Road test: the agile Volvo XC60 T8 marks a return to days of glory

The historically safe and sensible manufacturer's reasonably sized SUV is fast - and more fun than you might think

In the commercial world, reputations are built up over time. As much as new companies would like you to think of their products as your most reliable / fun / innovative / inexpensive / expensive choice, this kind of loyalty doesn’t come overnight.

Car marques are no different – and there are many manufacturers who would pay dearly to have the reputation for safety and innovation that Volvo has built since the Swedish company first started knocking together road-going creations in 1927.

But, as many a celebrity will tell you, reputations can change overnight if you’re not careful (and sometimes even if you are).

Volvo is now part-owned by China’s Geely group, and has been for more than a decade, having spent time under the auspices of Ford prior to that. Changes, therefore, have been afoot.

Like many manufacturers hoping to produce the kind of vehicles customers are likely to be seeking in the future, the company is in the process of creating a range free of the shackles of fossil-fuel power. Hybrid options are generally the first step in this process, and one of the manufacturer’s forays into this sphere is the XC60 T8.

A quick glance will tell you it’s a luxury SUV, though not a monster one – that is left up to its more fulsome sibling, the XC90. You might call the XC60’s looks understated, but one could argue that has always been part of the Volvo DNA.

First impressions upon getting inside the vehicle are positive. The interior is appealing without being showy. If you want a touch of flashiness, that happens when you get out on the road.

The XC60 feels distinctly rapid, right from getting out of the blocks to tearing through the mid and upper power ranges. The drive comes from a 2-litre petrol engine paired with two electric motors, and it’s got some oomph. While the ride is not as smooth as in some competitors, the vehicle is agile and dynamic.

The kit inside is decent, too. You get a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen, with a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Driver aids include blind-spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, LED headlights and fog lights, and auto-dimming side mirrors.

In the 1970s, British comedian Jasper Carrott had a stand-up routine about Volvos, mocking the fact that on a certain model, the lights stayed on even during the daytime, a feature now commonplace. He concluded that the lights would likely still be on after the cars had been through a crusher at the scrapyard.

While his routine was actually quite funny, Carrott might have been better mocking the mainstream car industry of the 1970s. Then, a lot of the time, you were lucky if you got a car where the lights came on at all.

That’s all an aside, of course, but it shows the reputation Volvo had built up in the decades prior. It illustrates its focus on safety and innovation, even though many failed to understand that is what features such as lights that stay on in the daytime were.

The XC60 is a step back towards that way of doing things, and Volvo looks unlikely to lose ground on its early, hard-won reputation by producing products of this kind.

It is essentially an understated yet refined car that can get distinctly throaty if you need. All very appealing, all very Volvo.

The specs

Engine: 4-cylinder 2-litre with 16-valve electric motor

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Power: 401bhp

Torque: 400Nm

Price: From Dh261,566

Updated: September 9th 2021, 4:17 AM
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