My Personal Car Reviews: Volvo XC60 D5

MacGuffin

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Today I want to review my first Volvo. It's the brand new XC60 D5 with the 5-cylinder diesel engine that generates 185 HP and comes with a 6-speed automatic.



I have always wanted to try out one of them Volvos to see, if Volvo drivers know something I didn't know, when they chose their car over an Audi, a BMW, a VW or a Mercedes.

As far as I understand, Volvo consider themselves a premium brand. The XC60 is set to compete with other small premium SUV's, like the VW Tiguan, the Audi Q5, the Mercedes GLK or the BMW X3. Tough competition. So let's find out how premium this particular Volvo is.



First of all I want to point out that I really like the design of this car, even though it looks a bit odd from certain angles.

I also really like the ride comfort. It swallows practically everything bad roads have to offer without ever bothering the driver. Only very hard bumps get through.



Unfortunately that's where my positive impressions end. Because there are many things wrong with this car.

It all starts to go wrong, when you enter the car and try to adjust the seat. Height and distance to the pedals are quickly adjusted and so is the position of the steering wheel. But then you'll get stuck while trying to adjust the angle of the back rest. Let me illustrate the problem:


This is my sitting position. I'm 1,91 m tall and the seat has to be pushed back to the maximum in order to give me enough leg room. Now where is the wheel to adjust the angle of the back rest? Hmmmm...


Ah, there it is :) No kidding: There is no room between the seat and the B pillar for squeezing your hand through (I tried it with some colleagues and even the girls couldn't get it adjusted, while sitting in the driver's seat). So in order to adjust the back rest, you have to step out of the car, open the rear door and turn the wheel. Then sit down in the front again and see, if it's good. If not, step out again and repeat the procedure. You get the picture.

Then there are the seats. They are, for lack of a better word, crap. Complete and utter crap. They look okay at first, if you just look at them:


But they seem to be made completely out of the same kind of foam, that was used for the mattresses of the bunks I slept in during my service in the German air force. They are way too soft, they're too short for supporting my thighs and they offer no side support whatsoever:

[YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31p9ArYSfZA[/YOUTUBE]

Only the head rests are fine. So in corners you hold on to the steering wheel for your life, which is a problem, because the steering wheel doesn't have much grip either and the car hates corners. But let me get back to that later.

Also the armrest between the seats is mounted far too low to lean your ellbow on, so no support there, too. But don't worry: The seatbelts are so sensitive, that they lock you to the seat on almost every bumb in the road and in many corners ;)

So you are forced to drive slowly and I don't like to be told by my car how I have to drive.

Next thing I noticed: It was impossible for me to find a really convenient sitting position, because the foot rest for the left foot is too narrow and when you lean your leg on the door, you have to tighten your mustles all the time, or your foot will rest at an awkward angle.


Too narrow foot rest, which is strange, because there is enough space.

Also the overdesigned interior takes its toll: They seem to have deliberately placed hard edges everywhere I could rest my knees against. The result is that you cannot really relax while driving, because you're constantly shifting your position. This is not a comfy car for long journeys -- at least for people of my height.


You bump your knee on the left thanks to the fancy interior door shapes...


... and you bump your knee on the right, no matter what you do, thanks to that "hovering" center console.

So what about the trim and the overall interior quality feeling? Well, that's ok actually, even if the plastic in the doors does look a bit cheap:


Nothing rattles or squeaks, though, and you feel like being inside a solid, protective environment.


However, the next thing I tripped over, was this:



This is a health and safety warning about not letting yourself getting distracted by the navigation system while driving. It pops up every time you start the car and it says you have to acknowledge with the "ENTER" button or use "BACK" to quit the system.

So far, so good, but where the heck are the "ENTER" and "BACK" buttons?

Tell you what? Let's make this a riddle. Here is a detailed shot of the interior, as seen from the driver's position. See if you can find where the "ENTER" and the "BACK" buttons for the sat nav system are (and no, the ones with the phone symbol are not the right ones). I put the solution behind a spoiler tag :)


Spoiler Text: (Click here to toggle display)
No success? Don't worry, I had to search for about 10 minutes in the user's manual to finally find them. They're here:



No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. The buttons are mounted on the back of the steering wheel, where you can't see but just feel them with your stretched fingers.

