the last and has a genuinely beautiful interior. The cabin is airy and reasonably spacious by class standards, though the boot is a little bit small. As we now expect from Volvo, all engines are of 2-litre capacity and turbocharged, powered by petrol or diesel and with outputs as low as 187bhp for the entry level D4 diesel and as high as 401bhp for the hybrid flagship T8.
I drove the warmed-over D5 diesel with a 231bhp output and performance and fuel consumption commensurate with the equivalent Jaguar F-Pace. It should be said the same sort of money as you’d pay for an upspec D5 XC60 will also buy you a Porsche Macan Diesel S, though I doubt that’s a choice many customers will find themselves making.
On the open road the XC60 is never disappointing, but only because to describe it thus would be to imply a level of expectation it fails reach. In fact I always expected it to be dull to drive, despite Volvo’s protestations that this was its most involving product, and dull it proved to be. The steering is lifeless, body roll quite pronounced and grip levels limited. Volvo customers don’t care about such matters and nor, it seems, does Volvo.
It did ride well but I was annoyed that Volvo employed the old ruse of making sure every car it put before the press was on optional air suspension. What it will be like on standard springs I could not say.
Of course, there is no longer any need even for a mid-sized SUV to be boring to drive, as both Jaguar and Porsche have proven so well, but Volvo’s priorities lie elsewhere and even I can see the sense in that. For those who like the image, the shape, the safety systems and that delightful interior, the XC60 will be all that they ever hoped it to be. But if you need such a car and also think you might want to enjoy driving it, there are better alternatives.
2.0 litres, 4 cylinders, turbocharged
354lb [email protected]
eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
POWER TO WEIGHT
125bhp per tonne
TOP SPEED 137mph