Owner’s Review: 2010 Volvo XC60 T-6 R-Design

Reader’s review of his 2010 XC60 – he loves it so much, he’s going to buy another one!

By Omar Mohatarem

Volvo XC60 owners review

I’ve never liked SUVs. Too high, too slow (for the most part), too soft and floaty when it comes to ride and handling and just not much fun to drive on road. When I lived in the UK, I vowed that I would never buy an SUV. If my family ever needed more room than a saloon or hatchback could provide then I was looking forward to buying a BMW 3 series or 5 series estate.

Sadly, once I landed in Qatar 3 years back I quickly realised that the Middle East really doesn’t do estates. Thus, when my wife and I started looking for a family car that offered more space than a mid-size saloon, I had to bite the bullet and agree to buy an SUV.

Since we didn’t need a 7 seater it meant i was looking at compact SUVs. I quickly ruled out the Japanese options due to dated and or gutless powertrains. The only decent American choice was the Cadillac SRX which neither my wife nor I liked the look of (inside or out).

That left left us with a choice of European models from BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW & Volvo. Of these, despite my love of BMWs, the X3 was dated, expensive and the ride was like a skateboard putting it out of the running.

My wife doesn’t like Mercedes’s so that ruled out the GLK. The VW Tiguan was good value and had decent performance but it was a little small for our liking (more like a Golf on stilts) while the only Toureg that was in my price range was V6 which I found more than a little sluggish. That left Volvo’s XC60 & Audi’s Q5.

I went to see the Volvo first because I was intrigued by its good looks and its powerful engine (turbocharged 3.0 straight six). The salesman let me take one out for a test drive immediately and straight away I was hooked.

In the interest of being thorough I did go to check out the Q5, but the fact that Audi wanted to charge me 8k more for a moderately well equipped Q5 2.0 TFSI than Volvo were charging me for a nearly fully loaded XC60 T-6 R-Design meant there was only going to be one winner.

Volvo XC60 owners review

Design & Interior

What attracted me to the XC60 in the first place was its looks. In a class filled with handsome but ultimately forgettable competitors, the XC60 is a breath of fresh air. The rising shoulder line gives it a sense of dynamism and I love those distinctive flared vertical rear lights.

The overall look is more raised station wagon than tough 4×4 truck (which is hardly surprising given Volvo’s history) but given my preference for station wagons over SUVs I really like the looks (as does my wife). The R-Design spec I opted for has painted lower body cladding (as opposed to black) accented with silver wing mirrors and 20 inch R-Design 5 spoke alloys (which are what sold me on the R-Design trim level since I’m such a sucker for big wheels).

I hate to use cliches, but the interior really does feel Scandinavian – it’s light, airy, modern and a very nice place to spend time. It has that signature Volvo waterfall centre console with the storage space behind it and although the storage space isn’t particularly useful, the design still looks fresh after many years.

Interior quality is a mixed bag. The soft touch plastics at the top of the console are very good and there are leather inserts in the door panels but these give way to some much harder plastics very quickly as you move down the interior. There’s no denying it, an Audi interior will almost certainly look and feel better quality (even if it will be a slightly more gloomy space to spend your time).

Having said all that, despite my reservations about the quality of the interior plastics, build quality has proved to be very good. After 3 years and almost 30,000km the interior is essentially creak and rattle free, and believe me the slightest noise from a car will bug me to distraction.

In comparison, I also have a VW Scirocco and my initial impression was that the quality of the VW was much better than the Volvo. However after 2.5 years and 15,000 km in the Scirocco, it has developed one or two persistent creaks so my opinion of the two cars has completely flipped- the Volvo is extremely well screwed together while I’m a little disappointed with VW’s much vaunted build quality. What makes it the situation even worse is that the Volvo is abused as the family car while I “baby” the VW and make sure it has an easy life!

The R-Design trim level brings sports seats, some shiny blue dials and a very nice knurled aluminium centre console. Unfortunately, that nice knurled aluminium is only used for the centre console with the door switch panels reverting to a fairly basic black plastic, while the trim surrounding the centre console is silver painted plastic. If Volvo really wants to match the German competition, then they need to use better materials more extensively in their interiors.

