Volvo – Pick a number

Volvo has become an SUV brand, so it’s no wonder their SUVs are all at the top of their game.

You know how everyone loves Harry Potter? You know, the book character that made J.K. Rowling €600 per word? That’s almost as much as I make writing this – crazy, right?

Well, Volvo is the new Harry Potter of cars. Everybody loves Volvo these days. I am serious – everybody. I dare you to find one person who dislikes the revamped Volvo catalogue: the XC90, XC60, XC40 and the V90 and the S90. Please find someone and email me their name, because I have searched and failed miserably.

A decade and a half ago, almost no one remembered Volvo even existed. Then the Swedes built the first generation XC90 and XC60, and people started noticing the brand again. However, Ford, the owners at the time, didn’t know what else to do with it and they sold it to a Chinese car maker called Geely.

Geely hardly seemed the right choice to head Volvo into the 21st century but, as it turns out, they were perfect. They gave Swedish engineers free reign to expand their vision, the designers let their imagination run wild and Volvo is building cars that are as good as the best Germany makes. Really. Except you can always find someone who doesn’t like the new BMW or the latest Mercedes. But Volvos, well, they are just an acquired taste.

Just like Mr. Potter, Volvo found a way to entertain its audience without being boring and to demonstrate a safe way to be daring and courageous through a new design language that is simply stunning. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t even notice a Volvo going by; now it stops the traffic – it really does, I have witnessed it.

Numbers for November were not yet available when I wrote this, but until the end of October, Volvo had sold 461,313 cars worldwide in 2017, a rise of 8.6% when compared to 2016.

The thing is, when you achieve this kind of success, expectations start to build up. I approached the XC60 Volvo lent me with that you-better-be-as-good-as-the-Mercedes-GLC attitude motor journalists tend to have.

That usually means trouble for the car in question, especially because the Mercedes is often the better car. Except, in this case, it isn’t. The XC60 is just as good as the GLC. In fact, my assessment of the XC60 is pretty easy to summarise: apart from the steering, which I found to be too light and uncommunicative for my liking, everything else is so right it makes me wonder why Harry Potter has never owned one.

First of all, the new XC60 looks really good. All clean lines and correct proportions, it makes the Germans look bland and unnecessarily ostentatious at the same time, which is kind of weird, but still true. You need to spec it right, but that is not a hard task. I think it looks particularly good in dark blue or metallic grey with a tan interior.

I tested a D4 Inscription version, which means a 2-litre diesel with 190 horse power, an 8-speed Geartronic transmission and a whole lot of goodies that made it a €78,000 car up from a basic price of €61,000. Ouch. Better have those hassling techniques well-rehearsed before stepping into the dealer.

As you would expect, the XC60 excels when you can stretch its legs a bit and explore the rolling comfort, the work they did with the acoustic isolation and enjoy and explore its amazing interior. The XC60 doesn’t put a foot wrong and it is hard to find fault in the way it goes about its business. There is not much I can say that will come as big news regarding this car because, like the XC90 and the V90 before it, it is just very fit for purpose.

There are many reasons why people buy a certain car instead of one of its competitors. Design seems to be right up there, as does the badge. Price is important too, of course, as well as depreciation.

Today, connectivity also plays a big part, whilst those things that make petrolheads like me dream about cars seem to be stepping into the background. Handling, performance, horse power, noise, all of those things are quietly being extinguished on everyday cars.

This Volvo is not a car for petrolheads. In fact, no SUV is, no matter what they tell you. What this is, is a car perfectly suited to its time and place. Developed to fit today’s car buyer like a silk glove – and it does that brilliantly.

Volvo has caught up with the Germans and the XC60 is very much a proof of that. You can still choose to buy a Mercedes, a BMW or an Audi instead of the XC60, but not because the Volvo isn’t good enough anymore.

With the new XC40 arriving in January next year, Volvo will definitely become an SUV brand, opening up a new era in its rich history. The XC90, XC60 and XC40 are all top of their class. Just pick the number you like: any XC will be a very good car.

By Guilherme Marques