No one in his right mind would ever look for them there, because there is an unwritten law of car operation, that you have to be able to see the buttons you push. They even added a miniature joystick back there, which you have to use to navigate through the sat nav system. Oh, how I suddenly love the BMW iDrive...

I can see why they did that, though. They probably thought: "Let's make it different and put the sat nav controls at a spot, where the driver can keep both hands on the wheel while using them".

Good thought but not completely thought through, because it simply doesn't work: Fiddling around with buttons you don't have in your field of view, is a lot more distracting than having to use buttons on the center console.

I tried to use the sat nav while being on the Autobahn and it's almost suicidal. It is amazingly distracting, so I gave it up after almost running into another car a couple of times. It also doesn't help, that the monitor is way too small.

Considerung all this, that annoying "safety warning", wich greets you at every engine start, is a prime example of real life satire

The most funny part, however, is the guidance system itself. It's an act of comedy actually. The poor woman in there got confused at the very first Autobahn crossing. It went like this:

"In 500 meters, turn right to go left on the A29. Now right. Go left. Go right. Turn right to enter the... Turn left. Enter the A29. Now right. Go left."

And all that without a pause. Honestly, it was just one continous babble. She only calmed down, when I finally hit the new Autobahn.

The whole sat nav system and its controls must have been designed by a drugged designer of assembly manuals at IKEA.

And then there is the radio. There are strange distortions every now and then, as if for a fraction of a second it it is overlayed with another station.


The sat nav screen is already too small and then they split it in half to guide you. Why??? Also, why using an extra screen for the audio system?


Now about the engine: The 5-cylinder diesel actually sounds quite good (at least when you don't rev it too high). It has its own soundscape and I thought for while what the sound reminds me of, until I got it. It sounds like a motor boat, specifically like one of those inboard runabouts they like to use in movies like "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade".

[YOUTUBE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGr4ntnLwhM[/YOUTUBE]

However, the engine is not what I would call lively. There is a huge starting lag, before the car finally gets moving. Together with the sluggish automatic gearbox and its sometimes mysterious gear changes it effectively prevents any kind of sporty driving: As soon as you push down the pedal a bit more, the gearbox shifts down and revs like crazy in low gears. However, if you push your foot down quickly -- nothing happens for an agonizing second, until it shifts down.

The system seems to try to prevent you from using the torque of the engine. And when you lift your foot from the accelerator again, it takes about 3 seconds or so for the car to realize that the acceleration is over and that it now can switch into a higher gear again.

This technology is not up to date and cannot even slightly compete with the engine/gearbox combinations in the latest generations of Volvo's German rivals.

So what about suspension? Well, it is stiff enough to keep you steady and planted on the Autobahn even at 200 km/h (which is also the top speed of the car). Actually that is the only environment the XC 60 feels good in, because you mostly go in a straight line and are inside a car with good ride comfort and relatively low noises.

Curvy country roads, however, are not its domain. You have to constantly correct the steering in corners and if you try quick changes of direction, you get the impression that the rear end wants to break out. It doesn't feel safe. Not even in town, when you for example want to take a corner quickly, because the light just turned to yellow.

Maybe I am too harsh. Maybe I'm just disappointed because I really wanted to like this car -- I tried hard to like it for 4 days -- but it simply didn't live up to my expectations.

And sorry, Volvo, but this is not premium quality. This has too many flaws and in sum they add up to a not very pleasant overall experience. The very least would be to put decent seats in. Then at least the passengers would have a comfy, practical car with lots of boot space and a smooth ride. But the way it is now, I wouldn't want to have the XC60 as a car I have to live with every day.

Volvo has to do better than this -- a lot better -- in order to really compete with other premium brands.

Especially when you consider that this particular car is only 2 months old and has already completely lost its "new car smell", replaced by a distinct odor of cold cigarette smoke (!)

P.S.:

Some "biggies" I took and didn't want to go into the waste basket:


The instruments look like in a Mercedes -- only cheaper.


Steering wheel is too slick and doesn't have enough grip.
 
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NecroJoe

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I felt the same way about my first volvo experience in a C30. I thought the outside looked good, but it was boring to drive, had a slightly-interesting-but-mostly-poorly-executed interior, and strange ergonomic decisions.
 

