Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The XC60’s engine lineup can seem a little confusing. So let’s explain. Engine badges with a ‘D’ at the front are diesels; a ‘T’ signifies a petrol or in the case of the T8, a plug-in hybrid; and a ‘B’ is for a mild hybrid. The 2.0-litre 188bhp diesel, badged D4 is our pick. It's front-wheel drive only and won’t squash you back in your seat with its acceleration, but it has more than enough mid-range oomph for easygoing, everyday pace. True, the Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 is slightly brisker, but the D4 is decidedly quicker than the Land Rover Discovery Sport 2.0 TD4 180.
Mild hybrid technology is available on petrol and diesel engines, and is labelled in a way that doesn’t identify which fuel each engine actually uses. Having tried the B4 diesel, we don’t think it’s worth the extra money over the conventional D4. The B5 diesel, meanwhile, is noticeably quicker. We have yet to try the B4 and B5 petrols.
As far as conventional petrol power is concerned, the entry point is the front-wheel drive 2.0-litre T4 with 187bhp. We'd suggest the more powerful 247bhp T5 (available with front or four-wheel drive) to get the XC60 moving with a decent degree of urgency, though. The T6 is both supercharged and turbocharged to produce 306bhp; enough to feel grin-inducingly quick when you’re overtaking on the motorway or tackling a country road. None of the petrol engines can match the mid-range grunt of the diesels, though. There’s also a plug-in hybrid T8 which is faster still, thanks to its near-400bhp combination of petrol and electric power. But although it's fast in a straight line, the front wheels receive far more power than the rears so it can struggle for traction at times. A Polestar Engineered version gains another 15bhp from its engine, but you'd be hard pushed to notice the extra poke while the electric motor at the back is inconsistent in its responses.
Suspension and ride comfort
The standard-fit steel suspension is still a pretty good choice for UK roads. Speed bumps and large lumps are absorbed smoothly, although expansion joints and ragged potholes can be felt with a thump. The larger alloy wheel options exacerbate the problem, but this is still the set-up we recommend. R-Design trim has lowered suspension that is slightly firmer, but still fine.
The XC60 gets the option of air suspension. This gives a generally composed and well controlled ride, although the Audi Q5 with air suspension is still by far the best-riding car in the large-SUV class. Set the XC60 's system to Comfort mode and it wafts over soft-edged peaks and troughs at speed, making it particularly adept for long stints on motorways.
Hit a sharp-edged ridge or pothole around town, though, and the thud is more likely to resonate through the body than in a Q5, but the XC60 still remains more composed than the Discovery Sport or DS 7 Crossback. Bear in mind, though, that the ride deteriorates badly when you fit 19in or bigger alloy wheels, so stick to 18in ones if you want the car to stay supple. We'd also point out that the additional weight of T8 models make them pitch and heave more than non-plug-in hybrid models over undulating roads. The Polestar Engineered variant gets fancy Ohlins dampers with stiffer springs to help deal with the mass of the batteries, but on the vast 22in wheels of our test car, the ride was far too firm and fidgety, even on smoothly surfaced motorways.
If what you want is a secure-handling SUV that's light and easy to steer in town, you'll find the XC60 is perfectly capable. And, if you live up a slippery lane, the four-wheel drive models can provide you with the traction needed. However, for better off-roading ability, choose the Land Rover Discovery Sport instead.
You’ll only need to drive the XC60 round a couple of corners to realise that it's no driver's car. It pitches and wallows in a manner not unlike the Discovery Sport when pushed hard and its steering doesn't key you into the road like some of the sportier SUVs in the class. These include the driver-focused BMW X3 and Jaguar F-Pace, and even the Audi Q5, all of which offer tighter body control and more direct steering.
The T8 plug-in hybrid is even more sluggish to change direction (due to the added weight of its battery), and going for the sportier R-Design trim doesn't turn the XC60 (no matter which engine you opt for) into anything noticeably more focused, either. The rock-hard suspension of Polestar Engineered versions certainly reduces body lean and helps it grip the road well, but the steering still frustrates and you still won't be having any fun.
Noise and vibration
The D4 diesel has a background rumble at idle that seems most out of place in a premium SUV and a buzz during acceleration that, while not harsh, would raise an eyebrow or two from the owners of super-smooth Audi Q5s. The B4 and B5 diesels are harsher still, but no more so than those of the equivalent Land Rover Discovery Sport or Mercedes-Benz GLC.
Naturally, the petrol engines are smoother, but they still emit a noticeable roar if you prod the accelerator and demand full power. They settle to a barely perceptible thrum when you’re cruising, though. Of course, the T8 can play its trump card of running near-silently on electricity alone for about 20 miles, provided its battery is fully charged.
You’ll also notice some slight boom from the suspension when you encounter a pothole. There's also a bit of road noise on the motorway, when you can also hear a flurry of wind noise from around the door mirrors — its not bad, but the Audi Q5 is a more peaceful long-distance machine.