Volvo XC60 VS Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
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|
Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead.
In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.
The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.
The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.
And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.
But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.
It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.
Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.
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.
I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.
I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.
The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.
While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.
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?
The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.
So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).
Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.
What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out.
With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent.
There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.
There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.
While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.
The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.
The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.
The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.
Price and features
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.
I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).
There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.
While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.
Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.
And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
Engine & trans
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 GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.
Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.
The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.
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.
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.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
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.
The GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.
You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.
In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.
But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.
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).
Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good.
In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing.
The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250).
Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.