House of Cards
It’s not often that I become addicted to a TV show, with only a few over the past decade keeping my interest until a series end. I loved the Sopranos, Mad Men & Dexter. I’ve not mentioned any UK TV series yet, primarily because few last for more than six episodes & are therefore easy to watch. Great ones would include Hugo Blicks The Shadow Line & The Honourable Woman, as well as Line of Duty & the Channel 4 American series Homeland. My new fave show though is available on Netflix, which my kids persuaded me to subscribe to. It’s a US remake of a great BBC show which first aired in the UK back in 1990, ‘House of Cards,’ with the American version seeing the Democratic Chief Whip replacing the Conservative Chief Whip as the shows main protagonist & eventually becomes President.Thankfully, I am now up to date with the show & have even managed to watch in it’s entirety Breaking Bad, another Netflix classic.
These American series have become must-see TV & if one were to compare them to a car, they would be luxury SUV’s, which once were a rarity, but now are everywhere, with even Jaguar & Maserati having one. One manufacturer who have been there for a while is Volvo who launched their second generation XC90 in 2015 & in 2017 their second generation XC60.
The range is offered with a choice of three 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines, the D4 & D5 PowerPulse diesels & the T5 petrol, plus a T8 Twin Engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid which is a real contender in the company car sector as it comes with just a 9% BIK rate.
Every XC60 comes with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The D4 offers 190 bhp, combined fuel consumption of up to 55.4 mpg and CO2 emissions from just 133 g/km. The D5 has 235 hp, combined fuel consumption of 51.4 mpg and CO2 emissions of 144 g/km. It also benefits from PowerPulse, that uses compressed air to spin the engine’s two turbos when they would otherwise be dormant, such as very low engine revs, boosting responsiveness.The T5 offers 254 hp, combined fuel economy of up to 39.2 mpg and CO2 emissions from 164 g/km.
As standard, entry-level Momentum variants come with leather-faced upholstery, LED headlights with active high beam, two-zone climate control with ‘CleanZone’ air-filtration system, heated front seats, a powered tailgate & 18″ alloy wheels.
Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system is also standard. This brings a 9″ portrait-style touch screen, SatNav – including lifetime annual map updates & Real-Time Traffic Information (RTTI) – & an intuitive voice-activation system. It also provides access to the internet with a range of cloud-based apps such as Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher and Yelp.
Volvo’s City Safety system is fitted to every XC60. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection & the world-first application of Steer Assist. This feature helps to avoid or limit the severity of collisions at low speeds by assisting with the steering in an emergency, such as when swerving to miss an obstacle.
Pilot Assist, Volvo’s innovative semi-autonomous drive feature, is an optional extra on every XC60. It assists with the steering (up to 80 mph) & takes care of the acceleration and braking required to keep the car within lane markings & at the desired cruising speed or distance from any vehicle in front. Pilot Assist is another step towards fully autonomous driving.
The dynamic R-Design version adds 19″ alloy wheels, sports suspension, sports seats trimmed in leather and Nubuck, a high gloss black front grille, and silver matt and high gloss exterior detailing.
The luxurious Inscription trim level gets Nappa soft leather upholstery & electrically adjustable ventilated front seats. It also has a different style of 19″ wheels, chrome exterior details & rear footwell and side step illumination.
Every version is also available in highly specified Pro form Going for Momentum Pro brings powered front seats, a heated steering wheel & windscreen, active bending headlights with adaptive shadow technology & Volvo On Call.
R-Design Pro benefits from all this, along with 21″ alloy wheels & electronic air suspension with adaptive dampers, while Inscription Pro has 20″ wheels, the upgraded suspension & a massage function for the front seats, more of that later.
An optional Xenium package is available across the range adding a powered tilt & slide panoramic glass sunroof, a 360 degree surround view parking camera system Park Assist Pilot, which includes automatic parallel & 90 degree parking.
