Volvo’s second-generation XC60 is a medium-sized SUV with upscale attributes and high-quality amenities.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Volvo’s second-generation XC60 is a medium-sized SUV with upscale attributes and high-quality amenities. 

My Reading Room

THE original, nine-year-old XC60 made up about one- third (or nearly a million units) of Volvo’s total global sales, so it is a crucial model for the Swedish automaker. 

Which is why they equipped the new XC60 with advanced amenities and the latest technologies, most of which come from the current XC90, one of the most capable and complete SUVs in the world right now. 

For instance, the modular platform and 2-litre 4-cylinder T6 powertrain of the new XC60 are shared with the XC90. 

But the XC60’s size and shape are much closer to its predecessor’s. Compared to the XC90, the body of the new XC60 is smaller, curvier, and creased more dramatically. Its front end has an even more striking variation of the XC90’s “Thor’s hammer” headlight design, while its tail-lights, tailpipes and tailgate have their own distinctive, attractive designs. 

Interestingly, the new XC60’s dashboard looks like the V90 station wagon’s instead of the XC90’s. And the new cockpit is much better than the previous XC60’s in every way except one – familiarisation, which takes longer because there are several more systems to suss out and a lot more gadgets to use than in the previous XC60. 

Familiarising myself with the car’s cockpit takes longer than before, but it isn’t harder, because I do it from a fantastic driver’s seat.  

The seat not only offers a sweet- Swede combination of comfort and support, but also provides numerous powered adjustments, including to the cushion extension, so as to accommodate this/any driver’s body shape and preferred sitting position. 

The driver’s seat even has a multi-mode massage function. It’s like having a personal Swedish- massage parlour behind the wheel, and you can play your private spa muzak through the stereo system.  

The rest of the cabin is relaxing, too. The blonde colour theme and natural-grain wood trim are easy on the eye (but easy to get dirty), there’s a power-operated panoramic sunroof with integrated sunshade to make the cabin airier/ brighter, and the insulation against nearby traffic, wind turbulence and road roar is impressive.

My Reading Room

The backseat is spacious for two passengers, although the squab might feel rather short for folks taller than 1.75m (my height) and the front-seat mountings narrow the “parking space” for feet (size 10 in my case). 

Rear occupants get their own air-con panel and vents, along with adequate boot space (505 litres) for their baggage and enough storage pockets (including front seatback nets with integral securing clips) for their personal effects. 

The relaxing character of the cabin is reflected in the driving experience. 

Yes, the XC60 T6 engine is turbocharged, supercharged and souped up, with 320bhp of power and 400Nm of torque from just 2 litres of internal combustion capacity. 

Yes, it has an 8-speed automatic gearbox to deploy the engine’s ample energy through all four alloy 20-inch wheels (which are also available in 19-inch or 18-inch). 

And yes, the XC60 T6 can settle the 0-100km/h sprint in just under 6 seconds (according to the official performance specifications), accelerate strongly from point to point and respond promptly to every throttle input in any gear. 

But these performance characteristics do not make this sports utility vehicle sporty. Instead, they make this SUV even more relaxing to drive, by reducing the time and effort required to overtake, travel inter- city distances, and reach the next destination. 

In any case, the car’s light steering, laid-back transmission and 1.8-tonne weight discourage a sporty driving style. What might encourage a sporty driving style, though, is the good grip (without too firm a ride) from the 255/45 R20 tyres. 

It’s better to sit back and chill out behind the wheel of the XC60, which is easily done thanks to the superb visibility (boosted by the well-sized/shaped side mirrors’ Blind Spot Information System and a crystal-clear 360-degree camera system that’s available at speeds of up to 10km/h) and the excellent infotainment, which includes a head-up display (HUD) with crisp and timely infographics. 

My Reading Room

The HUD can be cute, too, showing cartoonish coins when the car is reaching a toll booth and an adorable little speed camera when the car is approaching a known speed trap. 

There’s also an optional Bowers & Wilkins hi-fi system with the works – output of 1100 watts, amplifier, subwoofer, Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound and 15 loudspeakers, including a tweeter at the centre of the dashtop that “minimises acoustic reflection from the windscreen” (automotive audiophiles would know better than me what this means). 

The hi-fi system sounds punchy, even when it’s just playing a random (Spanish) radio station. 

And the audio it reproduces is more tuneful than the turbo/ supercharged T6 powerplant behind the bulkhead – the engine is workmanlike at mid-to-high revs and rather gruff at low revs. 

The XC60 has various high-tech devices to reduce the stress of driving and keep the driver safe on the road, but not everything is standard equipment for the newcomer. 

Most of the active-safety features are bundled in so-called Intellisafe packages as extra-cost factory options. 

Intellisafe Assist combines Adaptive Cruise Control, Pilot Assist and Distance Alert; Intellisafe Surround combines Blind Spot Information, Steer Assist, Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision Warning; while Intellisafe Pro is an ultra-safe combo of the two packages. 

Standard safety gear fitted to the XC60 at no extra charge includes an array of airbags, whiplash protection for the front-seat occupants, seatbelt pre-tensioners and reminders for all seats, a lane-keeping aid (operational from 65km/h to 200km/h) and Volvo’s City Safety collision avoidance system. 

The XC60’s City Safety function has been upgraded to incorporate steering support (on standby between 50km/h and 100km/h), which brakes the inner wheels individually and adds to the driver’s steering input to help him/ her during evasive action in an emergency situation, such as to avoid colliding with another vehicle or crashing into a cyclist, pedestrian or large suicidal animal. I would add “reckless e-scooter rider” to the list in the Singapore context. 

My favourite gadget in the car is Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous active driving aid which, together with the vehicle’s soothing interior and comfortable seating, made me feel surprisingly unrushed in Barcelona’s morning rush-hour traffic. The gadget even gave me a few hundred metres of “handsfree” cruising before giving a visual alert and then an audio alert to prompt me to take over the steering. 

The new Volvo XC60 T6 will make its Singapore debut this month (August).