BMW X3 VS Volvo XC60
- Scorchingly fast
- Gives its rivals a run
- Terrific chassis
- Apple CarPlay price is extortion
- Some (not me) find the ride too hard
- Needs more visual aggro
Big fast SUVs have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. My brain has been telling me for years, since the first time I drove one - the first-gen Audi SQ5 - that they're silly and wasteful and 'not my kind of car'.
The Europeans - and latterly, the Americans - seem to be playing to an audience of me, convincing my prejudiced head that my try-anything heart is right: over-engined, jacked-up, stiffly-sprung family wagons are as much fun as anything else.
The X3 M is BMW's first full-fat M version of the X3, a car that has never really fired the imagination until this third generation. First we got the very good X3 M40i, now we have a 375kW, twin-turbo straight-six screamer, the M Competition.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
If this was 10 years ago I’d be making jokes about Volvo drivers, IKEA and ABBA, but those those stereotypes are all irrelevant now. Safety is not nerdy, and Sweden really is more than flat-packed furniture and catchy pop music. Yep, a lot has happened in the 10 years since the Volvo XC60 first arrived, and now a decade on the second generation of the mid-sized SUV is with us.
Could the XC60 quietly be the best mid-sized prestige SUV on the road in terms of value, design, comfort, safety and driving? Let me help you with that question – read on.
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design T8 2018 review
Read More: Volvo XC60 Momentum 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Volvo XC60 R-Design D5 2018 review
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Premium Unleaded|
As much as I love the mental GLC63 - complete with V8 bellow - the X3 M is the one for drivers. While that's a silly thing to say on the surface - what 'driver' is going to buy an SUV? - this is the new reality. We love these things and they're not going away.
While it may not be quite as comfortable as any of its competition or have the V8 cachet of the Jag and the Merc, it still takes the fight to them in what is easily the roomiest and most practical in this niche part of the segment. And it's an enormous amount of fun.
You have plenty of choices in the mid-size fast SUV market - X3 M, GLC63, Alfa Stelvio Quadrifoglio - what's your choice?
The XC60 is an outstanding mid-sized all-wheel drive SUV. A great selection of engines and a plug-in hybrid means buyers can better suit their purchase to lifestyle. Super safe, stylish and effortless to drive. The best value is to be had lower in range with the sweet spot being the Inscription grade.
Would you choose the XC60 over a BMW X3 or Benz GLC? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
The third-generation X3 is by far the best-looking and isn't as badly blighted by BMW's current oversized, hatchback-straining grilles. It's not small, no, but in the flesh, it looks fine.
The usual M accoutrements are present, with new front and rear bumpers, skirts and a whopping set of 21-inch alloys. It looks different and marginally more aggro than the M40i and just enough so a vaguely interested observer will notice.
A quick look at the rest of the similarly-sized hard-and-fast SUVs reveals a similar approach.
The seats add some serious excitement, they're a proper set of M seats, complete with the slightly naff light-up X3 M logos in the backrest. But it's predictably well-made, is very comfortable and is full of nice materials.
Remember when Volvos were boxy? Well they’re back baby, but in a better way that the 240 GLE from 1992. No, this is sexy.
There’s that long, sculpted bonnet with the cab set back and the heavily raked windscreen makes for a pleasing profile. The concave door panels and the mirrored wings in the rocker panels below add more toughness to this elegant beast.
There’s also that stately grille wearing its famous Volvo ‘sash’, those Thor’s hammer LED headlights and the very Volvo vertical taillights. This is a prestige SUV but not one of the BMW, Benz and Audi usual suspects.
The XC60 is a mid-sized SUV with dimensions similar to its Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3 rivals. The XC60 is 4688mm long, 2117mm wide and 1685mm tall.
How do you tell the difference between the grades visually? Well that’s a tricky one. From the outside you can spot at R-Design T8 by its sunroof while the Momentum D4 and T5 both have 19-inch wheels which look a tad too small for those wheel guards.
Inside all XC60s are exquisite, bordering on modern art with that minimalist dash decluttered of its buttons thanks to most of the functions being moved to that stunning 9.0-inch vertical touch screen.
There are nine colours to choose from including Fusion Red, Passion Red, Bursting Blue Metallic, Onyx Black Metallic, Osmium Grey Metallic, Bright Silver Metallic, Crystal White Pearl, Electric Silver Metallic and Ice White.
The accessories list for the XC60 is huge there’s everything from towbar hitches and floor mats to roof boxes, kayak cradles, and tablet holders for rear seat entertainment - but not bullbars.
This X3, if you need reminding, is bigger than BMW's first SAV (ugh), the X5. That means plenty of room up front, heaps of legroom for most in the back and enough room for five aboard.
