Words by Erin Baker, Editorial Director at Auto-Trader
Volvo’s XC60 is a medium-sized SUV, good for small families, those with dogs and commuters wanting space, a raised ride height and high-end materials and technology inside. It’s also just about the safest SUV you can buy, and is available as a plug-in hybrid (with one year’s free electricity), petrol or diesel.
Volvo is currently (Feb 2020) offering the XC60 from £399 a month, on a 48-month agreement, with a £2,285 deposit and 10,000 miles a year cap. It also has a really great website for understanding trim levels (Momentum, Inscription, R-Design) and engines, and you can even do the whole transaction online now without stepping foot in a dealership. If you’re one of the 10 per cent still buying on list price, the XC60 starts at £37,785. You can buy cheaper SUVs with the same space, but Volvo is a premium brand now, offering a real step-up in interior materials and design, alongside a premium vibe.
We think Volvo designs the best-looking family cars on the market right now, whether it’s an estate or SUV. There’s a slinky, sharply cut rear with dynamic LED lights, while the rest of the body keeps that chunky, solid look that echoes the focus on safety which has defined this brand, since it invented the three-point seatbelt decades ago.
Inside, depending on how much you pay, you get either sophisticated fabrics with technical weaves, tightly woven and fitted, or the softest leathers with neat stitching. The glass surface of the giant touchscreens are glossy and smooth, the buttons are chunky and click pleasingly in your hand, and there really are few other interiors that combine quality materials with a strong dose of practicality.
Our test car was Fusion Red, a great deep red paintwork, with black fabric seats – given their Scandi heritage, we’d always take our Volvos with a pale leather interior and open-pore wood grains for a more organic, light, elegant feel.
Volvo was one of the first brands to offer a big touchscreen more akin to a tablet, which dominates the space up front. The functionality is a masterclass in how to do it: the home-screen offers regularly used functions – satnav, phone, media, Apple CarPlay – while a swipe left shows all the possible entertainment functions (Spotify, apps etc), and a swipe right offers all the car functions with simple on-off buttons, such as blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and loads more.
Our test car came with the Harman Kardon upgraded audio system (£850, not necessary), and 360-surround parking camera and park pilot assist which assists with parallel and 90-degree parking (£800). While you shouldn’t need the latter, the surround view marking camera is well worth the price. We also had the Intellisafe surround pack, which at £500 is an absolute bargain. You get the blind-spot warning system, steer assist which guides the car away from an overtaking vehicle, cross-traffic alert with auto brake for when you’re pulling out and don’t spot a car coming, and rear collision mitigation system.
As this is a Volvo, you get tons of safety kit as standard – Volvo has pledged that from this year, no one will be killed or seriously injured in a Volvo.
One of the main reasons Volvos are traditionally such popular cars for families is their high levels of comfort. The brand has never gone after a dynamic, motorsport-inspired audience, preferring slower speeds and slower steering which allow for soft suspension, and the weight that things like sound and vibration deadening bring with them. The trick in a Volvo is to sit back and relaaaaax. The XC60, like its smaller XC40 sibling, and the bigger XC90, is a lovely lounge on wheels, with space for five adults, a generous boot, good head height, loads of light coming in through the large windows and glass roofs, good visibility and peace on the motorway.
We tried the XC60 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design Pro. The last bit of that name is the styling, the AWD means four-wheel drive, and the T8 twin Engine means it’s the plug-in hybrid. This is our favourite engine option on offer, not least as Volvo now offers a year’s worth of electricity with it. You should be good for 25-30 miles on battery power only, which means you could feasibly go the whole week without tapping into the petrol supply, travelling on electric power and re-charging at home.
If you want a few thrills, put your foot down, and the petrol engine will kick in. The combination of petrol and battery gives you 0-60mph in 5.2 seconds which is very fast for a medium-sized SUV. The top speed is 140mph, but note that from this summer, all new Volvos coming out of the factory will have their speed limited to 112mph as a matter of course. Controversial, but you can’t argue the safety or emissions reasoning behind it, and yo’d be pushing it to find a stretch of road for that speed anyway.