Volvo XC60 T8 is an SUV with safety smarts and serious punch

This ain’t no ordinary Volvo. TechRadar’s Australian team recently took a ride in the Swedish car-maker’s XC60 T8 hybrid, the top-of-the-range in the revamped model. As well as a supercharger and turbo to whisk the 235kW 2.0L all-wheel drive off the line, a 65kW electric motor sends power to the rear wheels for when you really want to scare the Porsche Macan next to you at the lights. 

That electric motor is also there to simply tootle at low speeds around town without drawing a sip of petrol. Volvo claims the XC60 will drink as little as 2.1L per 100km, and the battery can be recharged thanks to regenerative braking, setting the engine to charge the battery, or by plugging it into mains power.

The Swedish company shed its lumpy image and staid appeal long ago, something that’s partly thanks to its partnership with performance and racing brand Polestar. While it’s true that the labcoats at Polestar are working on their own version of the XC60, it’s unknown whether the souped-up version will make it to Aus. But honestly, we’re not sure if it’s really needed.

We drove

Volvo XC60 T8 AWD SUV

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder with electric motor

Power output: 300kW (235kW + 65kW)

Max speed: 200km/h

0-62mph: 5.3 seconds

Price: from £55,450 / AU$92,990

Cross breed

With the 2018 XC60 T8, Volvo has taken the engine from the much larger XC90, stuffed it into a redesigned chassis, and then mated that to the electric motor, producing a respectable total of 300kW and 640Nm. Plant your right foot and all 2,700kg accelerates to 100km/h in 5.3 seconds.

Compared to the outgoing model, the new version is 44mm longer overall, but Volvo’s made the most of the larger dimensions to extend the wheelbase by 91mm. It’s lower, longer and wider to truly plant the car on Australia’s renowned goat-track roads.

Air suspension is an option for the T8, and coupled with the active dampers that assess surface conditions 500 times per second you have a responsive and assured ride. Going through the winding corners of Adelaide’s Barossa Valley on our test drive, the XC60 didn’t suffer any disruptive body roll, and inspired a lot of confidence. 

Five selectable drive modes alter engine responsiveness and the height of the car. These can be selected as you’re driving, except for the ‘offroad’ mode which needs the car to be at a complete stop before choosing it. An Eco mode primarily relies on the electric motor, and makes the ride softer, while a Dynamic setting hunkers the XC60 down, and brings the petrol engine to life from the moment your foot hits the accelerator.

Safety chops

As you’d expect with Volvo, the safety tech is world class, and it’s a solid step on the path to vehicle autonomy. Autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and the lane keeping aid left us impressed on our drive. The latter two are categorised as one function, Pilot Assist, activated with two button presses on the steering wheel. 

With Pilot Assist turned on, the XC60 will automatically adjust its speed to slow down and speed up with the flow of the traffic, and firmly tugs on the wheel when you’re going around corners to ensure you stay in your lane. It’s eerie at first, but fantastic at reducing fatigue. This function works at its best when lane markings are clear, and prompts the driver to keep their hands on the wheel.

As you’d expect with Volvo, the safety tech is world class, and it’s a solid step on the path to vehicle autonomy.

Volvo’s worked hard to get its camera and radar system functional on Australian roads. The company says its best at recognising (and slowing down for) four-legged animals that will amble across the road. Pedestrians and cyclists are also safe, but Volvo admits it’s still developing the capability for the system to recognise kangaroos, which throw recognition off by virtue of being objects that are airborne, then on the ground, then airborne again. 

Further conveniences take place at the rear of the car. The boot can be opened by the key, or from inside the car, or you can (gently) kick the underside of the tail – perfect if your hands are full. You’ve also got the option to set just how far up the rear hatch opens.

Inside line

Inside, the dashboard display alters its layout depending on the drive mode. In Eco mode  the gauges indicate how much stress you’re putting on the electric motor, while Dynamic shows off a tachometer. A holographic speedometer and simplified version of the satnav floats just below eye level, while a large, responsive 9-inch display handles the air temperature, music and phone control.

Get settled in the driver’s seat and you’re nicely wrapped by the Nappa leather seat. Keeping up with the luxury theme, Swedish design house Orrefors has crafted the crystal gear selector. However, there’s a large central console separating you from the passenger, and that console houses the 10.4kWh battery.

As you can see from the images here, it’s also a car that’s appealing to look at — although it’s perhaps not as evocative as its nearest rival, the Audi Q5. On the road though, it has more push than you’d expect. The XC60 does anything but hold back, and with those safety credentials, this is an impressive luxury SUV.

Paul Taylor is chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub SME Leaders Steering Group and and Cybersecurity Partner at KPMG.