Volvo has refined its XC60 and fitted new Drive-E engines.
XC60 is a mid-sized, five-seat SUV that, on the face of it, is quite pricey, yet it manages to offer good value for money.
We took the revised XC60 for a test to see why spending €40,000-plus on the Swedish machine can make sense.
Obviously, XC60 has a commanding and highly recognisable road presence - Volvo has carefully crafted its cars' exteriors over the years. The once-boxy lumps have turned into more graceful, streamlined machines.
XC60 is also a very safe machine - you'd expect nothing less from Volvo. When launched in 2008 it was the first car to offer 'City Safety', an autonomous braking function that at low speeds helps prevent frontal collisions without driver input.
Apart from the minor exterior and interior revisions, the most significant changes are under the bonnet.
Volvo has streamlined its engine production from eight to just two, four-cylinder turbo-charged units, one diesel and one petrol, with varying outputs. The units are also prepared for future EV integration.
The latest Drive-E, D4, 'i-Art diesel' engine is the main reason why the XC60 commands our attention. The tax band 'A4' – yes, 'A4' - two-litre, four-cylinder unit pushes out 181hp and an even more impressive 400nm of torque. Torque (nm) is basically the muscle that shifts the car about, while horsepower (hp) is the flashier figure that delivers high speed. Without decent torque you'd need to shift gears a lot more to keep up momentum, so the higher the nm figure the better.
Volvo has made an engine using state-of-the-art injector technology with an extremely high 2,500 bar pressure (under licence from Denzo, Japan). Most diesel engines have an ECU (Electronic Control Unit or 'brain') that controls the flow of fuel to the cylinders. Volvo's 'i-Art' D4 engine is more efficient as each cylinder has its own ECU also.
Each cylinder's injector has its own microchip that can learn and adapt the fuel injection process to deliver the maximum performance out of that cylinder. Hence, the D4 engine delivers great performance figures (181hp/400nm) but also very low CO2 of just 99g. Volvo has also introduced a new eight-speed 'Geartronic' gearbox that does bring the CO2 figure up a bit ('B1') but is worth it for ease of use.
We took an extensive range of D4-equipped Volvos for a test in the UK recently and found the unit worked brilliantly in everything from the S60 up to the big old S80 flagship cruiser, in both manual and Geartronic versions. The manual gearbox has long fifth and sixth gears, so delivering great fuel consumption on longer runs was effortless. The eight-speed Geartronic box is a revelation and rivals BMW's eight-speed automatic for drivability.
Back in Ireland, our XC60 D4, with its standard front-wheel drive and manual six-speed gearbox, proved every bit as impressive. During the recent storms it was planted on the road and very stable in crosswinds. The linear power delivery made driving relaxing and uncomplicated.
The simple cabin remains understated and classy. ES, SE, SE Lux and R-Design are the specification levels. AWD is available with again only a slight CO2 penalty ('B2' manual). As always, Volvo's leather, heated seats are both comfortable and well-built.
Across the range, the new D4 engine is allowing the Geely- (Chinese for 'Lucky') owned firm to be highly competitive on price with the premium players like Audi and BMW. XC60 is a fine car.