In-depth reviews

2019 Volvo XC60 review - ride and handling

It’s a premium mid-sized SUV, so unsurprisingly popular, but is Volvo’s XC60 actually any good?

Ride and handling

There is something deeply satisfying in driving a modern car and not noticing anything about the ride quality for the first 30 minutes. It seems like a constant that the lust for sporty trim levels and big wheels is slowly deteriorating what we consider to be acceptable when it comes to the comfort level of a normal car, and although caveated, the XC60 is a refreshing counterpoint to this increasingly common norm.

On smaller 18- or 19-inch wheels, and in base Momentum or Inscription trim, the XC60 rides beautifully, floating over imperfections while remaining composed and controlled. It’s something doubtlessly helped by the significant sidewalls on these tyres, but the XC60 also has an innate composure in the springs and dampers that filter what needs to be filtered without feeling floaty or uncontrolled. It’s also extremely comfortable at high speeds, and makes the XC60 feel effortless on motorways.

Here’s where the caveat comes in though. Specify the R-Design trim and the whole package starts to fall to pieces. The XC60 has a natural disinterest in being driven with any form of enthusiasm – down to its completely benign chassis – so the instant the ride quality is compromised the whole package starts to fray at the edges. Unlike the best Porsche or more recent Audi damping set-ups, the Volvo just can’t distinguish controlled stiffness from harshness. Suddenly bumps that shouldn’t upset the ride are felt, yet the reduction in roll and pitch is negligible at best.

Get greedy with the wheel size and things deteriorate further, as the poor secondary ride quality now exaggerates the lack of wheel control, giving all the intrusions a serrated edge that feels completely at odds with the rest of the package. Where some XC60’s glide, models that are ill-specified feel lumpen, heavy and unsophisticated. Start to drive with some aggression and elements such as the slow, completely numb steering stop becoming an irritation and turn into a nuisance as you furiously twirl the wheel with its excessive turns lock-to-lock.

It’s now that you realise there isn’t a chassis worth exploring underneath. It feels secure, safe and solid, but not in the slightest bit interested in keeping you entertained. We’re aware this all matters little to most SUV buyers, but when you’re staring down the bonnet of the Polestar Engineered T8 model with close to 400bhp combined and a £65,000 price tag, it feels not just slightly out of its depth, but well and truly outmatched. Hybrid bits or not, as a fast but still sensible SUV the XC60 in its more indulgent forms is well and truly outclassed by rivals such as the BMW X3 M40d and Audi SQ5 TDI. Our recommendation is to keep the package relaxed, the wheels small and just enjoy a level of serenity that few in this class offer.

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