Car Reviews

2018 Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design Review

Dan DeGasperi’s 2018 Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: The top-spec of a the latest-generation XC60 with everything on it, a practical and good to drive package.

2018 Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design

Price $73,990+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited km Safety five-star ANCAP (2017) Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel Power 173kW at 4000rpm Torque 480Nm at 1750-2250rpm Transmission eight-speed automatic Drive four-wheel drive Dimensions 4688mm (L) 1902mm (W) 1658mm (H) 2865mm (WB) Seats five Boot Space 505 litres Weight 1918kg Towing 2400kg braked Fuel Tank 71 litres Spare space-saver Thirst 5.6L/100km claimed combined

CAR DEALERSHIPS call it the ‘step up’ process. When a family is walking into showrooms wanting something not too small, but not too large, then the latest breed of medium SUV models increasingly make sense. Obviously, salespeople would prefer you spend more money, firstly on a premium-badged vehicle, and then the most expensive model grade.

But the difference between ‘mainstream’ and ‘premium’ models has also narrowed over the years. A top-end version of Mazda’s CX-5 will cost $50,000 plus on-road costs (+ORC). But the ‘step up’ to Volvo’s all-new XC60 requires $10,000 more, and continuing to climb the flight of stairs in the catalogue results in the model tested here for $14,000 again.

What is the Volvo XC60 D5 R-Design?

A premium medium SUV from Sweden, that’s what. The last, first-generation model was a decade old and was still selling well, so Volvo Car Australia (VCA) basically went to the factory and said ‘load our cars up with more equipment for less and we’ll sell a shedload’.

2018 Volvo XC60 Review by Practical Motoring

Stepping beyond the D4 and T5 model grades, with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and -petrol respectively, requires spending between $10,000 and $11,000 more for the D5 and T6. The former diesel is tested here, and it adds a second turbocharger for extra performance to help warrant its price of $73,990+ORC. It’s certainly getting up there, but our test car was virtually options-free, which is refreshing.

For an alternative review, check out Paul Horrell’s launch test HERE.

What’s the Interior Like?

There is a Scandinavian-chic to this family-car interior, but it’s not all style/no sensibilities. It’s also hardly spartan, with a brilliant 9.0-inch portrait touchscreen with navigation as well as DAB+ and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, a driver’s colour head-up display, part-Nappa leather with electrically adjustable front seats, four-zone climate control even with quad rear air vents, and keyless automatic-entry with electric tailgate all standard. The only option our test car scored was $500 for heated seats.

2018 Volvo XC60 Review by Practical Motoring

Both front and rear seats are superbly supportive and cushy, setting a new benchmark for the class and comfortably eclipsing its German (Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC) rivals. It also boasts greater rear legroom than all bar the Q5, with which it is neck and neck. Only the lack of underfloor storage for the decent 505-litre boot grates – it’s standard on X3 – but not by enough to offset the near-flawless ergonomics of the touchscreen, the quality of the controls, the lush plastics and yet the enormous space. The XC60 is a winner inside.

What’s it like to drive?

Four-cylinder diesels can struggle in heavy medium SUV applications, and indeed the XC60 D5 R-Design weighs a portly 1918kg. Yet it has a couple of tricks up its sleeves to ensure it never struggles. Two turbos help deliver 480Nm of torque at just 1750rpm. A system called ‘power pulse’ also pushes exhaust gases into a compressor that then fires a burst of air into the turbo to force it to spin up and reduce turbo lag. It works a treat and, combined with 173kW of power at 4000rpm, this Volvo claims a brisk and credible 7.2-second 0-100km/h.

The D5 R-Design does, however, claim to drink just 5.6 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres, while we managed a steep 9.0L/100km despite the best efforts of a smart and fluent eight-speed automatic and on-demand all-wheel drive system. At least Volvo has delivered superbly light and crisp steering, and enjoyably disciplined suspension even – and this is a big surprise – on 21-inch wheels. Despite its heft, the XC60 feels nimble and alert; it’s fun to drive without being aggressively dynamic. And for those who want greater ride plushness, cushier air suspension is available for $2490 extra. Having tried it, we reckon it’s worth it.

What about ownership?

A three-year, unlimited kilometre warranty is starting to look below average these days, although Volvo over that period further includes roadside assistance that covers everything from breakdowns to flat tyres to locking your keys in the car. Its reputation for quality is strong, anyway, and annual or 15,000km servicing intervals are par for the course.

Speaking of which, though, this is a European vehicle and maintenance doesn’t come cheap. Up-front service plans for the XC60 cost $2225 over three years, $3500 over four and $4230 across five calendars. A mainstream SUV such as Mazda’s CX-5 should cost about half that.

What about safety features?

Volvo has left little on the options list here. It starts with front and rear parking sensors with auto park-assist, plus the clearest 360-degree camera in the business. Fail to stop for an object? Front or rear, the XC60 will apply brakes. All-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is standard, complete with detection of pedestrians, cyclists and ‘large’ animals, while a brilliant list of other stuff such as LED headlights with adaptive automtic high-beam, active cruise control, a blind-spot monitor and active lane-keep assistance are included, too.

The lane-keep can be a bit intrusive, yet is also prone to wandering between marked lines on a freeway, earning it a half-point deduction in our eyes. But there’s no argument with the seven airbags (including driver’s knee) that also meant Euro NCAP had no choice but to award this Volvo pretty much full marks – including 98 per cent rating for adult protection.

So, what do we think?

Volvo proves why aggressive sportiness is so needless in a medium SUV. The XC60 would over time become the Labrador of the family, acing ergonomics, seat comfort, space, versatility, smoothness, quietness, and yet with real punch from its engine and genuine driver enjoyment to be had especially around town – where most of these will live.

Perhaps most impressively, this D5 R-Design doesn’t really need options to shine. Sure, air suspension would be nice, but you could buy one of these out of the box for $73,990+ORC and be supremely happy with a premium medium SUV that looks great on the outside, feels supple inside, and keeps your family safe. It’s a ‘step up’ worth making, if you can afford it.

Editor's Rating

What's the interior like?
What's it like on the road?
What about safety?
Practical Motoring says: The Mercedes-Benz GLC is getting old, and it’s a bit demure and cramped, while the box-fresh Audi Q5 is roomier but lacks the lush and quality feel of the Volvo – which is surprising for a marque renowned for quality, although this SUV is built in Mexico. The also-new BMW X3 comes closest to the XC60, being more dynamic but at the expense of rear-seat and ultimate ride comfort. We’d pick a D5 R-Design over the Germans.

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Dan DeGasperi

Dan DeGasperi