That said, everything falls to hand logically and space in the front is very good. The 2 tone beige/black leather sports seats (electric with memory for the driver – manual for the passenger) are simply superb. After a 6 hour non-stop drive from Abu Dhabi to Doha I stepped out without any aches and pains at all.

Space in the back is a little tighter than the front but not uncomfortable. The boot is a very decent size and the rear seats fold completely flat (which came in handy when loading the car up with ikea furniture as the photo at the bottom shows).

The interior has some nice practical touches such as the integrated booster seats for small kids (convenient when giving friend’s children a lift) or the panel that can be lifted to divide the boot into two (handy when you need to leave a stroller in the car at all times but don’t want it flying around while driving).

Tech-wise, the car came with keyless entry/start, navigation, bluetooth, upgraded audio with CD, USB, aux in and separate headphone output for rear seat passengers. Although the tech in the Volvo doesn’t look as impressive as its German competition it all works very well.

I much prefer the Volvo’s simpler bluetooth and audio system to the flashier touchscreen system in the VW Scirocco. The one annoyance with the tech in the car is the lack of automatic headlights. Hear me out – I’m not just being lazy here! The car knows when it gets dark because it dims the instruments (the way a lot of cars do when you switch on the headlights) and this can often confuse you into thinking the headlights are on when they aren’t – extremely annoying and possibly dangerous as well!

The navigation system gets a lot of criticism from journalists who aren’t used to the navigation controls being behind the steering wheel but honestly, after 2 or 3 days you adjust to the controls and it’s a complete non-issue. In fact it’s extremely easy to pan around the map while on the move without taking your hands off the wheel – something which can’t be said for any competitor’s system.

Volvo XC60 owners review

Performance

Although the looks are what attracted me to the XC60 in the first place, what pulled me in for a test drive was the powertrain. At the time (2010) the only powertrain being offered in Qatar was the T-6 AWD with 6 speed auto. The headline figures are 280 bhp & 295 lb ft which is enough to shift the XC60 to 60 in about 6.9 seconds. That’s comfortably enough to keep it ahead of any Land Cruiser (or most other traffic for that matter).

The 6 speed auto shifts smoothly but if left to its own devices in Drive, it has a tendency to shift up too quickly leaving you cruising around at 1800rpm (or less). This means that the turbo is off boost so when you need power to overtake, you push your foot down, the gearbox takes a second to kick down, the turbo spools up and then your (ample) power arrives and you’re off.

Luckily, the solution to this problem is simple – just push the gear knob over to the right into Sport. In Sport, the car is transformed as the gearbox will always try to ensure revs don’t fall below 2000rpm so that the turbo is spooled up and ready to provide instant boost.

In addition, when accelerating in Sport the gearbox doesn’t always hold the revs to the red line; on a part throttle it will shift up around 3500rpm meaning it’s possible to drive the car smoothly in Sport all the time (unlike say the VW DSG box which in Sport will ALWAYS shift at the redline making sport completely useless in day to day driving).

It’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to the engine though. Firstly, it’s not the most pleasant sounding engine. My last car before the XC60 was a BMW 130i with the glorious 3.0 straight 6 (N54B30 for the nerds out there) that just loved to sing it’s way to the 7000rpm red line. In comparison the Volvo sounds a little pedestrian and just never feels like it enjoys being revved out.

Secondly, it does like a drink. Over 3 years I’ve averaged 15.5l/100km which isn’t great (possibly because I use it in Sport for much of the time). Luckily petrol is cheaper than water here, so I’m not complaining about the cost to fill it up, but rather how often it needs to be taken for a fill up. You can put this second complaint down under #MiddleEastProblems.

Overall though, these are minor issues and the highest compliment I can pay the XC60 is that when switching between it and the Scirocco (2.0 Tsi), which I do on a daily basis, I can never feel any difference in pace between the two (if anything the Volvo actually feels stronger above 100km/h).

Volvo XC60 owners review

Ride & Handling

This is the part of SUV ownership I was dreading. The XC60 that I test drove had the normal suspension and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the handling was …. tolerable. There was some roll (as expected) but it was well controlled and without any “float” so I considered it acceptable (especially since the roads in this region are so straight).

