The West

Volvo SUV powers up
The Volvo XC60 offers a drive of European grace and powerful potential.

_SO _ when did Volvos suddenly become so hot?

I always thought they were the epitome of Swedish reliability - the type of cars middle-aged men from Middle England drove to complement their Hush Puppies.

When I was shown the XC60 all-wheel-drive SUV, it reminded me of a seven-seater XC90 that had shrunk in the wash.

Inside the T6 Luxury variant I was impressed by the understated, err, luxury of it all but hardly blown away.

For a car that cost $82,115 plus on-roads, you expect keyless entry, push-button start, gearshift paddles, auto headlights and wipers, a leather steering wheel, leather seats that are electrically adjustable, automatic boot opening, 18-inch alloys, reversing camera and sensors, sat nav, voice-controlled multimedia infotainment and Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. Indeed, these days you expect them in cars that are a third of the price.

When I got going, the six-speed Adaptive Geartronic automatic transmission felt worth all that money, as the XC60 rolled along with quiet European grace.

Then I drove on to the Mitchell, thought I'd see what happened if I popped the leather gearstick knob into Sport, and . . . WHOAAAA!!!

That, I do believe, was the exact noise that came out of my mouth as the 3.0-litre, six-cylinder engine rocketed me past the legal driving limit in the blink of an eye. Indeed, the XC60's official 0-100km/h time is 6.9 seconds, which is pretty nifty for an SUV.

Also nifty for an SUV was this car's nippiness. It felt like I was in a small car and not something 4.633m long, meaning steering was light and parking a breeze.

This was in Performance mode, which I found was the best driving experience. There's also Elegance, which felt comparatively stodgy, and Eco, which was smooth but perhaps misnamed given the combined fuel economy is 10.5L/ 100km.

But, being Volvo, safety is still at the forefront of all they have done with this car. And it's impressive.

City Safety senses if you're about to hit something (at speeds of up to 50km/h), glows red on the dashboard and applies the brakes if necessary. Then there's the Blind Spot Information System, which alerts you to cars racing up from behind into your blind spot.

Lane-departure warning made it sound as if the Six Million Dollar Man was in the car with me whenever I crossed over a white line without indicating.

There are full-length curtain airbags and headlights that bend round corners, plus two built-in booster seats in the rear.

The only tiny thing I could find that I didn't like was, indeed, tiny. In the rear-view mirror, a display tells you the direction you are heading in - a good idea but I had that little blur in the corner of my eye, like there was a hair in it.

Still, this was quickly forgotten when I hit the accelerator and the dual exhausts let out their roar.

  • VOLVO XC60 *

  • Model *T6 Luxury

  • Price *$74,990 plus on-road costs (as tested $82,115)

  • Engine: *3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol

  • Outputs * 224kW/440Nm

  • Transmission * Six-speed automatic

  • Thirst *10.5L/100km

VERDICT It's a lot of money but you get a lot of car, and technology. It's one of the best five- seater SUVs I've tested.

The West Australian

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