What’s it like?
This version of the B5 offers a really nice powertrain; ‘smooth’ and ‘quiet’ are the words that keep coming up when you’re describing it. Start-up is quiet and smooth, cruising progress is quiet and smooth, and the acceleration is brisk and linear. And, of course, smooth and quiet.
In fact, the acceleration is quite remarkable for a car of this size and weight, boosted by the new mild hybrid system; a claimed 0-60mph time of 6.5sec is fantastic for a car with no sporting pretensions. You never feel the new mild hybrid system in action, such is its role as a silent partner supporting the engine in its operation, with the only indicator a little battery on the instrument display that starts to glow blue when you’re braking and therefore charging it back up.
While boosting the performance, it’s also claimed to help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy by up to 15% apiece. But no matter how much the new 48V system may do for efficiency, applying it to a petrol engine in a car like the XC60 is ultimately a bit like that old adage about rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
The petrol B5’s economy of little over 25mpg on a mixed driving route that included plenty of motorway miles goes some way to limiting this car’s appeal. Diesel remains a far superior option in a car of this size and weight, and given that the mild hybrid technology and associated efficiency and performance claims are also offered on the diesel engines in the XC60 range, it seems a bit of a no-brainer about which one to go for.
Elsewhere, the B5 is the XC60 as we’ve got to know it. That means easy-going dynamics with a smooth, quiet primary ride (those two words again) and handling that never excites yet is always predictable. It’s less comfortable over more broken surfaces, however, something that has plagued other XC60s we’ve tried, too, and the engine seems to have more sporting performance than the gearbox is willing to allow it to exploit.
The cabin is also of a high perceived quality and excellent comfort, yet this tester remains unconvinced about Volvo’s large portrait touchscreen and its usability. Using it requires your eyes to be off the road too often, with too many button presses for even the simplest of tasks. For a company as safety-conscious as Volvo, this has always seemed like an oversight.