Not everyone’s an SUV type of person. Not me, certainly, although I get it that some people love sports utility vehicles even if they don’t need one.
Consider the pros and cons.
On the one hand, an SUV has a higher perspective of the road, which seems to afford some drivers a mythical sense of security. The trade-off is the height of the vehicle, which has a bearing on its ride characteristics.
Then, parking and navigating narrow entrances into malls are a chore.
Bigger also means heavier, and thus, thirstier.
Sure there’s the space, but I’ve known six-footer friends to complain about how cramped leg- or head-room was on some SUVs they tested.
Still, despite being an SUV cynic, I have to admit they’ve come a long way.
Take, for example, the Volvo XC60 T5, which has on board almost everything necessary to distract the driver from its size.
There’s a lovely rear-view camera that is activated when you shift into reverse – the centre console display will also show guide lines to ensure the geometrically-challenged driver stays on course going backwards.
There are also front and side sensors (on the wing mirrors, and called the Blind Spot Information System) to let you know when you’re too close to something (or vice versa).
Kudos to Volvo for the technology – anyone who can graze the XC60 when parking, overtaking or reversing has to be really clumsy!
We’re now in an era when big bodies are increasingly finding suitable partners in engines tweaked to punch well above their cubic capacities.
The one mounted in the XC60 is a four-cylinder 1,999cc unit – insufficient a decade ago, yes, but rendered highly effective now with the aid of a turbo-charger and dual-clutch transmission.
There’s enough muscle under the bonnet to drive it with ease even fully loaded – 240hp and 320Nm, to put figures to it.
The Powershift automatic transmission, with a Geartronic feature that allows manual overrides, is a dual-clutch design with six speeds.
Thus, the XC60 T5 is far from being a laggard – it is quick and eager to respond to suggestive depressions of the accelerator, and the surge of horses can be exhilarating if you’re expecting an SUV this size to be more polite in its response.
One can hardly tell when the turbo kicks in, so smooth is the transition; even stepping up or down via the Geartronic feature doesn’t result in too peaky revs ... at least, it never gave the impression of doing this.
I generally found the engine and transmission to be as smooth as silk, even when revved hard.
This also made it a breeze to push the XC60 through hard corners, when it showed itself to be extremely capable – for an SUV, it exhibited tight handling in these situations, and the speed-dependent steering gave the whole experience a solid and reassuring feel.
What I didn’t take to was the ride, which is tuned for comfort.
The price? One has to put up with some degree of roll. Since this is a two-wheel-drive, it is not likely to get an adventurous owner, so obviously, it is the urban driver who will appreciate the “safe” ride most.
That, for me, is the only thing holding back the XC60’s thrill factor.
Then again, there’s some consolation in the way it is decked out with features.
Leather upholstery, Nordic oak inlay on the console, 235/60R18 alloy wheels, multi-media system with eight speakers and seven-inch integrated colour screen, navigation system with voice control, Bluetooth, USB and iPod connectors, electrically adjustable front seats with memory, power operated tailgate, electronic climate control, power parking brake system, keyless ignition, and the whole safety package.
Makes it also worth the price of admission, which at RM299,950 (without insurance), is a princely sum for many.
There’s a pick of nice sedans to be had for this price, but if an SUV is what you want, the XC60 T5 promises a whole load of satisfaction.
Expect to smile yourself silly when you take that test drive and hit the highway.