Volvo had to think very hard about the XC60 update because fixing something that its customers don't think is broken is a terrific way to drive them away. This is a linchpin model for Volvo around the globe, and accounts for 40 per cent of their sales here.
So while the revised XC60 is just one in a huge campaign of updates – the largest in the brand’s history – most of the changes will be hard to spot from the outside, and Volvo has elected to keep things on a steady path under the skin as well.
Look to the cabin fit-out and features list for the significant revisions, with standard inclusions that are impressive in their own right and more than enough to take the fight to BMW and Audi.
The updated model range starts at $56,990 for the front-wheel drive T5 petrol through to $78,990 for the all-wheel drive straight-six turbo R-Design. The entry-level two wheel drive is now called Kinetic, and with the mid-spec Luxury and R-Design levels as you move up the rungs, there are now eight models across the range.
All feature an electric tailgate, new LED interior lighting -- more lights in more places -- and the 40/20/40 split fold rear seats with integrated boosters. Standard across the range is Volvo's City Safety package.
As ever, the interiors are attractive and even in the base model Kinetic, laden with a decent level of equipment. The MY14 brings a few fresh interior trim options, with new wood and metallic inlays for the signature floating console as well as new seat and headlining materials. The stereo systems have also been tweaked and you can now stream your music via Bluetooth or USB interface.
Kinetic models roll on 17-inch alloys, with 18-inch on the Luxury and R models, with the option to go to 20-inch on all models - there's a range of 11 wheels to choose to from.
Naturally, being a Volvo, there's a massive range of safety features. It goes without saying the XC60 maintains its five ANCAP stars with six airbags, ABS, EBD, traction and stability controls and a roll stability control.
City Safety is standard, which has been upgraded to work at higher speeds and Volvo claims total avoidance of collisions at speeds under 15km/h.
The Driver Alert System ($2075) include lane departure and lane keeping aids, active high beam and forward collision warning.
A second option pack ($6250) includes Adaptive cruise control, collision warning with full automatic braking and cyclist detection as well as the features of the driver alert system.
A third option pack - the Driver Support Pack ($5000) adds blind spot warning, cross traffic alert, driver alert option pack, adaptive cruise, front and rear parking sensors and electrochromatic internal and external rear vision mirrors.
The mild styling refresh can be spotted by the slimmer, wider headlamps, subtle vertical LED running lights, the new wheels and a strip of LED lights in the signature rear light cluster -- the shape of which has been wisely left well alone.
Other small refinements include colour-coding of some parts, hidden windscreen washer nozzles and new designs for the R-Design bumpers and interiors.
The dash is now wrapped in leather on most models and lifts the already pleasant cabin further, but otherwise the interior follows the outgoing model’s blueprint, with the execption of the new adaptive digital display. Similar to systems available on the new V40 and BMW's 5 Series, traditional dials have been replaced with a LCD screen with three selectable themes - elegance, green and performance. The modes alter the colour and composition of the instrument graphics, with the performance setting switching the speedo for a large central tachometer with digital speed reading.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
With the exception of the previous naturally-aspirated 3.2-litre in-line six, the engine line-up carries over the current two five-cylinder D4 and D5 diesels and two petrols – four-cylinder T5 and turbocharged six-cylinder T6.
The 2.0-litre D4 puts out 120kW and 400Nm of torque while the 2.5 D5 rises to 158kW and 440Nm. Both have a claimed fuel usage of 6.9l/100km on the combined cycle and make it to 100 in 10.3 and 8.3 seconds respectively. Volvo expects the D5 all-wheel drive Luxury to be the top-selling model.
The T5 is a 2.0-litre turbo petrol, good for 177kW and 320Nm while the T6 is the 3.0-litre straight six with 224kW and 440Nm of torque.
The D5 and T6 can both be specified with the Polestar optimisation in the R models. That boosts the D5's power by 11kW and torque by 30Nm, shaving two tenths off the 7.1 second 0-100km/h time. The T6 jumps 18kW and 40Nm to 480Nm, again knocking two-tenths of the sprint to 100, down to 6.6 seconds.
All but the T5 are equipped with six-speed automatic transmissions while the T5 ships with a six-speed double-clutch Powershift.
There's little to tell the new from the old behind the wheel, with virtually nothing changed – and fans will applaud the continuity. In standard form, the engines are all smooth and responsive, the D5 being the pick of the bunch for responsiveness and mid-range pull.
But the steering borders on excessively light, with little feel reaching your palms from the road surface. There's a lot of body roll and the car feels all of its 1.7 tonnes plus weight.
It's not bad -- not at all -- but it has a particular envelope in which it operates: smooth, refined, quiet comfortable. But not fun.
The R-Design, however, is a different matter. With either the D5 or T6 under the bonnet, the improvement in handling is marked. The understeer kicks in much later and is more progressive (to be fair, you have be going fairly quickly in either to induce screeching tyres in any model).
The R sharpens things up and makes those marvellous, deep buckets seats work harder than those in the standard car. It's never going to trouble an Audi SQ5, but then the extra performance from Ingolstadt will cost another $10,000.
On the freeway and in either spec it's a quiet comfortable cruiser that will keep everyone happy. The ride on the R Spec is firmer but keen drivers will prefer it to the softer, standard car.
The XC60 stands apart from the other premium brands, with its unique style and genuinely Scando-cool interior.
Price: from $56,990 (2WD T5)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four; 177kW/320Nm
Transmission: 6-sp automatic, FWD
Thirst: 8.7L/100km, 207g/km CO2