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Volvo XC60 T5 2011 review

If you're not planning a trip to the outback or even a lazy spin on the beach, then opting for the T5 is clearly a no brainer.
EXPERT RATING
8

FORD'S F-150, a staple diet for truck-mad Americans either hauling loads or thinking about hauling loads, is trimming its muscles.

It’s 5-litre V8 engine - once as popular as hotdogs at a baseball game - has hit the skids and two V6 engines are becoming the powerplants of choice.

Unprecedented? Yes. Predictable? Yes, given that this is the era of downsizing to scavenge back fuel consumption and reduce exhaust emissions.

The fact that Ford's most popular model is doing it - and doing it successfully - confirms that small engines are here to stay. No surprise that others are doing something similar.

The latest Volvo SUV, for example, is a 1.8-tonne family wagon now with the option of a 2-litre four cylinder. Intriguingly, it drives only the front wheels.

That gives you an SUV with no off-road ability yet all that genre's versatility, practicality, safety and high-ride attitude. To boot, it's cheaper to buy, run and maintain than its 4WD sister models.

VALUE

The Volvo XC60 T5 costs $54,150 which is the cheapest on the XC60 foodchain and a good $3500 more affordable than the next cheapest - the slower, thirstier and heavier all-wheel drive 3.2 version with a six-cylinder petrol engine.

If you're not planning a trip to the outback or even a lazy spin on the beach, then opting for the T5 is clearly a no brainer.

The feature list of the T5 is also identical to the 3.2 and the only real difference is the latter's 2000kg tow rating, up 200kg on the T5.

There is a temptingly huge - and not inexpensive - option list available so be careful you don't exceed your budget.

Going 2WD in the prestige end of the SUV segment isn't uncommon so Volvo hasn't got the playground to itself.

However, in comparison with most, it is cheaper, offers better value (the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive), has the best safety list and I reckon better suits families, especially those with young children.

DESIGN

Changes to its front end has slimmed down the nose and brought it more in line with the pretty styling of the S40 and S60 passenger car models.

That softens the bulky dimensions of the wagon and, combined with the elongated "S" of the tail lights, give distinction to the Volvo.

Inside it's a bit more conventional but full marks to the simplicity of the dashboard and the useful storage spaces.

There's a lot of thought put into making this car work for the family. Best is the two booster seats on the back seat. Better, there's two heights for kids of different sizes.

TECHNOLOGY

I'll labour the point - the 2-litre turbo-petrol engine in this is the same as in the Volvo S60 and upcoming Ford Falcon. It's also in other offshore things, like the new Ford Explorer SUV.

It's a great powerplant and, with 177kW, will make a lot of people think twice about believing that big engines are best.

Part of its appeal is the smoothness, rapid shift speed and almost lag-free action of the dual-clutch transmission. Some rival companies with similar boxes should use the Volvo unit as a benchmark.

The rest of the machine is simple - MacPherson front suspension with multi-links and coils at the back, electric-assist power steering and fat disc brakes.

It's good to see that the suspension is the same as the all-wheel drive models rather than pick up a comparatively crude - and cheaper - torsion beam system.

SAFETY

City Safety is the system that, at low speeds, will stop the car from running into something up ahead. That could be another car, a tree, a wall or even a person.

It's standard on the XC60 range. That alone puts this SUV ahead of its rivals. Then you add the full suite of electronic chassis and brake aids, a five-star crash rating and six airbags.

You will have to pay $1275 for the blind-spot warning system and an extra $4175 for pedestrain alert, auto brakes on the adaptive cruise control and a queue alert when cruising busy highways. You've probably just busted your budget.

DRIVING

You'd be hard to pick this as a front-wheel drive wagon. Yes, there are times through sweeping bends where you may feel some lightness from the back end, but it's controllable and even if you stuff it up, the stability control will bring the car back on track.

Though the engine is spirited, the XC60 isn't the vehicle for a fang through the hills. But I did it anyway.

The biggish steering wheel is the only hinderance to the sports nature of the engine, slowing the steering reaction down and making the driver work the wheel a bit harder than a sedan.

Manually picking up the six ratios gets a bit extra performance out of the engine and when downshifting, helps to slow the vehicle. But unless you're really in a hurry, the auto mode requires no effort and is almost as satisfying.

The wagon is pretty big - something you feel on the road - and if it wasn't for park sensors could be awkward to park. Volvo provide big seats with wide-grain leather upholstery that is comfortable and durable. Remember that leather can repel lots of natural toxins that children tend to emit but it needs cleaning and moisturising to keep it supple.

The XC60 is always comfortable, always quiet - the exception is under hard acceleration - and feels rock solid on the road.

The lack of a full-size spare is annoying but given this is a city car, is not as crucial as a 4WD.

VERDICT

Safety sells and safety in an affordable SUV is even better. This is one of the best SUVs around and it's one of the cheapest. Win-win.

AT A GLANCE

VOLVO XC60 T5

Price: $54,150
Warranty: 3 years, 100,000km, roadside assist
Resale: 69% Service Interval 15,000km or 12 months
Economy: 8.7 l/100km; 207g/km CO2
Equipment: six airbags, City Safety, ESC, ABS, EBD, EBA, TC.
Crash rating: 5 star
Engine: 177kW/320Nm 2-litre turbo-petrol
Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch auto
Body: 5-door, 5 seat, wagon
Dimensions: 4627 (L); 1891mm (W); 1713mm (H); 2774mm (WB)
Weight: 1740kg
Tyre size: 235/65R17
Spare tyre: Space-saver

Pricing Guides

$17,990
Based on 30 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$12,888
Highest Price
$19,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
3.2 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $12,210 – 16,280 2011 Volvo XC60 2011 3.2 Pricing and Specs
3.2 Teknik 3.2L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $13,420 – 17,600 2011 Volvo XC60 2011 3.2 Teknik Pricing and Specs
D5 2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $16,995 – 19,990 2011 Volvo XC60 2011 D5 Pricing and Specs
D5 R-Design 2.4L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $17,490 – 22,110 2011 Volvo XC60 2011 D5 R-Design Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$9,990

Lowest price, based on 8 car listings in the last 6 months

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