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Motoring: Reimagining Volvo with the XC60 R-Design

Nauman Farooq | Interrobang | Sports | October 29th, 2012

Volvo is one of those manufacturers that are 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 wanted to change that very quickly. In trying to do so, they launched a new crossover in 2009 called the XC60.

Their plan seems to be working. I see plenty of XC60s driving around, so people have found it alluring enough, but is it any good?

I drove the base model of the XC60, which comes with a 3.2-litre, six-cylinder motor, a few years back and I was very pleasantly surprised by it. To this day, I highly recommend it to anyone looking to buy such a vehicle.

Today, I'll be telling you about the XC60's most potent and exciting version, which is called the RDesign.

Finding R badges on Volvos is not anything new, but in recent years, "R" has sadly become more about styling rather than performance. Now, I'm glad to say, some of the performance tuning to the Volvo R machines is back.

This XC60 R-Design not only looks fast, it actually is fast. Under the hood is a 3.0-litre, inline sixcylinder, turbo-charged motor that produces 325 hp and 354 lb/ft of torque. Power is transmitted to all wheels via a smooth six-speed automatic gearbox. This transmission has the modern car obligatory manumatic shift feature, however while the shifts are smooth, they are not the quickest in the business. With just six gears to play with, they are being left behind by the competition.

In any kind of driving, it really doesn't matter how many gears a transmission has, it's about how the vehicle uses it, and the R-Design uses its cogs well. As a result, this is a vehicle that when demanded upon can accelerate from zero to 100 km/h in 5.8 seconds, yet in my week's worth of driving, consumed just 11.5 litres/100km of fuel. That is very impressive.

What is less impressive is the handling. Okay, so this vehicle handles well, but I didn't like the steering feel (it felt over-boosted to me), and with a total weight of 2,440 kg, this heavy vehicle cannot fully disguise its mass. Also, while a normal XC60 T6 is available with adjustable dampers, why not the R-Design? The friendly guy from Volvo who handed me the keys to this vehicle said that Volvo wanted to offer this model as a focused, sporty model. I think it would have benefited if the adjustable dampers were offered at last as an option. Let the customers decide what they want to spend money on.

However, a vehicle like this is not really for tackling drag strips or twisty mountain passes, it is designed to fit you and your family, and it manages that quite well. The cabin is spacious in both the front and back to accommodate your loved ones, and the trunk is huge and has some clever compartments to hold your groceries in place. This is an easy vehicle to live with on a day-to-day basis and it shines in that role. It is not as exciting to drive as its looks suggests, but it will satisfy your practical needs.

Its price might be a bit hard to swallow. The XC60 R-Design is yours from $52,850. If you want all the bells and whistles, you'll be looking at their Platinum model, which starts at $57,850. It is not cheap, and there is no shortage of SUVs and CUVs you can get for that kind of money.

Is this Volvo the best way to spend nearly $60K of your hard-earned money? Let's just say, you could do a lot worse.
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