Firstly a huge shout out to the Volvo SA team. Thank you to the team that made this happen within 1 month of us asking. We have been working on getting a car to blog on properly for a while, and we as a small blog want to thank you all for allowing this to take place.
My wife and I are getting to the stage where we need to start the discussion on having kids. We have waited until 90% of the key academics and career-focused work can be done, and as millennials are just about at the right time to have kids. Both of us are over 35 and are at the stage in life where we should have kids before it becomes risky at a slightly advanced age.
This kind of thinking really starts to make one ponder the safety of life in South Africa, and safety on our roads. With that in mind, and now that we are free to write as we need ( about Brands), we have started the first discussion around the car. When I say discussion, I mean I say words, and she looks at me with a blank stare. Every man married or with a girlfriend knows the look, when we gush over some piece of metal or technology and then she looks back at me like, why are you talking to me?!!!
The discussion mentioned above actually only happened in my head. As I have shared before, I was involved in an accident with my family in 1998 and the foundation of most of my blogs has been how practical a car is, but also how safe. Being obsessed about safety doesn’t stop with just the car, but also looking at options of where we live, what time of night and day in the week we go out, and living in a neighborhood where I checked the local SAPS stats first before signing my first lease.
So, with a bit of OCD and lots of creativity, I bring you our first proper test on a Volvo ever!
We decided to start with the XC60 so that we can get back or roots. Having already done a test in the SAV space, a few years ago, and with a massive resurgence of interest in SUV`s worldwide, the timing is perfect. Never-before have Volvo`s looked this good! International sales are up nearly every quarter! There is an innate focus on safety, and you can feel it when you drive the car and all the safety packages fitted to this XC60 pop-up.
Before we start – I am a coloured man from Durban and am used to having bloody good thumping sound in my cab!
When you buy this model, please specify the B&W audio system we tested in this car. The speakers are beautiful, and the sound coming through them made us think of very expensive sound we have heard in an S-Class (Burmester) and 7-Series recently (also B&W). With that being said, if you are an audiophile like me, it makes my NAD and Boston acoustics system at home sound very average.
First things first, let’s talk about Design.
The new XC60 is not what you think it is. I have a young man whose very fancy VW Scirocco in white with sports options and some “work” done to make it faster is parked next to my parking bay. Normally I don’t get much interest from the neighbours, but with this car, 2 people wanted to see it and feel the drive in the week we had it. I also have 2 close friends who are considering changing the 3 series sedan cars they have, to something a bit more spacious but still very design focussed.
We would have slotted the new lines firmly with any other brand. In the R line package 2.0 D5 AWD R design Premium plus package we had, the entire story of Volvo`s old design language is on its head. The lines inside are still focused and clean. The exterior lines are a lot more aggressive, and the lighting both front and rear, while very functional, still show that Volvo means business. A lot of the traits of design from the XC90 have carried over to the smaller XC60 and it shows. So we love the design. We love the lighting changes you can make inside. And we also see the seats and headrest closer to the work done inside a jet than that done in a car.
If you had to spec another option especially if you have kids, I would recommend the entire Panoramic sunroof and air suspension. The roof lights up the entire cabin in the day and even at 40 degrees on our main test day in the North West, the aircon works properly. The air suspension to put your baby to sleep, and still keep your back in the right place.
The power in this car is ample for the 99% of tar road and in-town driving most of us would be used to. I am going to say this, but please don’t take it personally Volvo. This is not a car for the bush. It does not feel as powerful as some of the local options in the SUV space, and with that test, when engines and components are tested in the bush of Africa, you get things like the Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger. What this engine is built for is the CEO or entrepreneur/middle manager who wants to drive to clients daily and needs the power of 173 kW to get to clients on time. We got to test this part plenty of times in the week, setting up a new business venture which you will hear more about soon.
Driving on the sand, the 2.0 litre motor even with AWD still sounded like it needed a bit more umph. I say this because as a family we had a 3.0D Fortuner, that didn’t break a sweat in the very soft sand in Sodwana a few years ago. What is key for all of us South Africans now is getting away. Driving away from the city has never been more important than today. This engine is enough to take you and your kids safely to your getaway wherever that is. Most of the dusty and corrugated roads thrown at the XC60 were fine. I just felt driving uphill like the motor in a 3.0 diesel would have been better, instead of turbos doing all the heavy lifting. It will be fine driving to your campsite or luxury bush hotel.
On the highway, the car is light and feels like a ballerina. Not that I have felt a ballerina, but it felt very light on its feet, and could quickly move to speed when needed without a sweat. The XC60 even with AWD belongs in the city jungle, and for the 2 weeks every 4 months away in the bush or beach, this car is perfect for that key performance requirement!
On our main test route – the road to the Magaliesberg and back is terrible enough to give any car a hard time. Focus on the road is one of the major reasons why people could get in trouble on long distance drives. The safety systems fitted to our car include:
A 360 Degree camera (part of the R design premium plus pack please find a shorter name) and the Driver support package. For accidents in SA, the main thing that seems to kill is speed. I am guilty of it and so are you, all excuses aside. The Driver support package comes with a graphical heads-up display which is very bright. Heads up has been around for a few years, and I think it should become standard. It stops you from speeding but also shows you upcoming turn directions from the GPS of the car in a position where your eyes don’t need to move around. The road sign info that comes standard will scan the road ahead for signs, and when in areas with construction and repair, this comes in very handy. The platinum highway road heading south from Brits to Pretoria is filled with hazards. This was a great chance to test the Pilot system in the Volvo.
