The UV market has more than doubled in the past five years with a CAGR of 15 percent and last year itself growing by 30 percent.
Circa 1990: Think about Volvos and the first image that appears is a boxy, five-door estate, with the signature rectangular headlamps.
Circa 2017: Volvos are stylish, slick, built like a tank, giving the best in the segment a run for its money.
Indians bought nearly 1.35 million utility vehicles (a majority of which were sports utility vehicles) in the last two years. To put that into perspective that was more than the volume of three preceding years combined. The UV market has more than doubled in the past five years with a CAGR of 15 percent and last year itself growing by 30 percent.
Big and stylish SUVs (luxury and mass market) have hit a sweet spot among buyers and manufacturers are only too happy, to oblige. The latest to join the ranks is the all-new second-generation Volvo XC60 that goes on sale in India is less than a week, which the Swedish company proudly says, is the largest selling SUV of Europe.
Based on an all-new architecture, which makes the SUV slightly bigger than the first generation model, the new XC60 will be up against a formidable line-up featuring the Audi Q5 (one of its best-sellers), BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Jaguar F-Pace.
While Volvo has started local assembly operations with the bigger XC90 at its plant in Bengaluru it will eventually add the XC60 to the line to keep pricing competitive; however, it is not yet confirmed. This unit, which is one of only two such units set up by Volvo globally, will assemble vehicle kits imported from Sweden but will use fully imported engines.
Pricing details will be shared on December 12 at the time of launch but the Street is expecting it to be around Rs 50-55 lakh. Volvo will launch only one variant of the XC60 having just one engine option which would be a diesel. The only reason why India does not get a petrol version (though it is internationally available) is simply because there is not enough demand going for it. However, the Swedish company is open to launching the XC60 with a petrol engine.
The design language of the XC60 is pretty similar to its bigger cousin the XC90. Both use the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) as their platform, which has allowed engineers to mould the car design as per choice without too much hassle.
Massive 19-inch wheels give the car a sporty stance and if the suspension were to be raised there is an unmistakable aggressive, ready-to-go posture assumed by the machine. Wheels are fatter but have been specifically designed by Michelin for the XC60 and come with a personalized marking.
T-shaped daytime running light designed on the lines of Mjolnir, the hammer used by Thor, the Norse God associated with thunder, stand-out as a striking feature. The rear gets the familiar vertically stacked taillights clearly inspired from the older generation Volvos but much sharper in details.
Doors open wide and are heavily sculpted in the lower section with the chrome lining bearing the variant name giving the car a rich look. Getting into any of the front seats can be done without much effort but surprisingly they are a tad lower than the rear seats.
There are cleverly camouflaged tiny cameras (at least six were spotted) fitted all around the XC60. Feedback from these help the computers provide the safest driving option. Rear-view door mirrors have an integrated warning system where-in an outer layer of the mirror lights up when sensors pick up an obstacle in close proximity.
The beige interiors of the previous generation model has made way for a sporty three-colour option on the new model. Brushed metal inserts, wood finish, chrome bits, well put together dash board and high grade leather greet the occupants. Thankfully, unlike other cars in its class there are not too many buttons to get annoyed with.
A huge 9-inch touch screen has most of the stuff you would need for drive and convenience. The response is slick and there is no lag. The three page interface, however, could have been a tad more exciting, colorful and engaging.
Front seats are large and comfortable and yes they can be altered to suit preferences. The under-thigh support can be removed if unwanted. All in all they provide the right amount of comfort for long distance commutes. The SUV comes with cooled and heated front seats with massage function (a segment first).
The rear seats, however, do not get enough under-thigh support and are a bit firm to one's likings. But space is generous and the knees of even a six footer would not touch the front seats. Rear windows are a tad smaller and those who complain of claustrophobia might hold this against the XC60.
Then, there is heads-up display that shows speed, speed limits, route to be taken and incoming call/messages. There are paddle shifters on the steering wheel as well as on the gear lever. A 15 speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system is a cherry on the cake of this feature-rich SUV. And in case you wish to take the XC60 up in the mountains or onto a coffee plantation, the panoramic sunroof will help you enjoy take in the fresh air or smell the freshly brewed coffee.
The XC60 craftily hides its massive dimensions thanks to the feather-smooth response from steering, brakes and acceleration. This five-seater is no bigger than the XC 90 (already launched) but longer and wider than the Mahindra XUV500 (for understanding). Volvo has taken agility to such levels with the XC60 that it’s easy to assume it’s a compact SUV and not a two-tonne behemoth.
Sometime ago the Swedish manufacturer decided to give up bigger engines, above 2000cc, and claimed that its future will run only on smaller 4 cylinder units not on the iconic V6s. Concerned critics questioned this move particularly for XC90 and XC60 which require massive power from bigger engines such as the V6s.
Power for the new XC60 comes from a four cylinder, sub 2 litre engine that is mated to a butter smooth 8-speed gearbox generating peak power of 235bhp. In terms of power this engine is slightly short than the 268bhp, 2.9 litre, inline 6 cylinder turbocharged engine produced by the model year 2003 XC90. Massive downsizing of engine but not so much on power.
Power delivery to the wheels is smooth but firm with no jerks. Pick-up from standstill is aided by release of the brake pedal before the accelerator takes over. The XC60 feels firmly planted onto the tarmac inspiring that unshakeable confidence in the driver.
One of the biggest grudges of automatic cars has been the turbo lag (the time required to change power output in response to throttle change). But PowerPulse has solved this problem. Volvo engineers found an ingenious way wherein compressed air is pushed inside the turbocharger to eliminate the wait for pressurised exhaust build-up.
And this basic formula works flawlessly. There was zero lag during intense acceleration used during daring maneuvers and challenging overtaking opportunities.
Suspension is via a four corner air suspension unit that automatically tunes itself to alter damping and ride height if the need be. Based on driving modes and ride firmness the suspension raises or lowers itself to give the best possible driving experience.
Despite it being a diesel there is no noise filtering in into the passenger cabin as well as no vibration on the steering. Sound insulation works very well and even whispers from the rear-seated passenger will be hard to miss.
Should you buy one?
Being a Volvo the car has to offer the best in safety. In fact this Volvo is a step ahead of the best. Each input of the driver (even embarrassingly foolish ones) is analysed by on-board computers before the car is allowed to execute the command.
For instance, the car will alert the driver to slowdown in case he is passing close to a school or violating speed limits even in cases where there are no road signs. The XC60 can detect vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals and warns the driver through light and sound.
If you fail to apply the brakes to avoid a head-on collision not only will the XC60 apply brakes on your behalf but swerve the vehicle for you to avoid the accident. Further, if roads are clearly marked then the XC60 will avoid entering the lane of oncoming traffic if the driver becomes inattentive.
Other features include adaptive cruise control, pilot assist, blind spot information and steer assist, cross traffic alert, post impact braking, intellisafe surround, the list seems endless. Of course, there is park assist wherein the computers park the car for you (and park out) where you want. As Volvo says this is one step closer to fully autonomous driving.
There are five driving mode options to choose from – Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-road and Individual – to suit driving needs. On offer will be four colour options and three interior trim options.
The XC60 is already the largest selling Volvo in India comprising 30 percent of the total volumes followed by its elder cousin the XC90. Bookings for the SUV has begun and deliveries will commence from the day of the launch that is December 12.
The car gulps everything down thrown at it and won’t complain. It scores high on comfort, drive and practicality. If you need a vehicle that’s tough and safe as a tank then look no further. With pricing expected to be in the region of Rs 55 lakh the XC60 will fight for space in the mid-size luxury SUV segment. Expect some waiting period though in the initial few months.