The R-Design that I ended up buying has sports suspension. This means that the ride height is the same as the standard car but the springs and dampers are stiffer. Truthfully, it’s been a double edged sword. The handling is definitely better than the standard car as roll is very well controlled and grip levels from the 255/45 R20 Pirelli Scorpions are quite high but the trade off is a very firm ride that I would characterise as crashy (and bear in mind that I came from a BMW with M Sport suspension!).

I honestly feel like Volvo need to spend a little more time tuning the R-design suspension to produce a more acceptable compromise (maybe lower it slightly while softening the springs and dampers slightly), as it currently feels a bit like a poorly developed aftermarket kit.

The R-Design trim level also brings a faster steering rack and while it doesn’t have much feel, it is accurate and quick to respond to inputs. The weight is heavier than expected but it is very stable at speed.

Volvo XC60 owners review

Running Costs

Excluding petrol and insurance, it’s cost me just 800 QR to run over 3 years (and that was for a new battery). Really! The car came with a 3 year service pack (which includes some consumables like brake pads and wipers) so the 3 services it has had have cost me the grand total of 0 QR.

It’s not like they’ve skimped on the car’s maintenance either because of the service pack, as they were happy to top up oil once between services for free when the car complained about low oil. As of the last service, the original tyres still have plenty of tread left while even the brake pads still have life left in them according to the last service report. I’m pretty sure both will need replacing in about 12 months time, but as the car is on a PCP deal it will have gone back to the dealer and become someone else’s problem by then.

I’m not sure I would want to run this car without the service pack though. In other regions the XC60 has very long service intervals (18000 miles) but it looks like they set the service interval much shorter for the GCC. The car had its 3rd service around the 25000km/32 month mark which seems very short to me.

Overall though I’ve been ecstatic with the running costs. The dealer (Domasco) has also been very good with the staff being polite and knowledgable. Parts can take a while to arrive sometimes as they usually have to be ordered from Sweden (e.g. a new tail light took almost 5 weeks to arrive).

What Went Wrong

This is usually the part where you expect to hear tales of how a Swedish built car slowly fell apart in the sweltering heat over 3 years but truthfully very little went wrong. There was an airbag warning light that appeared briefly about 10 months into my ownership. Turns out it was a known problem and the factory had issued a fix which was applied to my car while I waited.

The low coolant light flashed up a few times but all I had to do was top up the car with water. Low oil came up one time and the dealer topped up the oil for free (as I had a service pack). The car needed a new tail light due to a hit and run at a traffic light (grrrrr).

The parking sensors would sometimes randomly activate while sitting still in traffic (usually in the dusty summer months). The dealer checked this once or twice but never found anything wrong with the sensors. I stopped pushing them on this because frankly it was an extremely small issue.

Around month 30, the speaker that sounds the speeding and seat belt not fastened alarm failed. The dealer said to fix it they would have to remove the dashboard but since I was glad to be rid of those alarms I told them not to bother. I hope the next owner thanks me!

Verdict

In case it hasn’t been clear from reading this review, I really like this car, much more so then I was expecting to at the beginning. It fulfils its duty as a family car very well while also managing to feel just a little bit special to drive. In fact, I like it so much, that I’m planning to do something I’ve never done before – I’m going to simply replace it with the latest 2013 model when my PCP deal expires!

Why? Well my requirements are still the same (i.e. compact SUV) and looking around the market place I still don’t see anything else I would rather own for the price. Being a big fan of BMW’s I would love to own the new X3 35i but I simply can’t justify the premium for the BMW when the performance of the Volvo is so similar.

Plus Domasco has just started offering the Polestar upgrade here which I’m eager to install on the new car as that should close the performance gap to the BMW even further.

In short, anyone looking for a compact luxury SUV is missing out if they leave the T-6 XC60 off their shortlist.

Send in your owners review to MME@MotoringME.com

One response to “Owner’s Review: 2010 Volvo XC60 T-6 R-Design”

  1. fakri says:

    Hi Omar, did you take the XC60 desert offroading? How did it perform there? How does it compare to the usual Qatari horse, err camel, of Landcruisers?

    Cheers

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