Front seat passengers score a pair of cupholders with a cover and the centre rear armrest has two more for a total of four. Add to that bottle holders in each door and your beverage holding capabilities are pretty standard.
The boot starts at an impressive 550 litres, almost tripling to 1600 litres when you drop the 40/20/40 split fold seat. You get a good flat load space when you do that, too.
How many seats does an XC60 have? The answer is five and no there isn’t a seven-seater version. I have a small family with just the three of us, but if you have a lot more take a look at the bigger XC90.
The XC60’s cabin is spacious, but not XC90 spacious – this is, remember, a mid-sized SUV. Still there’s plenty of legroom in the back seats for me even at 191cm to sit behind my driving position and good headroom even with the panoramic sunroof in the T8.
Let’s talk about the boot space. A luggage capacity of 505 litres isn’t huge not compared to rivals such as Audi’s Q5, BMW’s X3 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC which all have 550 litres of cargo space. But XC60s with the optional air suspension like the T8 I drove can lower themselves to make loading the boot easier.
Cabin storage is good, with two cupholders and large door pockets in the front and two cupholders and smaller door pockets in the back. The centre console storage area under the centre armrest is also a decent size.
You won’t find a sunglass holder in here though – but does anybody actually use those anyway?
Price and features
For $157,900, before on-road costs, you may think this car should be absolutely loaded with stuff. And it is. Whether that's enough is up to you, but the price is about right for its segment.
It's worth remembering we only get the up-spec Competition version, BMW saw no point in offering the 'normal' version nobody was going to buy.
For your cash you get 21-inch alloys, multi-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, keyless entry and start, active cruise control, electronic damper control, digital instrument cluster (not the new 'Live Cockpit'), sat nav, auto high beam, auto LED headlights, launch control, leather seats and steering wheel, electric front seats, head-up display, auto parking, power everything, auto wipers, huge panorama sunroof and a tyre repair kit.
The big central screen features BMW's iDrive, controlled by either the rotary dial or via touchscreen. It's a belter of a system and I reckon it's still the best, although you have to pay for Apple CarPlay - this remains controversial and I wonder how long the company will persist.
The XC60 comes in three trim levels: there’s the entry-grade Momentum, the Inscription is the mid-point and the R-Design lords over all of them. So how much does an XC60 cost? Let’s look at a price list.
The most affordable XC60 in the range is the D4 diesel variant in Momentum grade which lists for $59,990 (RRP) while its T5 petrol sibling is $62,990.
Stepping up to the Inscription there’s the D4 version for $66,990 and the T5 petrol for $69,990.
You can have an R-Design with the more powerful D5 diesel for $73,990, the gruntier petrol T6 for $76,990 and the petrol-electric hybrid for $92,990 sits at the top of the XC60 range.
As for driveaway prices for the XC60, put the pressure on the dealer and you’ll be surprised what they can do.
The XC60 is great value … depending on which grade you go for, because even the lower priced ones come with an extensive list of standard features.
All XC60s comes standard with a 9.0-inch vertical touch screen with Apple CarPlay for your iPhone and Android Auto, a 12.3-inch driver display, WiFi hot spot, Bluetooth, sat nav (gps navigation), 360-degree parking camera, auto parking system, front and rear parking sensors, a 10-speaker premium sound system with digital radio (DAB), leather upholstery, power adjustable driver and passenger seat, proximity key (keyless entry), roof rails, LED headlights and a power tailgate.
That 9.0-inch screen is for more than just for multimedia and infotainment – many of the car’s functions, gadgets and the owner’s manual are controlled through the display.
The R-Design D5 and T6 come with 21-inch alloy wheels and R-Design treatment to the steering wheel, grille, pedals and leather seats.
And the R-Design T8 comes with a panoramic sunroof, crystal gear shifting knob, and only dual-zone climate control.
So the R-Design T8 is not great value, but the Momentum T5 and D4 really do represent good features for the money.
All XC60s come with LED headlights and the Thor’s hammer daytime running lights – no xenon headlights here, thankfully.
If you want heated seats it’ll cost you $500 for the front ones and $350 for the back row, while a heated steering wheel is $350. Ventilated seats are a $2950 option, but you’ll get leather perforated upholstery with them. Tinted glass is a $650 option and the 15-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo costs $4500. Oh and a CD player is a $160 option, but you can’t have it on the R-Design T8.
The $2490 air suspension is also an option, but a very comfortable one as I found on the T8 I road tested.
A quick model comparison shows the XC60 is priced well – the Mercedes-Benz GLC ranges from $67,500-$99,900 (more for the AMG), the Audi Q5 ranges from $65,900 to $86,611 and the BMW X3 starts at $62,900 and top out at $87,700.
A lack of full-sized spare tyre is disappointing. Sure a space saver spare (which comes with all XC60s apart from the R-Design T8) is okay in the city and so is the puncture repair kit on the T8, but in Australia it can be a long way between towns.