Interrobang

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Let me just say DAMN, because in the last weeks Ive come across quite a few of those facelifted Volvos with the new grill, and I liked the look of the things a lot ... but when they cant deliver on the inside ... thats just another Fail ...
 

darkshark0159

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We almost bought a V50 before the Merc. I absolutely loved the looks externally and I really wanted to like it, but then we took it for a test drive.

Maybe I am too harsh. Maybe I'm just disappointed because I really wanted to like this car -- I tried hard to like it for 4 days -- but it simply didn't live up to my expectations.

And sorry, Volvo, but this is not premium quality. This has too many flaws and in sum they add up to a not very pleasant overall experience. The very least would be to put decent seats in. Then at least the passengers would have a comfy, practical car with lots of boot space and a smooth ride. But the way it is now, I wouldn't want to have the XC60 as a car I have to live with every day.
My same thoughts with the V50 are reflected throughout your review of the XC60.

Nothing rattles or squeaks, though, and you feel like being inside a solid, protective environment.
The V50 was 2-3 years old and things were starting to creek very badly.
 
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_HighVoltage_

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Nice review. I guess they didn't think too much about the manual seat adjustment. But seriously, why didn't it have power seats? My 15-year-old Volvo has them, and this new, modern, quality Volvo doesn't...
 

AiR

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Especially when you consider that this particular car is only 2 months old and has already completely lost its "new car smell", replaced by a distinct odor of cold cigarette smoke (!)
It's a rental isnt it?
I found the seats excellent.
 

bartboy9891

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Volvo usually has good seats in its car (at least in the S60 and S80). Those in the XC60 just look like really cheap office chairs.
 

MacGuffin

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It's a rental isnt it?
I found the seats excellent.
Yes, it's a rental. And you may have noticed, that I drive rentals on a regular basis. So I can compare.

And sorry but the seats are not excellent, they're an impertinence. Maybe the one you drove, had better seats as an optional extra?
 

AiR

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Yes, it's a rental. And you may have noticed, that I drive rentals on a regular basis. So I can compare.

And sorry but the seats are not excellent, they're an impertinence. Maybe the one you drove, had better seats as an optional extra?
Possibly, mine were electric with white fabric. Yours appear to be T-Tec. I'm not as tall as you and probably weigh less too though. ;)
Can you compare scent between rentals? If it smells like cigarette smoke, I'd say it's because someone smoked in it. I noticed your car doesnt appear to have City-Safety?
 
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Dr_Grip

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The interior looks very Ford-ish to me.
 

klankymen

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Nice review. I guess they didn't think too much about the manual seat adjustment. But seriously, why didn't it have power seats? My 15-year-old Volvo has them, and this new, modern, quality Volvo doesn't...
power seats left and right? IIRC my dad's only has power seat for the driver... But leather, and sooooo comfy, some of the best seats I've sat in.
 

MacGuffin

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Can you compare scent between rentals? If it smells like cigarette smoke, I'd say it's because someone smoked in it. I noticed your car doesnt appear to have City-Safety?
As a side effect of my migraines I usually have a very sensitive nose. But everyone would have noticed that cigarette odor.

It is of course possible, that one heavy smoker had that car before me for a week or so. But that still doesn't explain, why the "new car smell" has already almost completely vanished. As I already mentioned, the car was just two months old.

And yes, I am a tall, heavy bloke. But people get taller and heavier, so car makers have to deal with that.

power seats left and right? IIRC my dad's only has power seat for the driver... But leather, and sooooo comfy, some of the best seats I've sat in.
The best seats I sat in so far, belonged to the current Mercedes S-Class. I did about 2000 km with that car in 3 days and I never got tired, not even a tiny bit.

The Volvo didn't have the worst seats I ever had to sit in (that are still the seats in the original Fiat Panda) but they really are nothing more than shaped foam. I'd say I give them a year and they will be worn out.

The interior looks very Ford-ish to me.
Actually a Ford Mondeo is a much better car. And after this Volvo experience I'm eager to try out the Ford Kuga for comparison.
 
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NecroJoe

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Well...the "new car smell" is actually a toxic blend of off-gassing plastics and the toxic adhesives used in carpet and upholstery.

