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Review: Volvo XC60 D5

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Think of luxury SUVs and the Volvo XC60 may not feature on the top three cars you recall. Which is not to say the Volvo isn’t on par with its rivals – it’s just that a good product like the XC60 gets completely overshadowed by the big three Germans. And that’s exactly what has happened in India. This refreshed XC60 is Volvo’s attempt to correct that.

Previously known for making staid looking but extremely safe passenger vehicles, Volvo has just entered a phase of updating its model line-up. To begin with, the XC60 didn’t really need much change in terms of overall styling, and Volvo’s overall sales chart confirms that. The smaller of its two SUVs, the XC60 has been its bestseller since its global launch in 2008-09 – 40 per cent of overall Volvo sales come from the XC60 – and there was little that required tweaking.

But here’s what increasing competition does to an already good product. The SUV – which started the design revolution for Volvo in 2008 – got its first mid-life revision recently, and it’s the front where most of the changes have happened. The grille is now wider, and that has pushed the daytime running lights down on to the reprofiled bumper. The headlamps are chunkier and there’s more chrome around the bigger Volvo logo. All of which makes the refreshed XC60 look sharper than the outgoing model.

Also, large sections of black cladding have been taken off the lower part of the SUV, replaced by body-colored ones. Which shows Volvo is going for a more contemporary look as against the rugged appearance of the earlier model. Rear styling is largely unchanged – a few added elements in the tail lamps, and those new integrated tailpipes are the only talking points here.

Inside, hardly anything has changed. It still resembles the understated cabin it was before. The mild upgrades consist primarily of new wood inlays, a new headliner, fabric-covered B-pillars, and updated metal trim around the air vents and light controls. If there’s something about the XC60’s cabin you want to tell your friends and colleagues about, it would be the floating centre console and the new digital display with changeable themes.

Only powered by a set of 5-cylinder diesel motors, the XC60 is available in three variants – D4 Kinetic, D4 Summum and D5 Summum. While the D4 variants have a smaller 2.0-litre diesel motor, the top-end D5 gets a bigger 2.4-litre diesel unit. While the Kinetic variant gets leather seats, the Summum variants come with well crafted sports seats that offer more support and comfort. We tested the D5 and it continues to be powered by a 5-cylinder, 2,400cc, turbo-diesel that is good for 212bhp and a max torque of 440Nm. Those figures may look promising on paper, but the old-school 6-speed automatic gearbox doesn’t really complement that power.

The diesel unit doesn’t feel very refined and as you go higher up the rev band, it certainly gets quite audible in the cabin. The sluggish automatic ’box takes away most of the fun element from this SUV. Thankfully, the D5 is offered with paddle shifters and that’s handy when you need to quickly downshift a cog or two. Driving in city conditions won’t be that big a hassle though – the engine responds well to part-throttle inputs.

The XC60 excels in the ride department, absorbing most road irregularities, whether you’re crawling in the city or cruising on the highway. Even around corners, while there is a bit of sideways movement, the Volvo doesn’t lose its composure and sticks to its line religiously. Here, the XC60’s all-wheel drive system joins the party, working in tandem with its dynamic stability traction control and corner traction control systems, preventing the SUV from completely losing it.

Speaking of which, point this Volvo in a straight line and it can cruise at speeds beyond 200kph all day long. At high speeds, there’s a little bit of pitching over those annoying road joints, but even then, things stay under control.

Goes without saying that a Volvo comes loaded with segment-first safety aids and a reasonably long list of features. New to the XC60 is the city safety feature, which is an autonomous emergency braking system designed to help you avoid a low-speed crash or reduce its severity. This system is active under 50kph and can bring the car to a complete stop at speeds up to 31kph. Apt for idiot-filled roads like ours.

This refresh is a good attempt by Volvo at fine-tuning the XC60’s appeal. The deal could have been sweeter had Volvo updated the mechanicals too, because right now that's on area where it loses out to the Germans. But it’s still up there with the big boys when it comes to ferrying its passengers comfortably, with good ride and handling. At Rs 46.55 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it’s on the expensive side, but then, exclusivity and extra bits of safety kit doesn’t come cheap.

The numbers
5-cyl, 2,400cc, 212bhp, 440Nm, 6A, AWD, overall kpl: 11, 0-100kph: 8.3sec (claimed), 1,921kg, top speed: 205kph (claimed), fuel capacity: 70 litres (claimed), Rs 46.55 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

The verdict
With its unique styling and safety quotient, the XC60 stands apart from the other premium brands. If only the mechanicals were updated, it would’ve been a better match for the Germans.

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