WHEN Volvo declared it wanted to compete in the premium sector rivalling those ‘German' marques, the announcement was met with some apprehension.
But now the Swedish car maker has excelled beyond expectation.
Once a company renowned for its box-like, safe-as-houses, drive-for-a gazillion-miles cars, more recent models have really transformed the company's reputation.
These days customers can expect stylish, beautifully crafted, premium vehicles that are packed with all the latest technology and still lead the way when it comes to safety.
One such model is the XC60, a five-seat SUV that is available in a range of trim levels and customers can also choose between two- or four-wheel drive, along with a selection of powertrains.
We opted for the XC60 front-wheel drive model in R-Design trim level, powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine delivering 197hp and 420Nm of torque.
This car, costing £43,305 (increased to £49,490 with options), could complete the 0-62mph dash in 8.3 seconds and topped out at 112mph. According to official figures, it can deliver a combined 39.2-44.8mpg with carbon emissions from 166g/km.
The XC60 is a great looking vehicle when viewed from any approach with its sleek lines, black grille, Thor-hammer lights, tinted glass, twin tail pipes, roof rails and stylish alloys.
The interior is very upmarket with a combination of Nappa leather and textile upholstery, a powered panoramic sunroof, heated front and rear outer seats, a heated steering wheel and a powered driver's seat with memory settings.
The main focal point is the nine-inch portrait touchscreen with voice activation. There is full navigation, a 10-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone connectivity and four USB ports to plug in devices.
This diesel-driven car delivers a perfect blend of comfort and dynamism with smooth acceleration through the automatic eight-speed gearbox and plenty of power on tap for short bursts of rapid fire acceleration.
The road-holding is unfaltering meaning bends can be attacked with confidence and there is minimal body sway. In addition, there are drive modes called Eco, Comfort, Individual and Dynamic that alter the manner in which the XC60 responds with Dynamic proving the most fun.
The car eats up motorway miles, effortlessly cruising at 70mph, and is nice and lively when faced with twisting country lanes. Despite its practical dimensions, the XC60 is even agile in busier town centres where the all-round driver visibility is impressive.
A Park Assist Pilot will make you look like an expert when squeezing into the tightest parking spaces and there is also semi-autonomous driving via the Pilot system that will help steer, keep you within your lane and brake and accelerate keeping a safe distance from the car in front.
Passenger comfort levels are very high with room for three adults in the back and storage options also impress thanks to a boot, accessed via a powered tailgate, that can swallow 483 litres of luggage, increasing to 1,410 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat.
Storage options throughout the cabin are good too with a practically-sized glovebox, door bins, seatback pockets, a central cubby box, trays, front cup holders along with two more in the fold-down rear armrest.
As one would expect, Volvo has packed the XC60 with safety features and driver assist systems to protect occupants, other road users and also help prevent accidents from happening in the first place.
The car was awarded the maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating and boasts the likes of city safety with steering support which includes pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, and front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking and steering assistance. There is oncoming lane mitigation, run-off road protection and automatic headlights with active high beam.
An option on our car was the Intellisafe Surround with blind spot information system and steer assist cross traffic alert, autobrake and rear collision mitigation. This optional extra added £1,500 to the price-tag and also included the Pilot Assist system with adaptive cruise control.