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Motoring: XC60 a nice crossover

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | March 22nd, 2010

Volvo is one of those manufacturers that is unfortunately misunderstood by many consumers. Ask anyone who is shopping for a new vehicle, and you can be certain that Volvo won't be mentioned right off the top of their head.

Being a car company that wishes to make a profit, they want to change that very quickly. To do this they have launched a new crossover. It's called the XC60 and it has been on sale for a year now.

It seems to be working. I see plenty of XC60's driving around, so plenty of people have found it alluring enough, but is it any good?

I was quite skeptical when I went to pick up this vehicle. I am happy to say, that within five minutes I was loving it.

It wasn't just because I do generally like Volvos, but because this one feels up to date and fresh right from the start, something that is usually missing from new Volvos.

For a start, the styling is modern and sleek, not a typical Volvo box. This really can win a beauty pageant when parked next to an Audi Q5 or Mercedes-Benz GLK.

It's the same sort of story when you step inside. The quality of the materials look very good, and it is not only well equipped, it is well designed too. This is exactly what a Volvo ought to be in this day and age.

Of course it is still very safe, and this one has a clever new feature too. It's called city safe, and basically this system is meant to stop you from crashing into things at speeds below 30 km/h. In my demonstration, Volvo had set up some pylons and asked me to drive towards them at below 30 km/h and not touch the steering or the brakes. Sure enough, it came to a sudden stop on its own just a few feet away from the object. This very clever system uses a system of cameras and radars to identify an object and stop the car accordingly. However, the system isn't quite perfect yet. I decided to demonstrate this to family members by driving it towards a snow bank. I followed the procedure, kept the steering straight, and kept the speed at 20 km/h. Sadly, it didn't stop on its own.

Thankfully, the snow bank was very soft and didn't seem to cause any damage to its nose. Some may say that the system probably didn't recognize the snow bank as an immovable object, but I say a system like this should work no matter what it's about to hit.

Apart from this setback, the XC60 is indeed a very capable machine. I love its ride quality, not too soft, not too hard, just perfect.

I also love the way its 235 hp, 3.2-litre, straight-six cylinder motor revs up. It might not be all that quick when you look at the numbers (zero-100km/h in 9.4 seconds) but it just feels quick and feels like its willing to rev to no end. For those looking for more grunt, there is a 281 hp turbo model on offer too.

The XC60 with either drivetrain is mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Power is sent to just the front wheels in the base model, or all wheels as in my tester.

This transmission is very smooth and responds to your throttle inputs very quickly. Sometimes too quickly, as just a slight dab on the accelerator would have it drop down a gear and accelerate on. This is fine when you want to really get going, but other times it can be a bit irritating. It also doesn't help its fuel economy. I averaged 13.2-litres/100km, which is fine, but not great.

However, even despite its niggles, I still loved the XC60 and would happily call it the best crossover in its market segment.

With prices starting at $39,995, it is also one of the best priced. So if you haven't been to a Volvo dealer recently, I'd say you're due a visit.
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