Smartphone Integration is another option & includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. This provides access to certain functions of your Apple or Android device & optimised apps directly via the XC60’s touch screen, voice-activation system or the buttons on the steering wheel.
A Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system is available, too. This uses the same advanced digital surround sound processing as in the 90 series cars, and features 15 speakers and a total output of 1,100W.
The similarities between the XC60 and larger XC90 are there. Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights, although longer in the XC60, upright grille, a different one for each specced model in the range, traditional Volvo rear light clusters, which are extended horizontally on XC60, the new XC60 could only be a Volvo. In fact when you compare the XC60 to the XC90, it’s only 261mm shorter, 118mm lower & 9 mm narrower than it’s larger sibling, the benefit of which can be seen inside the cabin, with good front & rear head & legroom. Four adults will travel in great comfort, but the centre rear seat will fall short for most adults on anything other than a medium journey.
Highlights of the standard equipment fitted to ALL XC60’s include: Sensus Navigation – full European mapping with traffic information and lifetime map updates, 9” centre console touch screen, voice-activated control system, City Safety with Steer Assist – includes Pedestrian, Cyclist and Large Animal Detection, steering assistance in an emergency and fully automatic emergency braking, Oncoming Lane Mitigation – automatically provides steering assistance if you unwittingly drift out of your lane, guiding you back into your lane and out of the path of any oncoming vehicles full-LED headlights with active high beam, two-zone climate control with ‘CleanZone’ air-quality system, power-operated tailgate, leather-faced upholstery, heated front seats, Drive Mode settings – allows you to tailor the responses of the engine, automatic gearbox, steering, brakes, stability control.
I spent a week in the top of the range Inscription Pro which comes with 20″ wheels, the upgraded air suspension & a massage function for the front seats.
What’s it like to drive ? On a tour around the north west taking in Snake Pass, the D4 AWD we tried was fun to drive & handled the winding roads diligently. In town it’s quiet in traffic too & in Sport Mode, if you get the opportunity, will hit 62mph in just 8.4 seconds, so it’s no slouch either. More importantly, the XC60’s cabin cossets the passengers, with way-to-comfortable seats which will make every journey a pleasant one.
I had a much longer journey in the Inscription Pro later that week, a 500 mile round trip to the south east, almost all of it on motorways. This then was the perfect journey to test out the XC60 for the long haul.
The Sensus system fitted to the XC60 range & controlled by the 9” touch screen which dominates the centre console is excellent. The SatNav got me out of South Manchester’s school-run traffic & onto an alternative route, which allowed me to head towards Junction 19 of the M6 & the start of my motorway trek. The cabin is well insulated & road noise is kept to a minimum, which allowed me to enjoy the Gothenburg Symphonic setting whilst listening to my favourite 6Music. If you need to make & receive calls whilst on the go, the Bluetooth connects easily as does Apple Car Play. Handsfree calls are clear & a conversation can be had without too much outside noise.
For company car drivers, a lot will depend on the 3-year contract hire rates offered on the XC60, which should be around £299 + vat per month, 6 + 32 on a 3 year 10,000 mile per annum contract. What I will say is that as a family man with a wife, two teenage children & a dog, I would be very, very happy indeed to drive the new XC60 daily.
As a Swedish car fan & someone who has owned two Saabs, Volvo’s have always appealed to me. The XC60 is a very good car that offers something a little ‘different’ to the swathes of Evoques cluttering up our roads. And, with my week in the XC60 showing a real world return of just over 40 mpg, the popularity of large SUV’s that offer 40+mpg, looks set to continue.
Some are already hastening the demise of the large SUV diesel & Volvo’s Twin Engine model offers a tax breaking alternative. However judging by the diesel XC60’s fuel economy, replacing larger diesel SUV’s with petrol powered version’s is clearly still some way off yet. As Francis Urquhart, from the original House of Cards might say, when told. Petrol is the new diesel. ‘You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment. ‘
A two-knock Underwood 4/5.