Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 7.8 seconds
MPG: up to 67.8
The signs over the M8 which run between Glasgow and Edinburgh are never blank. When they aren’t providing information about delays and pile-ups, they offer little reminders to drivers, like “Allow motorbikes to pass safely”; “Leave more space on wet roads” and “Fasten seat belts” (though that last one should be a given really, especially at 70mph on a wet motorway with a motorbike behind you). But I think they are missing a trick. Why not use the gantries to spread more life-affirming messages? How about “You can’t score unless you shoot” or “Smooth seas do not make skilful sailors” or “Phone your mum!”
The Volvo XC60 that was whisking me along the M8 knows all about helpful guidance. This is the second generation of the midsize crossover which was easily Volvo’s bestselling car.Not only was it Volvo’s bestseller, it was also the bestselling car of its type in Europe. As such it was already one of the most risk-averse and safety concerned cars in the Volvo line-up. The new XC60 is now equipped with added helping-hand systems, which mean it’s a sure bet that this is the safest car on the road anywhere on the planet. Among the battery of fortifications on offer, the one making headlines is “Steer Assist”, a technologically advanced safety aid that automatically applies steering to avoid a potential collision. The XC60 is the first Volvo to offer it.
This year also sees Volvo celebrate its 90th birthday. Back in 1927 it sold 275 cars; last year it sold 534,332 in more than 100 countries. That first model had an ash and beech frame, a 1.9-litre side-valve engine and artillery wheels with wooden spokes. It came in navy blue with black bumpers. The new XC60 is all about clean and simple lines, classic proportions and striking details. Up front you’ll find Volvo’s signature headlights with T-shaped daytime running lights. The lower section of each door has a great scoop taken out of it and there is a pronounced ridge that runs backwards from the rear door handle. This makes the car look both powerful and light, like a sprinter’s bunched glutes on the starters blocks.
It’s powered by a range of all-aluminium engines which use advanced injection and boosting technology to make them both efficient and exciting. All the engines in the range are 2-litre, 4-cylinder units and both petrol and diesel are available. Currently the only hybrid is the T8 “Twin Engine” plug-in which has a 320bhp turbo front drive and an 87bhp electric rear drive. I drove the diesel D4 with 190bhp, and it was a revelation: quietly diligent with a wild streak if you felt you were being too sensible.
Inside it is coolly luxurious and the decor is every bit as Skandi as a luxury spa in Gothenburg. It’s all pale wood inlays and ventilated Nappa leather seats with built-in lumbar and shoulder massage. It feels roomy and practical, with a giant boot. There’s a host of clever details, such as the hidden storage compartments under the back seats which are exactly the right size for an iPad. You connect with the car through its 9in portrait touch screen. You can combine it with your phone so you can access all of your phone’s functions through the screen. It’s fantastic. In a £37,205 car, this stand-out bit of gadgetry costs just £300. It makes you wonder why so many carmakers lag so far behind when it comes to putting a little digital icing on the cake.
Buying a car is a big decision. But big decisions don’t have to take long. Within seconds of sitting in this car you’ll be smitten. It’s a glorious car and I can see no reason why it won’t carry on being Volvo’s bestseller.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010