It wasn’t so long ago that Volvo was commonly thought of within car industry circles as ‘that funny Northern European, semi-premium car-maker that nobody wants’.
Former custodian Ford had reportedly been pitching around for a new owner for the firm for more than a year when, in 2010, China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Ltd invested $1.8bn to buy the ailing car-maker – and then promptly invested even more in brand-new engines and platforms.
At the time, it looked like some particularly bold decision-taking. How things change.
Five years on, Volvo’s story is continuing to look like the perfect advert for Chinese ownership of a big European car-maker; Volvo is flourishing, and Geely’s strategic vision is paying off too.
Global sales are 20% up from where they were five years ago, while profitability is up 50%; and, with Volvo’s help, Geely has developed the technology it needs to launch China’s first European-style premium car brand of its very own: Lynk&Co. Suddenly you can see why Geely invested all that money.
And now the first of the really big-selling new-breed Volvo models have hit the showrooms, and it’s the subject of this road test: the all-new XC60 SUV.
The ’60-series compact 4×4 uses the same platform and many of the same engines that power its bigger sibling, the XC90, and so in many ways, it is exactly what it looks like: a boil-washed XC90.
But a car with the new-groove, tech-savvy Scandinavian design appeal of the XC90 and most of its comfort, versatility, and capability, but available at prices starting well under £40,000, could plainly accelerate Volvo’s growth into a new, higher gear.
The XC60 range starts with 188bhp ‘D4’ diesel and 251bhp ‘T5’ turbo four-cylinder petrol models, before rolling in a 232bhp ‘D5’ and culminating with a 400bhp-plus ‘T8’ plug-in hybrid that promises to be an interesting alternative to the usual performance SUV.
Front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive versions are available, likewise both classically restrained styling options and thoroughly new-age-Volvo ‘R-Design’ trims.
It was a big-selling 188bhp, four-wheel-drive D4 R-Design we elected to test.