Why XC60 might just be the best car in the world
There used to be an unofficial competition among motoring journalists about what was the best car in the world.
Not the exotica of Aston Martins and Ferraris or the historic motors such as E-Types and and gull-wing Mercedes-Benzes but more of the everyday car which somehow managed to be almost affordable but still excellent in the way it drove or looked.
I seem to recall the BMW 5 Series usually triumphed; it was a car which always impressed and never disappointed. For the money, it was said there was no better car.
So, how does this competition stack up in 2021? Well, I think this car is perhaps a contender. It’s a Volvo XC60 which, a decade ago, would have been unthinkable as a model, let alone as the best car on the planet.
But a few things have happened in the last 10 years. Volvo has reinvented itself rather successfully as a premium brand which stands comparisons with BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and others.
And the XC60, alongside the smaller XC40 and grander XC90, was created as Volvo made inroads into the SUV market and it is an astonishingly well regarded car.
The XC family is brilliant. My favourite is the XC40, which is compact and cute. But I can see why the XC60 is popular with families and the XC90 is a valid alternative to a Range Rover.
Tested here is a sporty version of the XC60, an R-Design version which is also a plug-in hybrid. We should by now be used to the startling figures these cars produce but it frankly still amazes me.
This model has emissions of 55 to 64g/km and it will offer 100.9mpg when properly driven. That means when the electric motor is charged up, which frankly isn’t that difficult to do. You simply need to get in the habit of plugging it in to your wall charger,
If you haven’t already got a charger, you can get one for a few hundred pounds and it should pay for itself pretty quickly with fewer trips to the filling station.
The XC60 in this form is a brilliant car. It is quick (0 to 60mph in 5.6 seconds) and it feels nimble and refined. The cabin is sumptuous – bright, well designed and easy to live with – and there is no end to the luxury and safety features.
It has a sporty edge to it but in a clean, classy and unfussy way. It’s a sporty model for grown-ups.
If course, this is an expensive car. At £58,000 it seems very costly, but the range starts at a more reasonable £40,460 and you can pick and choose your extra-cost features.
All XC60s come with a 9in centre console with voice-activated control, which is at the heart of the car and is incredibly intuitive and takes in the heating system, navigation and web apps.
It has safety devices to detect and steer around obstacles such as large animals, cyclists and pedestrians, with automatic emergency braking. It also provides steering assistance if you unwittingly drift out of your lane, guiding you back into your lane and out of the path of any oncoming vehicles.
And it will give you Run-off Road Protection – automatically tightening the front seatbelts should the car inadvertently leave the road, while it has front seat frames with a collapsible section reduce vertical forces to help prevent spinal injuries.
It has powered tailgate, dual-zone air conditioning and heated seats across the range.
It wouldn’t be a Volvo if it wasn’t packed to the hilt with safety features and this model is no different.
It has devices designed to “see” vehicles in your blind spot; to automatically apply the brakes in the event of an imminent collision, and adaptive cruise control which will keep your car a safe distance from others.
It has automatic headlight cleaning systems, a heated windscreen, heated seats front and rear, hands-free tailgate opening and closing and memory settings for seats.
It is a great all-rounder. It feels more like a car than an SUV and has all the trappings of an executive model. Niggles? Well, the rear luggage cover is fiddly and the engine and motors are so quiet it’s difficult to tell when the car is safely switched off.
Meanwhile, Volvo has enjoyed a successful first half to 2021. It sold 380,757 cars globally, an increase of 41 per cent compared with the same period last year.
The overall sales increase was driven by strong demand in China, the US and Europe, all of which reported double-digit growth compared with the same period last year, when market conditions were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the month of June, Volvo Cars sold 68,224 cars globally, up 11.0 per cent compared with the same month last year.
For the first six months of 2021, the number of Volvo cars sold online increased more than fivefold compared with the same period in 2020. The overall increase was driven by rising customer demand in combination with a broadened offer in more markets.
Volvo Cars’ Recharge line-up of chargeable models, with a fully electric or plug-in hybrid powertrain, remained popular among customers and accounted for 24.6 per cent of all Volvo cars sold globally during the first six months of the year. Compared with the first half of 2020, the share of Recharge models increased by nearly 150 per cent.
For the first six months of the year, European sales grew by 35.4 per cent, to 166,822 sold cars, compared with the same period in 2020, which was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The increase for the period was mainly led by a strong performance in the United Kingdom. In June, European sales ended up at 28,695 cars, up 1.3 per cent.
Volvo XC60 Recharge plug-in hybrid R-Design T6
Price: £52,570. The test model costs £58,645 and the XC60 range starts at £40,460
Engine: A 2.0 litre petrol engine plus an electric motor
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Performance: Top speed 112mph and 0 to 60mph in 5,6 seconds
Costs: 100.9mpg when used properly with the electric motor charged
Emissions: 55 to 64g/km
Warranty: Three years, 60,000 miles