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The Top Gear car review:Volvo XC60
What is it like on the road?
The XC60 uses the suspension from the 90 series cars, so mostly it feels very similar. The wheelbase is shortened and the track narrowed – by the simple means of different hubs and wheel offsets. From the driver’s seat it’s an asset to have something less bulky when you’re threading down city streets or narrow lanes.
Performance from the D5 engine is well up to the job, making 62mph in 7.2 sec. It’s pretty quiet too. To quell lag it has a Volvo contrivance called PowerPulse. A canister stores a reserve of high-pressure air that’s released into the inlet when you floor the accelerator. It sounds like a canny idea but isn’t a total solution.
If the autobox wasn’t so dozy, mind, you probably wouldn’t notice the lag. Flooring it sometimes meets with little more than a yawn as the powertrain hits the sleep button and rolls back under the duvet. Then after a pause it leaps out of bed in a panic. Boost arrives just as the box thumps down a gear or two and you’re shoved ahead with an unseemly kerfuffle. Things are better if you over-ride the box, but most models don’t have paddles so you have to use the lever.
We also tried the petrol T6. That’s not coming to the UK, though the T5 (same thing except no supercharger) will make landfall here. The petrol engine is smooth and quieter than any diesel in normal running. It does get a bit tingly near the red-line though.
Driver engagement isn’t the prime mission of the suspension. Instead you guide it through bends and it answers with an unruffled decorum. The Volvo engineers must be getting more practiced at tuning these components, because most behaviours are subtly improved versus the XC90.
The car we’ve tested had optional air suspension with active damping. It’s a success: switching from comfort to dynamic mode subtly makes things tauter and lessens tight-bend understeer. But both modes are comfortable while quelling the wheel hop and body float that sometimes sully the XC90. It’s £1,500 well spent.
Other suspension options are a passive one (steel springs at the front and composite plastic at the rear) and then a lower, stiffer passive setup for the R Design versions.
New safety systems include steering support if it sees an obstacle ahead and you begin to swerve rather than stop. It’ll help you pull the wheel, and use one-sided braking to keep the car pointing forwards.
That’s in addition to systems that help the car steer away from running off the road, or into the path of oncoming traffic, or into crossing junction traffic.
Volvo publicly set itself a target years ago that no-one would be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo after 2020. As the zero-date looms closer, they’re not back-pedalling on the aim, so you have to assume this roster of innovations is doing the job.