Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • Engine choices generally powerful
  • Fastest model is the Recharge T8 PHEV
  • B5 diesel is responsive, good all-rounder

The Volvo XC60 is not a vehicle you are likely to buy for high-performance thrills, even though a large prioportion of the range produces in excess of 200hp. Regardless of any electrical assistance through the hybrid systems, all XC60s feature 2.0-litre engines and are fitted with eight-speed automatic gearboxes.

Plus, models produced from summer 2020 have an electronically limited top speed of 112mph as part of Volvo's safety drive to reduce serious and fatal injuries.

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs for 2020

Diesel XC60s are popular

With front-wheel drive only, the entry-level D4, with 190hp and 400Nm of torque at 1,750-2,500rpm, cracks 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, which is commendably swift, yet somehow it conspires to not always feel as quick or responsive as you’d expect on the road. Chief culprit here is the gearbox, which is smooth, but sometimes hesitant.

Mild-hybrid diesels were introduced in 2019, in the forms of the B4 (D) and B5 (D) models. They add electrical components that recuperate energy when braking, which is then stored and used to assist with acceleration later on. Both of these models have all-wheel drive (AWD) as standard.

With 197hp and 420Nm of torque at 1,750-2,750rpm, the B4 (D) is only marginally quicker from 0-62mph at 8.3 seconds, but In B5 (D) form, it makes a healthy 245hp and 480Nm from a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine. This is no slouch, as evidenced by the 7.1-second 0-62mph time, and overtaking is a doddle. The switch between electric power and diesel is virtually undetectable, although the diesel engine is still pretty loud on startup.

Punchy petrol choices

With 250hp and 350Nm of pulling power at 1,800-4,800rpm, the B5 (P) immediately feels quicker than the diesels. In front-wheel drive form the 0-62mph dash takes 7.0 seconds, but 6.9 for the AWD hanks to its additional traction.

Topping-off the mild-hybrid range is the B6 (P) with 300hp and 420Nm of torque from 2,100-4,800rpm. As we've described earlier, this can prove to be a thirsty engine, but this isn't so much of a surprise given its power outputs or its 6.2-second 0-62mph time.

Recharge plug-in hybrids

Previously called Twin Engine, Volvo renamed all of its plug-in models as Recharge in spring 2020, introducing a trio of choices to the XC60 range at the same time. All have a petrol engine mated to the electrical components, with AWD as standard.

Kicking things off is the Recharge T6, producing a combined 340hp with a resulting 0-62mph time of just 5.9 seconds. Opt for the Recharge T8 in Inscription Pro and R-Design Pro guises and you'll have 390hp at your disposal, with a further shaving of the 0-62mph time down to 5.5 seconds.

Both need to be wrung out at higher revs to perform at their best, which is not really in-keeping with the XC60’s placid nature. Plus it's a quick way to drain the fuel tank and batteries. 

You can drive the Recharges for up to 32 miles as a pure electric car, and they can be charged up in around two hours from a fast charger. When fully charged, they can be left in hybrid mode, and will spend most of its time running as an EV only, which means short journeys will see you getting 100+mpg. Beware, that soon drops to a real-world 28mpg once the battery pack is flattened.

Polestar Engineered performance flagship

If all those choices weren't enough, there's also a range-topping Recharge T8 Polestar Engineered model.

It uses the same powertrain as the regular T8, but with 407hp total system output and a range of Polestar performance parts to improve the drive. Specific performance-focused Ohlins shock absorbers allow you to manually set the car up, but we're not sure how likely most buyers will be doing this.

Out of the factory, it's quite a firm and bouncy experience, bu when altered there's a pleasing balance between moderate comfort and stiffness for impressive cornering. However, light steering still leaves you feeling a little detached rather than engaged with the experience. Outright performance is largely similar to a regular T8, with a 5.4-second 0-62mph sprint time. 

Indecisive automatic transmission

The eight-speed automatic gearbox isn’t quite as convincing as the engines, somehow it never quite seems to be able to make up its mind which gear it should be in, with an irritating habit of changing them in the middle of corners. Neither petrol nor diesel models feel completely matched with the transmission - the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC both feel much more responsive and settled in this regard.

Paddleshifters would help with this indecisiveness, allowing the driver to take momentary control when required, but Volvo doesn’t fit them as standard on every model. Instead you are forced to use the less-intuitive gear selection lever. The small paddles shifters that are available, though, are discreet but effective for taking manual control from time to time.

The XC60 does feature a choice of driving modes, however, which allows you to influence the engine response, the gearbox programming and – where fitted – the air suspension and adaptive dampers.

How does it handle? 

  • Three suspension setups 
  • Adaptive suspension worth having... 
  • It's best for comfort and balance

There are three suspension systems available on the Volvo XC60 – a standard conventional set-up, as fitted to Momentum and Inscription models, a sportier R-Design version of this that features 30% stiffer springs and thicker anti-roll bars, and an optional air suspension system that also includes adaptive dampers

The standard set-up is softly sprung, and handles bumps in the road with aplomb. Mega comfy it is then, but it also rolls heavily. This manifests itself in the way it handles. Pitch it into a set of fast bends and you'll feel yourself slosh around in your seat if you approach too quickly. 

Is air suspension worth it?

This offers a choice of Comfort and Dynamic driving modes. In our experience Dynamic mode is great on realy smooth, quick roads, since in Comfort we found the body control too soft during even moderately spirited driving. It even remains quite pitchy in the Dynamic setting if you try to go a bit quicker, rolling around in the corners to such an extent that you soon decide to slow down.

This despite the fact that Dynamic not only stiffens the suspension, it also lowers the car by some 20mm to reduce the centre of gravity. Should you really want to take your XC60 off-road, the system can also raise the suspension by 40mm.

Rivals more fun?

Rivals such as the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 certainly offer a more rewarding driving experience in the corners. Still, with all-wheel drive as standard, the XC60 has more than enough traction to deal with the strength of its engines, and in compensation for the slightly relaxed attitude to cornering you do get plenty of ride comfort. In contrast to the D5 diesel, we have also sampled a T6 petrol version of the XC60. This 320hp engine, the same as that fitted alongside the electric motor in the T8 hybrid, is not set to be sold as a standalone model in the UK.

We mention it because we found the chassis of the T6 to feel somewhat tighter and less prone to rolling around than the D5, even though both cars were fitted with the air suspension option. We suspect this is due to the additional weight of the diesel engine over the front wheels, and this is borne out driving the Volvo XC60 extensively on UK roads.