Engine & trans
The X3 M arrives from the US with a shiny new version of BMW's modular six-cylinder performance engine. While the M Performance M40i has a single turbo (B58) straight six, one tiny change to the name - from B58 to S58 - means a heck of a lot.
The S58 takes the same fundamental formula, bolts in two new single-scroll turbos, throws in forged conrods and a few other changes to boost the power to 375kW (500 horsepower) and 600Nm.
That torque figure is available across a nice wide 3350 revs, between 2600rpm and 5950rpm.
Getting all that to the wheels is the M version of BMW's all-wheel drive system xDrive and an active rear differential. The near-ubiquitous eight-speed ZF brokers the connection between that system and the flywheel and it's all impossibly smooth and feels bulletproof.
The XC60 range has four engines and one petrol-electric unit, but you can’t get them in any grade you like.
The Momentum and Inscription come with the diesel D4 and its petrol sibling the T5. Both are lower-powered versions of the D5 diesel and T6 petrol variants found in the R-Design grade.
The D4 has a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel making 140kW and 400Nm, which according to Volvo is enough mumbo for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.4 seconds.
The D5 is powered by a 2.0-litre twin turbo diesel making 173kW and 480Nm, which according to Volvo is enough mumbo for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 7.2sec.
The T5 is the 2.0-litre turbo petrol variant which makes 187kW and 350Nm, and has a 0-100km/h time of 6.8sec.
The T6 is also a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol variant but a higher horsepower version with a supercharger that helps it make 235kW and 400Nm, and it has a 0-100km/h time of 5.9sec. That’s an impressive performance figure.
And finally the T8 – this is the big daddy and uses the same 235kW and 400Nm 2.0-litre twin-turbo-plus-supercharged petrol that’s in the T6 in combination with a 65kW/240Nm electric motor. The T8 is a plug-in petrol electric hybrid.
The XC60 comes as all-wheel drive only, there’s no front-wheel drive (4x2) version. That said this isn’t four-wheel drive and you wouldn’t take it places you’d go in a hardcore 4x4.
I didn’t experience any automatic transmission problems or any other issues but keep an eye out for our XC60 problems page for any faults, complaints, maintenance or reliability issues that crop up.
The reality, of course, is different but not unexpectedly so - a week in my hands in the suburbs and a cobweb-clearing early morning run delivered a 14.1L/100km average. Again, not bad given the kind grunt that's on tap.
After a combination of urban and open roads, Volvo claims the diesel D4 will achieve 5.4L/100km and the more powerful diesel D5 should need 5.6L/100km. Meanwhile, the petrol T5 should use 7.8L/100km and its big brother the T6’s official mileage is 8.0L/100km.
The eco-warrior of the range is the petrol electric T8 with its impressive claim of 2.1L/100km. This isn’t an EV, you’ll need to fill it up with petrol as well.
If somebody tries to sell you a new LPG XC60, be suspicious ... very suspicious.
When I road tested the R-Design D5 my fuel economy was 9.4L/100km, and this is where it gets embarrassing: my mileage in the R-Design T8 was 14.0L/100km. That’s because I never re-charged using the cable, instead I let the regenerative braking add charge to the batteries. This meant I forced the SUV to mainly use the petrol engine and carry myself along with 200kg of batteries and electric motor around. This - and me taking full advantage of the great acceleration at every traffic light - would have something to do with my high fuel usage.
Yes, if you go for the R-Design T8 make sure you charge it regularly and drive conservatively otherwise you too will use lots more fuel than Volvo’s serving suggestion.
One of the things I love about BMW is the company's ability to produce a car that on one hand is so normal and competent for the every day but also produce a version that is completely doolally.
The fine folk at M obviously involve themselves from day one so that when they get a finished car they can get cracking on making it properly fast. Obviously, quite a bit has to change for that to happen.
The X3 M is very stiff. Pop the bonnet and you'll see a piece of whatever the metal equivalent of four-by-two keeping the two sides of the car apart.
This is something M does whenever it gets a vanilla BMW, as it has with the M2 and outgoing M3 and M4 pair. To name three. The difference from the driver's seat, when compared to, say, the M40i, is immediate.
The steering is super-responsive, the front of the car reacting incredibly quickly given the X3 M's two-tonne weight.
Even in Comfort mode, the X3 M's ride is pretty firm. That doesn't bother me especially, nor my wife, who has a keen sense of ride quality. It never really falls over the line of being uncomfortable but it's worth knowing if you're considering this and you have to carry passengers.
If you drive around town in either M1 or M2 (in the factory settings at least), you're mad - the suspension becomes very hard and the steering too heavy. In fact, the steering in its Super Sport setting is just too heavy and uncooperative.
