REVIEW | Why the Volvo XC60 is still a fine choice in 2020

The Volvo XC60 remains a comfortable and safe choice.
The Volvo XC60 remains a comfortable and safe choice.
Image: Supplied

The other day I drove past a Volvo billboard on which the XC60 featured. Its caption described a transformation from “boxy” to “foxy”.

We can all agree that the Swedish carmaker has pulled off a striking turnaround in the last decade or so. Cars like the youthful C30 of 2008 and 2012 V40 were seminal in shedding old beige-hued Volvo stigmas.

The current XC90 greatly helped the cause, too – and subsequent follow-ups in its sport-utility vehicle range were equally well-received. We recently spent time with the medium-sized XC60, priced upwards of R731,300, which offered a positive reminder that there are options for those seeking to look beyond the realm of the Germans. Indeed, the Volvo is one of three interesting choices if an Audi Q5, BMW X3 or Mercedes-Benz GLC-Class is not your cup of tea.

Remember the Alfa Romeo Stelvio? What a gorgeous brute, even if the prospect of buying into a brand with a limited dealer network and a questionable reputation for customer service may put you off. You could also have a Lexus NX, with its paper-swan styling. And then we have the Swede.

In the looks department, there are no gripes to express about the XC60. With its assertive countenance, including the T-shaped headlamp signature said to have been inspired by the hammer of Thor, it is undeniably handsome.

That our test unit arrived right in the middle of a painfully cold snap further flattered its competencies as a cushy hauler. The heated seats worked effectively, while the seats themselves proved soothing and supportive - a hallmark for which Volvo pews are universally praised.

The whole concept of Swedish luxury as executed in the automotive sense is something to behold. The idea is underpinned by minimalism and warmth. Every surface is panelled in high-quality, soft-to-touch materials, while the fascia is kept button-sparse.

Interior oozes Scandinavian cool.
Interior oozes Scandinavian cool.
Image: Supplied

As written in previous accounts of contemporary Volvo cars, the tablet-like infotainment screen seems to take a bit of getting used to. Simple things like deactivating the stop-start system cannot be easily done while on the move: you need to navigate through myriad menus.

Irritatingly, the ventilation system of our car also had a mind of its own. At start-up, the fan could be set to its maximum setting – but would only start functioning after a few kilometres of driving.

Still, not much could cause a spike in blood pressure from the helm of the XC60. It has to be among the most relaxing steers in the category, especially when equipped with the optional pneumatic suspension.

Speaking of options, you need to do yourself a favour and look at the extras list on the Volvo online configurator. There are some nifty and unusual add-ons to be specified. This includes a key fob shell finished in birchwood or leather, a fitted neck pillow that slides over the headrests, and a specialised dog harness for the rear seat.

You can even specify an added aluminium plate for underside protection if you are the kind of buyer with frequent dirt-road driving in mind.

The entire range comprises of four-cylinder engines, with both petrol and diesel versions packing 1969cc displacements. In D5 guise, as tested, the output is quoted at 173kW and 480Nm, paired with an eight-speed automatic. Power is sent to all four wheels. With an abundance of torque available from as little as 1750rpm, a steady wave of acceleration is easily summoned in any setting.

Highway cruising, with the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving system lending a hand, is an effortless affair. The XC60 had me contemplating all kinds of cross-border sojourns.

My focus on reality was brought firmly into perspective when the headlines of the morning proffered sobering tolls of a more macabre kind.

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