When I was really tiny, I knew that some day I would be able to get behind the wheel of a car. It was something I found fascinating; driving a thing that takes us places within a short period of time. The baby blue Volvo 244 GL our family had was my first reference of an automobile, it had wheels, an engine and a rear pipe that emits a funny smell.
As I grew older, the Volvo name was stuck in my head for a very long time, and learned from my relatives that they are cars that are strong and safe, many of whom attested the strength of their 200 Series saloons pitting against “weaker” Japanese made cars at the time. They look the part too; the boxy three-box shape may not be the sexiest in the automotive world, but they do attract a pragmatic crowd. Volvo cars still do, but a more affluent crowd this time.
The latest generation of Volvo’s models brings back the feeling of safety and security with an athletic twist to it, which the XC60’s exterior design can be described as such. First introduced as a CBU model, the XC60 is now locally assembled and comes in three trim levels: T5, T8 Twin Engine Inscription, and T8 Twin Engine Inscription Plus. The one here as featured is the CBU Inscription Plus version.
All trim levels get full LED headlamps with automatic headlight levelling, while the highest Inscription ranges get full LED headlamps Active Bending Lights (ABL) with their own nozzle spray cleaners. Also, the light clusters come with the signature ‘Thor’s Hammer’ which does double duty as a turn signal indicator and position lights. The Inscription models rides on 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels.
At the rear, the XC60 comes fitted with adaptive brake lights with emergency brake and hazard warning lights working in tandem when the ABS is engaged during emergency braking. Other notable exterior features fitted on the Inscription Plus trim are the chrome grille, dual integrated tailpipes, and door handles with illumination with ground lighting.
The XC60 provides owners an opulent and enjoyable experience inside. Assembled together with smartphone tolerances, the interior has been given special attention to create an ambience which stands out from many crossovers within this price range.
The dashboard is angled towards the driver for easy reach, visually compartmentalised by two horizontal lines that spans the width of the interior. This is emphasised by the décor inlay on the lower half of the dashboard is made from wood, which wraps under the 9-inch Sensus centre stack touchscreen, which gives the interior an added visual dimension especially when driving the XC60 during dawn or dusk.
The wooden inlay is only available in the range-topping T8 Twin Engine Inscription and Inscription Plus trim levels. Also, the unique hand crafted crystal glass gear lever by Orrefors is fitted as standard in the range-topping XC60s.
The switchgears here have a premium tactile feel, and it is the small details in the XC60 that makes all of the difference. For instance, the signal indicator and wiper stalks provides tactile resistance and precision, where pushing the signal stalk all the way down and resetting doesn’t cause an unwanted secondary engagement which may confuse other road users around.
Audio and cruise control buttons on the steering wheel are large, hard to miss and sensitive to the touch, but there’s a downside which you may accidentally switch to the next music track or disengage the Pilot Assist, especially when driving with your hands on the three and nine o’clock position. The other issue with the buttons is that being a glossy surface easily leaves fingerprints, so have a microfibre towel ready on the side.
The front seats are 10-way power adjustable with lumbar and manually adjustable cushion extensions, which provides occupants comfort and full support. The sitting position is high and commanding yet without giving that weird sense of feeling that you’re sitting on the car. The interior is clean and free of distractions with a great view outside, especially with the wing mirrors out of the way of the inner corners of the side windows, inspiring confidence when driving into tight junctions.
At the rear, two adults can find themselves in a space big enough to bask under the large glass sunroof, which is fitted as standard. Much like the front seats, occupants here gets as much support and comfort on long distant journeys. The XC60 can accommodate a third person in the middle, but will have to make do with limited space due to the centre tunnel on the floor, similarly in the all-wheel-drive T5 model. Now a gold standard, the rear seats come with ISOFIX anchor points on both ends.
You may not find air vents in the middle, but conveniently placed on the B-pillar directly in front of the person who is sitting behind. Not only this allows easy adjustments, but instantaneous delivery of cool air during hot days.
Boot space is pretty substantial too; with the second row up, the boot capacity measures up to 505-litres to the window line, 653-litre up to the roof, and with the seats folded down flat, expands the capacity further up to 1,432-litres. If you do opt for the CBU model, you can lower the rear of the XC60 from a button inside the boot making loading easier.
The updated 9-inch Sensus touchscreen interface is clean and organised where accessing vehicle functions is as easy and swiping left or right. In this latest version, the latency is much improved and responsive which helps the driver to spend a lot less time fiddling around while driving. It does take a while to get used to, but once mastered, it’s pretty easy to use.
The audio, volume and other crucial functions are located below the Sensus screen and it is as intuitive as it gets. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, bluetooth hands free system with audio streaming, internet connectivity via WiFi, car WiFi hotspot via phone and auxiliary audio input, USB and iPod.
Now, it is time to address the elephant in the XC60 Inscription Plus’s interior. The apex XC60 gets the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins system powered by a class D 10-channel amplifier that churns out 1100W. Each speaker has been positioned for optimum acoustics and tuned by experts to get the best performance from these speakers.
B&W had set-up three custom-designed processing modes into the equation, accessed via the Sound Experience icon on the Volvo’s Sensus touchscreen. Each mode claims to offer a different style of presentation for the listener.
Studio mode alters the sound so it can be focused on either the driver, everyone in the car, or just those in the rear. Individual Stage allows you to manipulate two elements of the system’s acoustics: Intensity and Envelopment. The former relates to the perceived closeness and depth of the sound field. It’s a case of do you want the sound coming at you from the leading edge of the dashboard, or from the rear.
