2018 Volvo XC60 first drive review (2023)

The new Volvo XC60 has a lot riding on its carefully sculpted shoulders. It's the Swedish brand's best-selling model in Australia but faces an armada of rivals.

For the new generation XC60 Volvo has adopted the chassis that underpins the larger XC90, along with items like the seats, infotainment system, electrical architecture, and of course safety systems meaning a large car look and feel in a more compact package.

Volvo won’t go unchallenged though as the prestige medium SUV class is bombarded with new models like the recently introduced Audi Q5 and Range Rover Velar, and soon to arrive BMW X3 all making Volvo’s task of getting the XC60 message across more difficult.

In Australia the XC60 range kicks off from a surprisingly affordable $59,990 (plus on-road costs) for the entry level XC60 Momentum D4 and spans all the way to a not insubstantial $92,990 (plus on-roads) for the range-topping 300kW R-Design T8 plug in hybrid that promises to be both fast and frugal.

In between there’s a T5 petrol, D5 diesel, and T6 petrol with all engines featuring four-cylinders and 2.0-litres engine capacity, despite their numerical designations. Specification starts with Momentum onto the more plush Inscription (both available with D4 and T5 engines) while the sporty R-Design can be had with more powerful D5, T6 and T8 engines.

Of course, Volvo being Volvo means there’s also a long list of safety features including new innovations like Oncoming Lane Mitigation that uses steer assist to guide the XC60 back into the correct lane should it detect an oncoming vehicle, plus blind spot monitoring that can keep the car out of the path of other vehicles during turns.

With so many familiar elements from the XC90 on board, the XC60 bears an incredibly strong family resemblance including key items like the steering wheel, digital instrument cluster and 9.0-inch infotainment display.

Volvo has also tapped into its Scandinavian roots, delivering a minimalist dashboard aesthetic trimmed in contemporary wood and metal finishes. Button-clutter is all but removed with controls shifted to the central screen.

Volvo also adds in some points of difference. The start-up process doesn’t involve the usual push-button start, but rather a twist-knob in the centre console, the dash houses a Swedish flag motif in front of the passenger that hides an expansion join in the metal trim to allow it to expand and contract with the weather, and T8 models come with a crystal gear selector from famed Swedish glassmaker, Orrefors.

The combination of simple forms, horizontal design, and starkly vertical touchscreen makes the XC60 stand out from its peers, but along with the aesthetic elements, Volvo has struck the right balance of spaciousness.

The seats are the same as those in the larger XC90, so feel every bit as roomy and supportive. Tall windows and a low belt line combine to give the cabin a bright airy feel.

Rear seat passengers in particular will have room to stretch out with a surprisingly generous amount of space under the front seats to slide their feet into. Head and knee room are also quite generous but the rear doors are quite slim, making entry and egress less than ideal - particularly if you need to buckle a youngster into a car seat.

For models equipped with air suspension a button in the boot allows the rear suspension to be raised or lowered to ease loading, and the boot itself is generous though competitors like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and Audi Q5 outclass it slightly, but three and 45 litres respectively.

Like the interior, key componentry for the XC60 is carried over from the larger XC90 meaning key components like engine, transmission, and suspension are the same as those of the larger model.

That’s mostly due to Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, which will also eventually underpin the next-generation S60 sedan and V60 wagon, forming the common basis for the two models.

There are some differences, like the handling package, which Volvo’s XC60 product manager describes as complying to “inspired confidence” principles unlike the XC90 which was developed under “relaxed confidence” guidelines.

In layman's terms that means the smaller, lighter, XC60 is a slightly more dynamic drive, and so it should be with carry-over engines on a more compact body and less mass to contend with.

Don’t think that it’s an all-out sporty SUV though, the XC60 is still composed and comfortable, and in its standard form the light steering and easy-going ride make it feel approachable, easy to drive, and above all comfortable.

The entry-level D4 engine is adept and bringing the XC60 up to speed relatively swiftly, with good refinement and low levels of noise and vibration. During the driving rain of the first drive the standard all wheel drive system also kept grip reassuringly where it needed to be depending on conditions.

The D5 engine of the R-Design also adds Volvo’s Power Pulse technology which uses a compressed air reservoir to pre-charge the turbo from standstill, with the aim of reducing turbo lag therefore making the more powerful diesel feel more responsive.

At the top of the range the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid delivers a significant 300kW of power thanks to the combination of the T6’s 235kW twincharged petrol engine (turbocharged and supercharged) plus a 65 electric motor that drives the rear axle.

A multi-mode drive system allows full, or partial EV operation, or a performance oriented mode dedicates maximum assistance from power powertrain systems for a more dynamic drive.

As a green choice the XC60 gave about 38 kilometres of electric range whilst driving out of Adelaide, with just one full throttle acceleration burst requiring assistance from the petrol engine to help pick up the pace.

Left to its own devices in hybrid mode the XC60 T8 will rely on the electric motor in most circumstances, with a smooth transition to petrol assistance and only a slight hint of petrol engine rumble.

There’s no hiding the T8’s circa 2.1 tonne weight though, and pushed hard the XC60 feels portly, though acceleration (at 5.3 seconds from 0-100 km./h) is anything but pedestrian.

R-Design cars also feature a sports suspension tune, and in concert with the standard 21-inch wheel package the ride can crash and bash over road imperfections, a bold difference to the ride comfort of lesser models.

Volvo’s sharp $59,990 opening bid positions the new XC60 exactly where it needs to be, undercutting established luxury rivals, within the reach of a broad range of buyers, and showing no signs of being de-contented to meet the mark.

Along with the brand’s traditional safety approach, Volvo has also forged itself a new reputation for confident and appealing design. The new XC60 in particular looks less formal than the larger XC90 while maintaining a strong feeling of familiarity.

Comfortable and appealing to drive (approach the firm-riding R-Design with caution) with frugal engines, and an upscale but roomy interior, it seems that Volvo has really hit its stride with this latest introduction.

2018 Volvo XC60 price and specifications

On sale: Now

Price: From $59,990 before on-road costs

Engines:2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel; 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine; 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder petrol; turbo and superhcarged petrol with 65kW electric motor

Power: 140kW or 173kW; 187kW; 235kW; 300kW

Torque: 400Nm or 480Nm; 350Nm; 400Nm; 640Nm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive

Fuel use: 2.1-8.0L/100km

  • For all the latest Volvo information, visit our showroom.

Kez Casey

Production Editor

Kez Casey migrated from behind spare parts counters to writing about cars over ten years ago. Raised by a family of automotive workers, Kez grew up in workshops and panel shops before making the switch to reviews and road tests for The Motor Report, Drive and CarAdvice.

Read more about Kez Casey


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Saturnina Altenwerth DVM

Last Updated: 07/09/2023

Views: 5844

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (44 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Saturnina Altenwerth DVM

Birthday: 1992-08-21

Address: Apt. 237 662 Haag Mills, East Verenaport, MO 57071-5493

Phone: +331850833384

Job: District Real-Estate Architect

Hobby: Skateboarding, Taxidermy, Air sports, Painting, Knife making, Letterboxing, Inline skating

Introduction: My name is Saturnina Altenwerth DVM, I am a witty, perfect, combative, beautiful, determined, fancy, determined person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.