The last can of paint I bought was Zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and was essentially devoid of any "paint" smell. I was disappointed somehow, even though I know that the paint smell is, again, kinda toxic.
 

MacGuffin

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You have to differentiate between wanted and unwanted smells. A bucket of paint is an unwanted smell, because you don't want your room to smell like paint for weeks. However, in a new car, a certain "new car smell" is wanted.

Actually the car makers have departments, where they work on smells to make them attractive to the nose ;)

You are right, that those smells are the result of off-gassing plastics, but they are also usually designed that way and they are not more dangerous than off-gassing leather ;)

Because if they were toxic, they would be forbidden by law -- considering our very lively and powerful consumer protection lobby. "Toxic" car interior would surely make good headlines, but I'm afraid that thankfully there is nothing to worry about.

Same goes for sounds, btw. There are also sound designers working for the car companies. The sound of closing doors is a classic field, where they deliberately work on how it sounds. Nobody wants a "clonk" noise anymore.
 
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AiR

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Volvo public relations has this to say about the matter

All new models are verified as if they were parked in Mediterranean sun, to measure the interior emissions in 65? Centigrade. In this temperature, normally, interior materials would release harmful emissions. But Volvo has minimised harmful emissions in the car interior, by using allergy-friendly textiles and carefully chosen materials. There are no societal standards for in-car air, so Volvo Cars has created its own in-car air quality requirements that are used when developing new Volvo models.

To fulfil the Volvo requirements, all interior textiles are Oeko-Tex certified, and other interior materials, components and systems have to pass strict tests both at the suppliers? and at Volvo Cars Material Laboratory. ?Interior trim materials are not approved for use in our car interiors until they pass our strict tests?, explains Patrik Libander, responsible for interior material tests at Volvo Cars.

The Volvo standard has a low limit for TVOCs (Total Volatile Organic Compounds), as high levels in interior air would result in smell and cause headaches, nausea and dizziness, and could trigger asthma. Aldehydes are limited as they, especially formaldehyde, can cause both contact and respiratory allergies.

As emissions are released from the interior materials at high temperatures, Volvo Cars material experts use a sunshine simulator at the Swedish Testing and Research Institute to verify low interior emissions in a new car model. The car is parked under the hot sun lamps, until the interior reaches temperature of 65? Centigrade ? as it would after a day parked in sun.

Analysing air samples, emissions of TVOCs (Total Volatile Organic Compounds) and aldehydes are measured, to verify the emission levels. Also, the Volvo Car Nose Team members sit in the sun heated car compartment and evaluate the interior smell on a fixed scale. Volvo has conducted sun simulation tests since 2000.

?Sun simulation test results are a major part of the test results reported to the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association to get their approval and recommendation for the air in our car models. Altogether four Volvo models are recommended by the Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association, the S80, V70, XC70 and our latest newcomer, the XC60?, concludes Patrik Libander.
I think someone smoked in your car, the rental agency cleaned it up to the best of their ability and since the interior materials are designed to not gass off they have not had time/will not replace the scent of smoke.
 

MacGuffin

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It's very comforting to know for smokers, that Volvo values the quality of the air inside the car that much :D
 

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The only thing I can agree with you is the nav controls. They are dumb but once you get used to them not so bad. The learning curve is very steep.

As for the seats seriously your XC60 must just have defective seats or the put really poor ones in the rentals. All the XC60s we have gotten in stock have had great seats just like every other Volvo. The only Volvo seats I really don't care for are the old S60 seats. They are a bit to flat for me but the last year of the S60 they put the seats that always went in the S60R and those seats are awesome.

The first thing everyone comments on when they get in a Volvo for the first time is how incredibly comfortable the seats are. I have customers that will only buy Volvos because the seats are just so comfortable. The only seats I have found close to the Volvo on comfort are the luxury seats in the newer Land Rovers. The LR3 and Range Rover Sport luxury seats are just as good as Volvos, I think they actually share seat frames with Volvo honestly but just use a little different filler and stitching plus leather for the Rovers, and the old Luxury seats in the 2003-2006 Range Rovers were probably the best ever. Those 16 way adjustable seats with the command seating position were perfect.

When I get into work tomorrow I will see if I can find the old press release from all the awards Volvo Seats have won.
 
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