Volvo today seems to be building the right car at the right time for the right audience – and its XC60 T8 Twin Engine SUV is no exception, writes David Gandy
As a young petrol head in 1994, I can’t say I had really taken much notice of the Volvo car brand. Volvos were boxy, safe, dependable and, frankly, of no interest to a 14-year old. That was until April 1994, when two liveried Volvo 850 estate (yes estates!) race cars rolled up to the start line on the Thruxton track for the commencement of the British touring car season. Watching these huge estate cars bouncing off the curbs on two wheels was truly a sight to behold and I have had a soft spot for Volvo ever since.
Volvo continued to make reliable, sensible, good but somehow unforgettable cars until the now iconic XC90 was launched in 2003. Now and again though, it would drop a big turbo-charged or supercharged engine in one of its regular estate or saloon cars, making them ballistically quick. The cars made no sense whatsoever, but I couldn’t help having a wry smile on my face when I saw one, reminding me of those racing 850 estates. Fast forward to 2020 and I’m sitting in the latest Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine SUV and I’ve just accelerated to 0-60 in 4.9 secs, giving most Porsche SUV turbo variants a good run for their money. However, this Volvo has achieved this in relative silence as I’m driving the Hybrid Twin Engine, which pairs a two-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine with an electric motor, with a total output of 400BHP. This set up allows me to continue my 25-mile journey around London in “Pure” mode, meaning it is using only electric propulsion.
At home, I plug the XC60 in for a few hours and I have approximately 30 miles of electric miles to go the next day. I’ve been driving the car for a month and I’ve yet to visit a petrol station, despite numerous out-of-town motorway trips which required the use of “hybrid” mode, using both electric and petrol engine. I’m really rather enjoying my petrol station hiatus, although I am missing the M&S “best ever” prawn sandwiches.
Volvo was bought by China’s Geely in 2010, combining Chinese manufacturing might and investment to Swedish tech and safety. In the last 10 years, Volvo has emerged as a highly desirable luxury car maker. It is not trying to take on Land Rover for the ultimate off-road vehicle or German manufacturers to be the best driving machines. Instead, it is building cars that all seem to be perfect examples of the right car, at the right time, for the right audience. The XC60 I am driving is no exception.
A very handsome car (in the right spec, with the right wheels, but this goes for most vehicles), beautifully built interior, with so many thoroughly considered elements that it really is hard to find fault. Perfect seats and seating position, quality materials – even the arm rests are positioned optimally for comfort. There is a very clean, minimalist, Scandinavian feel to the instruments and dash, with most functions controlled by the large touchscreen, which if I were to criticise
anything, requires you to take your eyes off the road to control some of the simpler functions.
Frankly, it is a superbly executed SUV. Volvo has emerged as the car manufacture that simply listens to its customers and produces hugely appealing luxury cars, at an attainable price and, with its sixth consecutive year of record sales and 8.5 per cent rise in revenue in 2019, it is clearly working. Volvo is also ahead of the curve of many other manufacturers, offering plug-in Hybrid variants on the entire model range and half of its cars will be fully electric by 2025. It will even offer to pay for the electricity to charge your car for the first year.
It’s great to see a car brand I remember so fondly, doing so well. As I’m writing this I feel a little sad, however, that maybe we will never get to see the random, illogically mad but brilliant one-off models that Volvo has produced over the last few decades… I then receive a press release from Volvo
telling me about its Polestar 600bhp, 0-60 in under four seconds, £140,000, heart-achingly beautiful luxury GT model launch. Ludicrous, makes absolutely no sense and I want one immediately! Now, the main question is: can I get one in the racing livery from the 1994 estates?