I was very hesitant to use any form of electronic assistance in cars at speed, but going 120 km, with a truck and bus to my left, the truck with a load pulls into my lane, the car slows down automatically and I can feel the steering tug slightly closer to the white line inside left. As the truck overtakes the bus, the car then automatically speeds up, still monitoring the two to my left and gently increases the speed from 100 back to the set speed of 120 km/hr.
The buttons for the autonomous systems are built into the steering. They are very quick to get used to, and I found myself using them, even when I only needed to look for my cable in the centre console to charge my phone. The car monitors everything around you. When taxis pulled very close to my right, whilst overtaking, the driver instrument cluster flashes a red warning on the heads up and the centre driver cluster, indicating that I have a car to my right. In the slow trail of a morning commute into Sandton, once again it can follow the speed of the car ahead of me – on the Grayston offramp at 8:20 am and ensures that my car stays dead centre of the lane – and blinking warnings when a taxi does come too close. If you live overseas and are reading the word Taxi – this is not a yellow cab or UBER. It is a minibus form of transport used by 11 million people daily, but with many fatalities due to reckless- driving/unroadworthy vehicles which we can all attest to.
Letting go of the steering for a bit, the car will buzz and warn you to place your hands on the steering at all times, which I do advocate. I do trust the systems to do the right thing, but as we saw with the Uber accident in the USA, there is still radar and sensor work to be done and we can`t take driving carefully and ever vigilant for granted. Autonomous driving has no many areas to improve, there is still scientific and ethical work and testing to be done for everyone!
The XC60 is great all round for active and passive safety. I do think that you can trust the car to keep you safe, if your kid is on the backseat chocking on a sweet (this happened) and you need to take action, the car has your back!
All round visibility is great! Often what happens lately in car design is that car`s rear C pillars start to slope, as designers try to appeal to a bigger group of people by making it appear to be a coupe`. The headroom is good all round and the XC60 hasn’t tried to be something it isn`t. Even with the two baby/booster car seats in place and boot packed, you can still see clearly around the car. The cameras in this Volvo are 4 in total – which means parking anywhere is easy. I parked in every single small parking I could find, and the combination of cameras, on dash display of virtual 360 of the car and especially blind sports was great.
Driving on the highway as I said before, is very good. The handling of this car, in conjunction with an air suspension, makes it feel very light and airy. More like you are on a cloud than a car. The steering feel though is very numb, and most cars moving to electric steering will experience this phenomenon. I am sure that folk driving this on snow and on the sand, want to feel what the road is doing. Not all the bumps, but at least how much grip the front tyres have. This is my major down mark for the XC60. It is very easy to drive, but if you watch F1 and have had speeding fines as regular as ministers “resigning”, then this car is not for you. I have to say that they have improved the suspension, especially when handling corners at legal speeds, this from the old XC60 to the new version.
This car is easy to drive off-road to the other province/Drakensburg chalet of your choosing. You can bear the 200 metres of dirt. There is a driving mode specifically for off-road on the driving options list, and it will be able to climb a curb even with the Italian designer heels that are the 20” inch Pirelli`s on this car.
It took me 2 minutes to fit both car seats in the car. If you are even thinking about kids, this is a key concept. Iso-fix and seats made by a brand-obsessed about safety. This car had electrical rear seats to drop them down when loading, that is a boon. Also, the suspension can be raised or lowered from the boot with a button on the inside rear right, when you need to do some purchasing at your nearest home centre. The back seats have weight to them I have never felt in any other car, which again for me means safety when they are locked into place. With 2 presses of a button, both seats drop into place, and now you can load whatever your wife has bought.
The infotainment system is easy to use. Everyone though can learn from BMW and Audi in this regard, so Volvo, time for a bit more work. A screen that didn’t end navigation 3 times after I pressed cancel needs to be improved.
I am personally on a search for a car that can be an all-rounder. Thinking of someone who is good at batting and bowling. Or the kid in the movie Spud who is Head boy, gets an A in class across all subjects and can also Captain first team rugby. The car that we have just tested is greatly capable. Very beautiful to look at and drive, but I can sum up this way. This car is the girl in your class no one paid attention to, was okay looking at school then ended up becoming Miss SA 1st Princess and gained a degree in Medicine by the age of 24. It should be a car to consider amongst other similarly priced SAVs like the GLC, Q5 and maybe even a new 2019 Forrester.
If looks are what you care about and a bit more ground clearance, then this is the one to choose! We are testing the XC40 this coming week, so watch on. Buying a Volvo will be liberating!
As for us personally, the search continues. Watch this space, as we test the XC90. Will that be the one?
Special thanks to Volvo SA and the management team at Volvo CMH Bryanston – Jeremiah and the parts dudes. Contact details below:
Ockie Fourie (Dealer Principal)
Kelly Lelong (New Cars Sales Manager)
Anton Van Wyk (Parts Manager)
Selekt Sales Executive
CMH Volvo Cars Bryanston