Cheerfully belting the 7200rpm redline at every upshift, barking between gears and delivering torque the way a hungry Labrador delivers a headbutt if you get in between it and food, the straight-six is glorious.
The 4.1-second sprint from 0-100km/h is only part of the story. Not many cars can cover ground so quickly and fewer still SUVs of this size and weight can do it with such precision.
When you turn the wheel on the X3 M, the front goes where you want it, instantly. All that under-bonnet bracing prevents the front flexing and shimmying, which is the enemy of going fast. So that sorts out getting into the corner. The best thing is you can push through corners and slingshot out the other side, riding that huge torque slab, the rear wheels doing most of the work with the occasional wriggle to keep you smiling.
A good chunk of the applause goes to the way the xDrive all-wheel drive system and its 'M Active' diff at the rear work together in Sport+ mode.
As colleague Steve Corby discovered at this car's clay-pan launch, the front wheels aren't doing much of the driving when you've turned it all up to 11 in '4WD Sport'.
When the road goes from straight to twisty, the excellent brakes come in to play, hauling the car down from big speeds without complaint. Even better is that in normal driving, they're not grabby and the pedal always lets you know what shape you're in.
I’ve road tested the R-Design D5 and the R-Design T8 and so can only vouch for the driving experiences of them.
First, the D5 – there’s much to like, such as all that 480Nm of torque barrelling in low down in the rev range at 1725rpm, the responsive brakes, the tranquil cabin, and good fuel economy.
The downside to the D5 is a noisy diesel engine, particularly under heavy load. The diesel isn’t best suited to sporty driving either – I found myself busy paddle shifting constantly to keep the revs in the torque band which ends at 2250rpm. The twin-turbo set-up in the D5 is designed to spool up one to ‘pre-charge’ to reduce lag before the second kicks in – the result is an almost instantaneous power delivery.
Now, the R-Design T8.
This is an impressive beast. The combination of that powerful supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder and the electric motor provides grin-making acceleration. The optional air suspension in our test car turned the ride cushion-soft but kept the car composed.
Just to sit in, the D5 and T8 both feel special and the driving experience goes a long way to matching that prestigious impression from the light and accurate steering to the great pedal feel and the responsiveness of the powertrains.
A well-insulated cabin cuts out most of the diesel clatter in the D5, not to mention the T8's road noise - it is common for tyre roar to be noticeable in hybrid and electric cars, which don’t have a noisy engine to cover it up.
The adaptive cruise control with steering assistance worked eerily well for me, it’s almost - but not quite -self-driving autopilot. That head-up display is one of the clearest and least intrusive I’ve seen.
Good visibility and a turning circle of 11.4m also help make the XC60 effortless to drive.
The X3 M rolls out the door of BMW's North Carolina factory with six airbags, stability and traction controls, front and rear parking sensors, around view camera (including reversing camera), forward and reverse AEB, blind spot sensor, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, reverse cross traffic alert, speed limit recognition and tyre pressure monitoring.
There are also two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints.
The X3 scored a maximum five ANCAP stars in 2017.
Have you seen the Volvo XC60 TV ad? It’s full on, but I didn’t cry – there was just a high pollen count that day and… anyway it drives home how safety is Volvo’s ‘schtick’.
The five-star ANCAP score it was awarded in 2017 doesn’t reveal just how impressive the safety systems are on the XC60. This new-generation SUV is fitted with AEB (City Safety) which can detect and stop for animals, humans and other cars, there’s steering support, blind-spot warning, front and rear cross-traffic alert - and that’s on all XC60s. Adaptive cruise control is added to the Inscription grade and above.
You’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors for child and baby car seats across the rear row, too.
Where is the Volvo XC60 built? Volvo is owned by Chinese car giant Geely, but Australian XC60s are made in Torslanda, Sweden.
BMW offers a segment standard, but increasingly mean-looking, three years/unlimited kilometre warranty. It's not just BMW, though, it's all of the premium Germans. You do get three years roadside assist into the bargain and you can pay to extend the warranty, too.
You can pre-pay your servicing, with a five-year/80,000km Basic package for $3685. If you think you're going to give your X3 M a proper walloping you can opt for the the 'Plus Package'. For a not-inconsiderable $8173.
BMW will cover your brake pads and rotors for the same period as the Basic package.
Service intervals are variable because, as ever, BMWs tell you when they need a trip to the dealer.
The XC60s has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Volvo offers two service programs: the basic SmartCare and the more comprehensive SmartCare Plus. The SmartCare three-year/45,000km plan is $2225 (SmartCare Plus costs $3050); a four-year/60,000km version is $3500 ($5200 with SmartCare Plus) and the five-year/75,000km agreement costs $4230 ($6400 with SmartCare Plus).