Tested: Volvo XC60 D4 is a surprisingly good alternative to the German herd
JOHANNESBURG - There’s no denying that Volvo produces a range of highly desirable SUVs, namely the XC40, XC60 and XC90. They’re comfortable urban warriors that manage to come across as stylish and classy without being overly flashy, and there are no pretensions about being too sporty nor any hints that they could turn you into the next Bear Grylls.
You might dig the XC40 for its taut and sporty appearance, or the XC90 might be up your alley if you need spacious seating for seven but, sitting between these two products, the XC60 is the one that seems to strike the right balance in so many ways. It looks more grown-up than the XC40, but it’s also smaller and more nimble than its XC90 big brother, with which it shares a strong resemblance. It’s little surprise, in fact, that the XC60 is Volvo’s best selling vehicle, followed (according to 2019 figures) but the XC40 and XC90. The extinction of sedans and traditional wagons has well and truly begun…
We recently spent a week with an XC60 D4, which was our first experience of the most accessible model in the range. Priced from R753 000 in the base Momentum trim, it’s not cheap but it does undercut its key rivals to an impressive degree. The equivalent Audi Q5 will set you back an extra 38 grand, while a BMW X3 2.0d xDrive costs almost a hundred grand more at R846 938. Even steeper are the Mercedes GLC 220d, at R889 080, and Jaguar F-Pace 2.0d at R913 872. Yes, you can get an X3 for 750 grand, but then you’re getting the 2.0 petrol engine and rear-wheel drive instead of AWD.
Our test XC60 car was an Inscription model, which commands a R51 000 premium over the Momentum model.
D4 or D5?
The D4 is motivated by a less powerful version of the 2-litre turbodiesel that does service in the D5, with Volvo listing outputs of 140kW and 400Nm (versus 173kW and 480Nm in the D5). However, compared to the perkier option, the D4 does feel a tad sluggish. Performance is adequate at best, taking time to build up momentum but ultimately delivering the goods, but if you can spend the extra R44 000 that the D5 commands without breaking a sweat then you’ll probably find that one more satisfactory.
Economy is impressive enough though, with our car sipping an average of 8.3 litres per 100km in a mixture of conditions.
The XC60 is also quiet and refined, while the optional (R26 750) air suspension system delivers a comfortable ride over most surfaces, although the low profile rubber on the 20-inch wheels that our car came with did make it feel a tad fidgety over harsher surfaces. We’d stick with the standard 19” rims, which look stunning in their own right, in our book.
Road holding is safe and stable for a vehicle of this size and stature, but there is no real steering joy to be had here - not that we would expect it from this type of vehicle, but just so you know.
Tick the right options boxes and you also get a car that practically drives itself, when conditions are ideal of course.
For 25 750 extra you can opt for the Driver Support package, which includes head-up display as active cruise control and Pilot Assist. The radar and camera based system not only accelerates and brakes for you at speeds of up to 130km/h, but also provides steering assistance when the road markings are clear enough on both sides, although drivers are required to keep their hands on the wheel at all times - it is semi-autonomous, not autonomous and you still need to pay attention.
What do you get as standard, then?
All XC60 models ship with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, lane keeping aid, park assist (rear), rain sensor, digital instrument cluster and a touchscreen infotainment system with Navigation Pro.
The Inscription has a few of its own distinctive features, such as Nappa leather upholstered seats (power adjustable and heated up front), driftwood interior inlays, Blond coloured inner roof panel and an Inscription grille and badging.
Inscription is Volvo at its classiest, but if you prefer a sporty vibe you can get the R-Design trim which swops the tree trim for racier looking Metal Mesh inlays among numerous other decor changes, which also include a darker interior colour scheme.
Is it practical?
As the midsize model in the line-up, the XC60 provides a spacious package with decent - although not quite exceptional - rear legroom and a biggish (505 litre) boot. It’ll do the job of a family car, but don’t overlook the almost-as-practical XC40 if you’re in that market.
Like all modern Volvos, it’s Uber classy inside, with a dashboard somewhat reminiscent of the S90’s, although although closer inspection reveals some neat new details such as a wave-like horizontal panel that runs along the lower dashboard. This car really does have a million dollar feel inside.
While the tech is as up to date as you’d expect, it’s large vertical touchscreen infotainment system is not particularly user-friendly. Instead of getting all your main functions on a single screen, you have to swipe between screens like you would on a tablet, which can be distracting. Thankfully Volvo hasn’t messed with the traditional volume knob, but all the ventilation controls are on the screen.
With classy looks inside and out, advanced safety tech and impressive all-round refinement, it’s little surprise that this is Volvo’s best selling vehicle, and the fact that it undercuts its rivals is also a big feather in its cap.
That said, value retention could be of concern as a recent resale value comparison conducted by True Price, and based on price data from auctions, showed the XC60 underperformed compared to its rivals. According to True Price, the XC60 retained 54.8 percent of its value on average, while the X3 achieved 61.5% and the Q5 and GLC both scored just over 70%. It must be noted, however, that this data is only based on auction prices and also includes the previous-generation XC60, which might not hold its value as well as the latest model.
However, if we were keeping the vehicle for a considerable amount of time, then the Volvo XC60 would certainly be on our radar. If you don’t have to have the latest and greatest all the time, this car would serve you well for the next decade or so.
Alternatively, you may just find a great pre-owned deal on one.