20 February 2008

Soft sell

Volvo enters compact crossover fray with baby XC

Volvo XC60

It's turning into Softroader Day here at Top Gear. Earlier, we brought you news of the Ford Kuga, and now Volvo has revealed its first foray into the compact crossover section with this, the XC60.

Best viewed as the XC90's little brother, the XC60 is a high-riding five-seater set to launch in the UK late this summer. It'll be targeting the BMW X3 and upcoming Audi Q5, as well as top-end versions of the Kuga, Outlander and Tiguan.

It's a crowded segment, and the XC60's job is made even trickier because Volvo already has a five-seater off-roader: the V70-based XC70. But the Swedish firm says that while the XC70 is a proper potholes-and-peat-bogs mud-plugger, the XC60 is a sportier, more road-based offering for people with (cringe) an 'active urban lifestyle'.

And, judging by the looks at least, that makes sense. There's an almost coupe-ish flavour to the XC60's profile - not as extreme as the bizarre BMW X6, true, but certainly a more assertive design than the rest of Volvo's current line-up, C30 excluded.

"We're elevating our design DNA to an entirely new level by literally turning up the visual volume," said Volvo designer Steve Mattin. This is a prime example of nonsensical marketing spiel.

In any case, the XC60 looks sharp, with an aggressive snout similar to the Kuga. Indeed, the Volvo shares gearbox and engine technology with its Ford stablemate, but is based on the same platform as the V70, S80 and the new Mondeo.

It's a Volvo, so naturally it's safer than lawn bowls in full American football padding. The XC60 is the first car to get Volvo's 'City Safety' technology as standard, which monitors the road ahead and applies the brakes if a collision is imminent.

The XC60 will be launched with three engines: the turbocharged three-litre T6 and two variants of the 2.4-litre D5 turbodiesel. All will feature permanent four-wheel drive, but a front-wheel-drive diesel will go on sale during 2009.

Naturally, we'll get a first look at the XC60 at the Geneva show. Looks like it's gearing up to be a big 'un.

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