Welcome to the World Car of the Year
Mark Smyth reports on the latest addition to the Motor News garage, the Volvo XC60
We said goodbye to two long-termers last month, but as they exited the office car park, something special arrived to spend time with the team over the next 12 months.
That car is none other than the 2018 world car of the year, the Volvo XC60.
We were expecting an entry-level version but what arrived was the D5 all-wheel drive in Inscription specification.
I am going to nick a comment from Lerato, because after driving it for a few days he said it was like his favourite moccasins, something you instantly feel at home in. I cannot agree more and partly because we both have small children, and is there really a better family vehicle than a Volvo?
Obviously there are various answers to this but if safety is a priority (and it should be in SA) then the XC60 beats everything hands down. Turn the starter knob in the centre console and the digital dashboard runs a system check, listing all its safety kit. There’s City Safety obstacle detection, Cross Traffic Alert, blind spot detection, rear collision warning, adaptive cruise control and road sign detection.
Then there is Pilot Assist, the semi-autonomous self-driving aid that will allow the car to drive itself at a set cruise control speed within the lanes, maintaining a preset distance to the traffic in front and applying the brakes when traffic slows or if someone cuts in front of you.
We have 12 months to test this system because already we have found it to be slightly flawed. A recent early morning drive to the airport seemed the perfect chance to test it on a quiet highway but as the N3 turned near the Kempton Park on-ramp, the XC60 ignored the direction of the lanes, presumably distracted by the yellow cross lines on the side and kept heading straight. The law still requires you to keep your hands on the wheel, which is handy when you have to provide a little correction for technology that might not have had enough caffeine so early in the morning.
As I am mentioning an issue, we have also found that the chrome beading around the rear side windows is not as well fitted as on the rest of the car. It’s a pity because the quality of the rest of the XC60 is faultless.
Faultless is also a term that can be applied to the design. The days when people joked about Volvos are long gone and today one can discuss Volvo in the same conversation as Audi, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes.
The XC60 is no exception, providing a superb design that still shows elements of the last generation, a model that was the top-selling premium SUV in Europe for years.
The Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights are, of course, a new Volvo signature but they work well and give Volvos a unique identity. The long bonnet and rearward cabin are also XC60 items, as are the tall, vertical tail lights.
Then there is the interior, which is full of that Scandinavian design that we are becoming so accustomed to in a modern Volvo. It is simple and elegant, partially with the minimal inclusion of buttons. This does mean many of the controls have moved to the touchscreen infotainment system but we are still getting used to some elements of this. We have plenty of time, of course, but the lack of one-touch buttons can make it tricky to find some items such as the seat heaters and other climate control settings.
The Auto setting on the air-con also seems to have a bit of a trick to it and on many occasions I have found myself stabbing at the screen when a particular input request has not been recognised. We are not criticising it, yet, but it could be an area that Volvo has to pay more attention to in the interests of reducing driver distraction.
There are buttons on the steering wheel too which we are still becoming acquainted with. Another option is to use Apple CarPlay and ask Siri of course.
Ride comfort is proving great, if a little firm on occasions, probably courtesy of the 245/55 R19 wheels.
It is helped by the rear air suspension, which can also be raised or lowered at the touch of a button in the boot to help with loading or unloading items.
Speaking of the boot, the space is good and accessed via an electrically operated tailgate. The luggage cover occasionally flicks out of its guides but we have yet to find an SUV that does not have a similar problem.
We have yet to put the XC60 through its paces dynamically, or for that matter on anything other than tarmac to test its all-wheel drive ability, but in town it has been performing admirably.
It has been subjected to the daily school runs, the urban commute and a few other small jaunts. It has all suited the four-cylinder engine quite well with the 173kW and 480Nm not being taxed very much.
Urban commuting and the usual issue of a heavier right foot as one gets used to a vehicle are seeing the average consumption around 10.2l/100km which we seriously need to improve on, especially with the constant increase in fuel prices. It’s unlikely we will ever get close to the claimed average of 5.5l/100km but we should be sitting in the upper sevens so the challenge there is set.
With our first few weeks of living with the XC60 done, it is time to become even more acquainted with the World Car of the Year. So far all is looking as good as the XC60 and that all bodes rather well.