The final mode doubles as a nod to Gothenburg, the home of Volvo. Named Concert Hall, the setting is supposed to recreate the acoustics from the famous Gothenburg Concert Hall. Genres such as rock, pop, hip-hop or R&B don’t really suit it, and even classical tracks struggle to sound naturally.
But if you aren’t fussy, the sound quality in the inscription test car is amazing. It is as if like putting on really expensive headphones plugged into home cinema amplifier; you can’t get sound reproduction this faithful and immersive in any other car.
Technically, the XC60 T8 does have twin motors; hiding under the hood is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged and supercharged engine making 320hp 5,700rpm and 400Nm at 2,200rpm. The Twin Engine badge indicates that the PHEV T8 drivetrain comes with not one, but two electric motors, which includes an 87hp and 240Nm electric motor located at the rear axle, and a high voltage battery positioned in the tunnel console and a Crankshaft mounted Integrated Starter Generator (C-ISG).
The Crank-Integrated Starter Generator works quietly in the between the compact 8-speed automatic transmission to charge up the battery makes 34kW, providing boost of up to 150Nm of torque, while providing cold starts crank torque from 180Nm and up to 240Nm. At full capacity, the T8 powertrain is rated at 407hp and 640 Nm.
Granted, with that much power, the XC60 T8 is one fast CUV, and one that is frugal. As tested, the XC60 T8 achieves 2.7 L/100km combined with the 9.2 kWh Lithium-Ion battery fully charged in Pure drive mode and in ‘B’ or ‘Brake’ drive mode for maximum braking energy recovery.
Storing energy from the electrical grid, regenerative braking and from the C-ISG, the 270-400V 96 Li-ion cell battery not only provides drive and electrical boost to the drivetrain, it supplies power to the electric air conditioning for the pre-acclimatisation of the passenger compartment. This battery stores 10.4kWh worth of power and good for 45km of pure electric drive when fully charged.
The XC60 isn’t a difficult car to get around tight spots. With the ergonomics being pretty bang-on with no problems looking out and around. If you’re not too confident in your parking skills, the XC60 can very much park on its own. Once the car finds the right spot, simply follow the simple instructions and you’ll be able to park hands-free and can be overridden at any time. When backing out from a parking spot, Crossing Traffic Warning and Rear Collision Warning does its job competently especially in busy streets.
On Malaysian roads, the XC60 provides a plush ride with some degree of isolation from the outside world at speeds under 160km/h, which you’ll get there without even noticing. The premium crossover rides on double wishbones at the front and a unique integral link suspension design at the rear. The integral link is suspension uses a composite lightweight leaf spring, which effectively makes the rear subframe much more compact. However, it doesn’t drive like a classic Ford Mustang, but the XC60’s ride is poise with a sophisticated sense of isolation from the road beneath.
Let’s not forget that the XC60 T8 Inscription Plus too comes with adaptive cruise control and Pilot Assist with braking function that follows the car ahead below at the set speed which makes crawling though slow moving heavy traffic with one thing less to worry about. Lane Keep Assist keeps tugs the wheel back into the lane when it detects the car about to veer off the lane.
Speaking of Pilot Assist, the XC60’s Pilot Assist II is a Level 3 (Eyes off) semi-autonomous driving system, which can almost drive itself but still requires vigilant supervision from the driver. Also, the car would prompt the driver to place their hands on the steering wheel periodically to prevent drivers from becoming complacent.
Placing weight on the brake pedal provides a good amount of resistance, with good levels of modulation with wide degree of adjustability when slowing down. This is especially useful when it comes to braking regeneration from the electric motors, which are pretty strong.
The much smaller and lighter XC60 benefits from the powerful T8 powertrain; it is able to reach naught to centennial in 5.3 seconds and tops out 230km/h as tested, and getting there is almost effortless.
The eight forward ratios in the Aisin gearbox are well spaced out to complement the supercharged and turbocharged engine’s progressive torque band. To get up to that speed, engaging Power allows a more sensitive throttle from the petrol engine and the 8-speed transmission holds in gear for much longer with aggressive support from the rear axle electric motor.
Stringent body control essential for carrying higher speeds through the multiple gradient changes and corners. Thanks to the integral link rear suspension’s compact design, the Volvo CUV is agile with little body roll. However, the steering lacks the necessary feel and feedback from the front tyres when driving spiritedly on the limit. Despite the lacklustre steering, the XC60 feels far less front driven but rather more like a well-balanced all-wheel drive car.
Stepping into the executive luxury market is a bold move from the Swedish-Chinese company standing up against more traditional and well established brands which have been the long-lived bastions in this segment. Volvo had pulled it off successfully and had gain high praises from world-renowned automotive journalists and critics alike. The XC60 and its larger siblings definitely has the timeless looks and interior to match the quality and the attention to detail, which had been thoughtfully considered to meet the needs of its target market. It is well-put together and highly efficient thanks to its Plug-In Hybrid drivetrain.
And with a retail price of RM343,888, the XC60 T8 Inscription Plus is definitely a worth while car to drive around daily, without compromising on comfort, drivability, efficiency and performance. Its like meeting a long lost friend once again, who is now a completely different person once known from your formative years.
Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus
Price Msia: RM343,888.00 (W/O Insurance with SST 10%, CKD model)
Engine: 1,969cc Turbocharged and Supercharged Four-Cylinder
Power: 407hp (combined)
Torque: 640Nm (combined)
Fuel Economy: 2.7 l/100km (Tested)
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic