Volvo XC60: A case in silent refinement
This ‘mild hybrid’ version is unapologetically an SUV made for comfort and luxury, and the driving experience echoes the same sentiment
Volvo is renowned for its subtlety, and the XC60 is a good example of that. Though a facelifted version, with seemingly minor changes on the surface, there is a big change under the bonnet.
How does one spot the facelifted XC60? For starters, the chrome grille up front is now sharper and a bit more modern. Low down, there is a revised bumper with a slightly new design and new chrome elements added on. Other elements such as the sharp LED headlamps with Thor’s hammer Daytime Running Lamps and the strong power lines on the bonnet, have been carried over from the previous version. It is unmistakably an XC60, and that is not a bad thing. On the side, the silhouette is the same as before, but you will see a fresh and sporty design for the 19-inch alloy wheels.
At the rear, the revised bumpers are the main talking point. The dual exhaust tips are now tucked away under the bumper, which gives the XC60 a clean and uncluttered rear-end. However, there is a new badge now, and that is the biggest tell-tale sign of the facelift.
The XC60 now wears the B5 badge, which in Volvo-speak means ‘mild hybrid’. Gone is the clattery diesel from the older car, and in its place is a 250hp, 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine. And since it is a mild hybrid, it also gets a 48V battery that works in conjunction with the engine, helping it out with better fuel efficiency and acceleration. That said, the biggest difference is the bump up in refinement.
The engine is silent and, even as you gain speed, there is barely any engine noise seeping in. Vibrations are virtually nil and the entire driving experience is extremely relaxing. There is plenty of grunt on offer and the 48V battery does help out during initial acceleration. Power delivery is linear and the engine has a meaty torque band, but it misses out on the oomph that you get from some of its rivals. However, the battery assist is seamless, and you never feel the system at work.
The other change also comes in the form of omission of conventional drive modes, although there is an off-road mode that helps on some light trails. The 8-speed automatic gearbox too is not the most eager unit out there. Shifts are smooth, but you need to be patient. If you wish for more control and switch to manual mode, you would have to adjust to tapping the lever to the left or right to shift up or down, which does not feel as engaging. The shifts in manual are not exactly quick either, so it is best left to the car to do the shifting. The gearbox is not unbearable by any means, and if you drive it like Volvo intends you to (sedately), you should be fine.
Then you have the ride quality, which is expected to be plush and supple on a luxury SUV. Sadly, that is not the case with the XC60, as it has carried over the traits of the previous version. The suspension has a firmness that is felt more over speed bumps and on broken roads at low speeds. The suspension thuds over a bad patch of road, and it is only once you gain momentum that the XC60 composes itself. Highway stability is very good and undulations at high speed are masked perfectly. However, it misses out on adaptive dampers that its German rivals get and does not have the softly sprung ride like on the Audi Q5 or the Mercedes-Benz GLC either.
By now it is clear that the XC60 is not an enthusiast’s choice, so handling is something it does not really take pride in. The steering is light and breezy for comfortable manoeuvering but offers little in terms of engagement. For a relaxing drive, it is perfect and that is the thing about the XC60 — it is unapologetically an SUV made for comfort and luxury, and the driving experience echoes the interior, which is plush and comforting.
The design might be familiar, with plenty of vertical touches, but it is still one that stands out and offers the most wow factor. The bold use of wood and brushed aluminium, with the 9.0-inch touchscreen that takes the most real estate on the centre console, is all in line with the luxe appeal of the XC60. What is new on this facelift is the updated digital instrument cluster, which is not as intuitive as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, but fits in with the theme. Then, there is the wireless charging pad right beside the new crystal gear shifter. It sure adds more bling and pop to the cabin.
Adding one more layer of safety to the cabin is a PM2.5 air purifier — a worthy addition, given the current situation. The big news is Volvo has partnered with Google, and as a result, you now have Google Maps as the standard navigation and Google Assistant at your disposal. The touchscreen was already overloaded, and these have only added to that. Sadly, the controls for the HVAC system are still hidden away in the infotainment system.
However, Volvo’s strongest point has always been its lengthy features list and with the facelift, things have not changed much. The highlights of the previous version like the 15-speaker Bowers and Wilkins audio system, massage seats for the front passengers, heating and ventilation for the front seats, four-zone climate control, panoramic sunroof and the all-important radar-based safety features have been carried over. The seats too are fantastic in terms of support, and space, in general, is not an issue on the XC60. For the rear passengers, while knee-room and headroom are not an issue, under-thigh support is still lacking. Yet, the sense of luxury is very much there, and that is the XC60’s main attraction.
At ₹ 63.50 lakh (ex-showroom, India), it is competitively priced against its German counterparts, and the XC60 brings with it opulence and an expensive feel. So, if you are in the market for a midsize luxury SUV that focuses on the ‘luxury’ bit, the updated XC60 ticks all the right boxes.
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