There will always be the popular players in each car segment – the ones everyone flocks to and buys like sheep, merely because they’re the flavour of the season. Nothing sets you apart in such a vehicle, and because there are so many of them on the road they soon lose their novelty. The smart individuals, however, shop around and for something like the Volvo XC60 for instance, a slightly left-field option from all the mainstream players which flies below the radar, until you have a one-on-one encounter with it and you think “wow, where did this come from?” – well this was my reaction when I first encountered the Swedish SUV.

From a design perspective, the Volvo is a very attractive machine, Scandinavian design philosophy rarely disappoints, and it wasn’t about to start here. The front end is bold but streamlined – dominated by a rectangular grille sporting the Volvo emblem and flanked by Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps. It’s an attractive recipe. The rear is dominated by two L shaped taillights, and this may not be the Volvo’s finest side, but it works. What’s impressive with this overall design is how the Swedes managed to take this fairly sizable SUVand made it appear a lot smaller than what it is. It must be mentioned that XC60 we were allocated for testing was generously fitted with optional 22-inch low profile wheels, which drastically enhance the Volvo’s already handsome looks – it becomes somewhat of a Hot Wheels toy car replica but in real life. 

Interestingly, despite this aesthetic option, the Volvo still offers a supple ride when performing road duties. This is largely thanks to another additional feature in the SUV – air suspension. The system is equipped with an off-road feature which raises the SUV’s ride height quite considerably, contrasting its default “dropped suspension” appearance. This setting on thin 22-inch rubber is rather pointless, practically speaking. You couldn’t do any serious off-road even if you tried. The truth is that many of these premium SUV’s never set foot off the perfectly paved roads of Sandton Fortunately, the suspension does serve more than one purpose – comfort. This is the other reason why you would want to tick this box on the options list. The D4 derivative is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel powertrain, which covers the basics like getting you from A to Z, but is a rather tame especially when performance is required, even with 140 kW and 400NmThe D5 would be the pick of the bunch here with its 173 kW and 480Nm from the same engine unit. 

Where interior is concerned, the Swedish firm has maintained the same high standard as other areas of the SUV. Despite the XC60 looking smaller than its actual size, its interior is satisfyingly spacious and offers enough lateral and forward room for both front and rear passengers to enjoy comfortable occupancy. This space certainly lives up to the premium brand’s standards with plush leather seats, high-grade inserts on the dash and centre stack, and brushed aluminium finishes throughout the cabin. There’s an optional Bowers and Wilkins audio system for the sound connoisseurs who want nothing but the best when it comes to in-car audio. It is an impressive system, and depending on the setting you have it in, gives you the feeling of being cocooned in a movie theatre. A 7-inch infotainment screen is the Volvo’s command centre, where a lot of the vehicle settings are found. Here you can adjust audio settings, turn vehicle assistance and safety features on and off, as well as fine-tune your air conditioner temperature. It all sounds cool and progressive on paper, but having to swipe through multiple screens to adjust your aircon temperature while driving is not very practical or safe for that matter. Before long, you’ll notice that the screen is smeared in fingerprints and looks rather messy. Sometimes simplicity is the best form of sophistication. 

Overall, the Volvo XC60 is a well-rounded and impressive SUV and isn’t a mere case of surface-level beauty. This is why it’s been the recipient of a few car awards during its short life. For a starting price of R771 500, you do get your money’s worth here.

By Gugu Masuku