Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design – lathered in lagom

The new mid-size SUV from Sweden is racking up a raft of awards, as Volvo’s resurgence in the family car market continues. The D5 R-Design costs £43,505 and returns an impressive 54.1mpg (combined) from its 235bhp 2.o-litre diesel engine – more importantly than that, it’s an exceptionally good car with a classy interior and more safety features than you can shake a reindeer antler at…

In recent years Volvo has left its antique dealer/two Labrador image behind and become the epitome of Scandinavian chic. No, it doesn’t sell a sports car but as a multi-tool of motors, the Swedes now put together SUVs better than an Ikea flat pack.

The transformation started with the XC90 in 2002, a full-fat luxury crossover that left many conventional MPV owners with a sour taste in their mouth. The latest XC90 is already regarded as a legendary all-rounder, super safe and very desirable.

The pint-sized XC40 has just launched Volvo into the compact SUV market too. It has snatched the European Car of the Year Award and is going to give the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 a bloody nose, make no mistake.

Now I’m discovering my inner Sven driving the XC60. The semi-skimmed, mid-range model is smaller than the XC90 and minus a third row of seats but otherwise a doppelganger. Last month it was named World Car of the Year. Yep, and it’s a Volvo.

The XC60 is lathered in lagom – that’s trendy Scandi-speak for ‘just right’. I’ve already discovered it boasts the world’s most relaxing and well-organised cabin, feng shui’d to the hilt and all the more brilliant for it.

So if you currently drive a sports utility vehicle with a busy dashboard, marvel at what Volvo’s interior designers have done to theirs. My dog could count the number of buttons in our XC60 on two paws.

They’ve been swept away and replaced with a mini iPad screen. It’s not as big as the one in a Tesla but intuitive and simple. That also leaves a larger space in the air-conditioned glovebox where the manual used to be. You see everything needed to learn about this car is accessed via the touchscreen manual.

I wouldn’t say I’m your typical Volvo driver – one hound, no kids – but almost begrudgingly, after just seven days, I have to admit the XC60 is something I never expected it to be. Cool.

Slip Sliding Away In A Volvo – But All You Need To Know Is That The XC60 Has A Heated Steering Wheel!…


Yes, as you can see, the trip down the village lane took on an extra dimension this morning. All I can say is thank God I wasn’t in a rear-wheel drive BMW (why are they so bad in the snow?).

The hill is far steeper than it looks but it’s the kind of morning when smug people in SUVs just love to rub road salt into your two-wheel drive only wounds.

Of course, not all the school run mums have worked out that four-wheel drive can still come unstuck on ice. You could have six-wheel drive and still slide off the road by travelling too fast. I’ve never seen a Ford Kuga on its roof before. Still no improvement on the styling…

So today I was one of the smug few. Even on standard road tyres the XC60 has more than enough traction and ground clearance to do the job.

Oh and it also has the ultimate cold weather solution – a heated steering wheel. Bliss….


Volvo XC60 – Now You Can Stay On High Beam ALL The Time And Not Bling Oncoming Drivers…


Weird as it might sound, Volvo has developed a headlight system that allows you to drive on full beam all the time – even when there is another car approaching.

Active High Beam isn’t a pipe dream – it’s already fitted to various Volvos, including the XC60 we’re driving this week.

How does it work? Well, the headlights stay on high beam even when another car is approaching but the system prevents dazzle by only shading out as much of your beam as necessary.

It also recognises pedestrians and cyclists, so they aren’t blinded either (although it doesn’t always work for those on foot, or cyclists without lights in our experience!).

The system takes a little getting used to because you instantly want to dip when another vehicle approaches and you can still see ‘high beam’ all around their car. However, I soon got used to it.

The perfect lighting solution? Hmm, the only bugger is that you can’t easily flash oncoming drivers who haven’t dipped their headlights and blind you. Solve that one Volvo!

Volvo XC60 – What To Do When Your Car Rolls Away Down A Hill…

134846_volvo_xc60_r_design.jpgWasn’t it bad boy footballer Mario Balotelli who said ‘why always me?’

Why is it only the XC60 that rolls away from me when I fail to engage the handbrake properly?

I’m 51 and have always driven with a proper, hand-operated brake – or a stick that between the front two seats. I’m getting used to electronic park brakes but still believe they aren’t as user-friendly as the old system.

And for some reason, I seem to have most problems with Volvos. You have to push a button under the dashboard to engage the brake, and pull it to release. That seems a little back to front to me – shouldn’t it be the other way around?

So as the XC60 slowly started to run away from me today, gently heading down a farm track, I had to jump in and hit the brake pedal hard.

Hill starts are a nightmare. I guess you get used to it but can somebody explain to me exactly what the benefits of an electronic system are?

Wednesday – Taking The Strain


Jeremy Just arrived in Southampton for a night at the Pig In The Wall. It’s a hotel that deserves a wacky name because is it so stunningly different. Tomorrow I’m leaving the Discovery at the quayside to catch the ferry to Cowes for a sailing masterclass, with double Olympic gold medalist, Shirley Robertson, for the FT Magazine. Forecast is sunny but I know I’m going to get soaked, one way or the other…

Being down by the coast reminded me that the Land Rover is a brilliant towing machine – something Jessica and I have not had time to put to the test. While she would have pulled a horse box, I definitely would have hitched up to a boat!

The Discovery won its class in the 2012 Towcar of the Year Awards for the third year in a row, beating the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Volvo XC60 and Ford Ranger, to name but a few.

I used a Discovery 3 to pull a small yacht across Ireland in 2008. There was hardly any impact on performance and the Land Rover proved steady at motorway speeds. The Discovery 4 has an eight-speed automatic gearbox instead of a six which I imagine would make it an even better workhorse.

Monday – Aversion to family cars…

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Jessica  I have an aversion to family cars that can bring me out in a rash – so it’s no wonder I spent my youth dragging babies and child seats in and out of a coupe. Unlike the estate cars I avoided at all costs, the Volvo XC60 has evolved from a typical family car into a visually pleasing machine.

Twenty years ago I would have cringed at the prospect of owning a Volvo – now I can truly appreciate what it has to offer. Imagine retro-futuristic dials on the dashboard, safely uncluttered by extra lights or symbols, and a gentle lighting system that extends across the information display too. It doesn’t sound very Volvo but the XC60 is full of surprises…

The buttons and dials for all the usual heating, radio and sat-nav controls were clear, with a silver finish that compliments the futuristic aesthetic. As there are buttons to support a range of safety features, there are plenty of benefits to reading the manual.

I love the built-in booster seats for children – although I would choose a leather finish as is much easier to scrub down after a long journey of spilt drinks and inappropriate snacks. A DVD system in the back of the headrests would have made my life so much easier as a young mum.

It wasn’t all good news though, especially when I tried a hill start with the push button hand brake. How many ways are there to press a button – and how in the panic of rolling into the car behind you do you work out which type of button pushing you should be doing?

The fact that you can override the brake by accelerating, in my view, defeats the reasoning behind having a parking brake in the first place…