Tested: 2018 Volvo XC60 D5

The middle child

I’ve got another confession to make. Besides incredibly common cars like Polos or Fortuners, there’s another class of automobile that leaves me reasonably cold: the mid-size SUV. You know what I’m talking about, right? Think Audi Q5, BMW X5, Mercedes ML or GLE and my latest test car – Volvo’s XC60.

My statement is weighed down by a fair chunk of irony as none of these cars are terrible (in my opinion) and I’ve spent many hours behind the wheel of my parents’ Q5. “Don’t buy the Q7, it’s too big…” I advised them a few years ago, “…rather get the funky Q3!” Evidently, they ignored my advice and picked the boring middle child.

The same sentiment applies to Volvo’s quasi-off-roader ranges – their XC90 is impressive but rather large while the XC40 is unbelievably cool and desirable. This 2018-generation XC60 may be the newest of the bunch but it lacks the 90’s bulk and the 40’s trendiness. It’s well sized with modern tech and subtle design; my folks should love it.

As luck would have it, they came for a visit and were subjected to a few chauffeured drives in this silver XC60 D5 AWD Momentum. Although not rapturous about it, they approved of everything except this test car’s autonomous driving gimmick and its depressing black leather interior. Luckily, Volvo offers other interior and exterior options…

Like all modern Volvos, every derivative in this new range is shipped with either a 2L turbo-petrol or a 2L turbo-diesel engine. Your choice of model (petrol T5 or T6 and diesel D4 or D5) depends on how far they turn the wick up. In this application, D5 means highly respectable power outputs of up to 173kW or 480Nm through a silky-smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox.

That translates into 0-100km/h in 7.2 seconds and a top speed of 220km/h, equally respectable for a mid-size SUV. Although our press car didn’t exactly thrill us at every turn and traffic light, I can vouch for its good performance and great mix of handling and ride comfort. Volvo claims 5.5L/100km from the 71L tank, I struggled to stay under nine.

Another contemporary Volvo trait is the escalating trim level of this range: “Momentum” (as tested here) has excellent safety kit and decent luxury / convenience goodies while “Inscription” models have a few more toys on board. “R-Design” is the sportiest line and Volvo offers more extras or pre-arranged packs at reasonable prices.

The great ride comfort I mentioned earlier was partly due to this base-model’s sensible 235/60R18 tyres; dearer models get 19-inch wheels with the option of going up to 20 or 21 inches. I would advise against those, unless you never leave the tar road and close proximity of a well-stocked and well-connected tyre retailer.

Other sensible items in this car are 216mm of ground clearance, an intelligent all-wheel drive system, a 505L boot (1,432L with flattened rear seats), 750kg towing capacity, LED headlights, rear park sensors, digital instruments and an ipad-like infotainment screen; as well as lots of automatic or powered goodies.

That multi-screen ipad screen takes a bit of practise – and a steady finger over bumpy roads – but was a dividing factor for my folks. Mother Dearest never went near it but appreciated the physical volume, pause and skip buttons while my father bent forward with an inquisitive look through his bifocals.

Come to think of it, that pretty much sums up their Q5 ownership so the new XC60 should do well in this segment, although it’s not competitively priced at R736,000. The equivalent Audi costs R704,000. Each Volvo XC60 is sold with a one-year unlimited-mileage warranty and five-year/100,000km maintenance plan.

Acceleration video:

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