It’s fair to say that Volvo has revitalised its brand over the last few years. 2017 was a particularly good year, with sales stable in a market that showed decline. The best-selling Volvo in 2017 was the XC60, a car that had a new model launched in the year. Building on the success of the new XC90 and S90/V90, Volvo has given the XC60 a very high-end feel. And the new range of engines across the model line-up offer a blend of performance and efficiency. My test car was the top dog, featuring a twin-engine hybrid set up. Say hello then, to the Volvo XC60 T8.
Looks – 10/10
The outgoing XC60 was a decent looking car, but it was starting to look a little dated. Not anymore! Volvo has done a fantastic job with this car. At the front, the signature ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running lights create a striking image, and identify the XC60 as a Volvo. The bumper design is angular, extending away from the large grille. The side profile is sleek and executive, and I particularly like the line above the rear door handles which significantly broadens the rear arches. At the back, yet more signature light shapes mean you will be able to identify the XC60 even in the dark. I will confess that at first, I was a little uncertain about the rear lights, as it looks like there is a bit missing below the rear window. But after looking at this for a little longer it grew on me. What is good about the XC60 is that even the entry level models look great: a testament to the styling.
Inside, the Volvo XC60 is a masterpiece. Anyone who has been in one of the newer Volvos – XC90, S90 or V90 – will know what I mean. My test car was finished in a blend of Blond and Charcoal leather, which was perfectly balanced. A highlight was the two-tone steering wheel, with a blond inner rim and charcoal outer. Standard inlays are aluminium, but there is an optional Linear Lime wood for those looking for a spot of conventional luxury. The 8-inch driver display is crisp, and allows you to customise the view to suite your taste. In the centre console a 9-inch display with portrait orientation is a wonderful styling touch, with the added practicality of being able to display a large amount of information whilst maintaining menu accessibility. And then there are the seats, which are slim and beautifully contoured. They invite you in, and once you’re sat down you can take in the sheer quality of the Volvo XC60.
Handling/Performance – 7/10
As I mentioned, my test car was the XC60 T8 which is a twin-engine hybrid setup. A 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine drives the front wheels, and an electric motor drives the rear wheels. Whilst the T8 has efficiency in mind, it is also a powerful beast. Combined power output is 407PS (320 from the engine and 87 from the electric motor) and 400Nm of torque. The gearbox is an 8-speed ‘Geartronic’ automatic, and if you bury your right foot into the carpet 0-62mph is dealt with in an impressive 5.3 seconds. Top speed is 140mph. In a straight line, power delivery is strong, and the XC60 felt faster than I expected it to. For the most part the petrol engine is quiet, and on a long motorway cruise you can even forget it’s there. In hybrid mode, you do notice the engine turning on and off, but not in an intrusive way.
For the most part, the XC60 T8 is a delight to drive. My test car had the optional active chassis – “Four-C” (Continously Controlled Chassis Concept) – and it’s well worth the extra £1,500. The air suspension and adaptive damping adjusts to the road conditions and driving mode selected. In Comfort mode, the suspension is soft and cushioning. In Power mode it is lower and firmer. It finishes off what feels like a driver-oriented drive. There is just one problem, and that comes down to the quasi nature of the 4WD system. The full might of that 320PS petrol engine is sent to the front wheels, and under heavy acceleration it is a little too much for them to cope with, resulting in understeer. That takes away your confidence to really pedal this car on a good road. Having said that, the fact that Volvo has managed to configure the hybrid 4WD setup so the rear of the car doesn’t try to overtake the front is impressive enough.
Economy – 10/10
So you have 407PS at the mercy of your right foot. Ordinarily that would mean a requirement to refuel every 200 feet. But not in the XC60 T8; oh no. The hybrid setup means the batteries can assist the petrol engine most of the time. You can even select ‘Pure’ mode which is electric only, and is good for 20-30 miles. If you never undertake any longer journeys then you may only need to visit a petrol station once in a blue moon. On a combined cycle the XC60 T8 achieves 134.5mpg. But for this particular car I think ten different people would achieve ten completely different figures. CO2 emissions of just 49g/km make this a great choice for company car drivers. VED will cost you nothing in the first year. After this it will be £140 a year, plus the £310 surcharge for costing more than £40,000, applicable for the subsequent five years.
Practicality – 9/10
I drove the Volvo XC90 last year. Whilst I liked it – a lot, in fact – it is a very large vehicle. If you don’t require seven seats, then the beauty of the XC60 is that it has that same quality feel, but in a more village-friendly size. Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a small car. There is heaps of space both front and back. The boot has ample space for the family dogs. The higher ride height makes loading and unloading children easier, and once inside you can rest assured that they will be kept safe: this is a Volvo after all. All XC60s get the “Intellisafe” package, which comprises City Safety with Steering Support, Lane Keeping Aid, Driver Alert Control, Road Sign Information, Run-off road Mitigation and Oncoming Lane Mitigation. Put simply, the XC60 is a kind, caring soul: an automotive bubble wrap. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that due to the hybrid powertrain the XC60 T8 does not have a conventional 4WD system, and a tendency to understeer under heavy acceleration doesn’t inspire confidence.
Fun – 9/10
I am often taken by surprise when it comes to cars putting a smile on your face. Too many times, cars that should be fantastic on paper just lack that ‘spark’. And then there are cars like the Volvo XC60 T8. I thought it would be a little over-complicated. But this is actually a well-disguised petrolhead. I mean it has 407PS: unleash that and you’ll do well not to crack a smile. Then we have to mention the cabin again. It is so luxurious that it makes you want to find an excuse to drive. But what I liked most about the XC60 was its ability to win over the hearts of passengers. Despite recent efforts to shift brand perception, the reality is that Volvo is considered inferior to the likes of BMW and Audi. And that’s absolute nonsense, so it always makes me happy to see the penny drop, and a trip in the XC60 did just that. Oh, and if you’re willing to part with an additional £2,500 you can have the premium sound by Bowers & Wilkins. This transforms the car into the Gothenburg Concert Hall – the stereo can replicate the acoustics, I haven’t gone mad – and creates a wonderful atmosphere in the cabin.
The Volvo XC60 T8 is a fabulous car. It is a harmonious blend of power, luxury and sophistication. The styling is fantastic: with a bold exterior presence and one of my favourite ever interiors. I have been so impressed with the XC60 that I am seriously considering one as our next car. But, if I’m honest, mine wouldn’t be the XC60 T8. Sure, the economy figures are impressive. But it isn’t a ‘proper’ 4WD, and I don’t need the complications of a hybrid. Come to think of it, I don’t need the added cost either: with the XC60 T8 costing from £57,600 – in R-Design Pro guise. The Inscription Pro test car, with a few options on it, cost £66,650. In this instance, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. If it were me, I’d opt for a 2.0-litre T5 petrol R-Design Pro, an apparent bargain at £45,150. For more information or configure your own, head to the Volvo website. I really enjoyed spending some time with the Volvo XC60 T8, but now I must end this review, sell my organs and start saving up…