What's the Volvo XC60 B6 R-Design like? I'll just Google that for you
Search Driven for Volvo for sale
Volvo XC60 B6 R-Design
- World-first Google OS, seamlessly integrated
- Makes German luxury SUVs seem gauche
- Sensational interior and seats
- Fussy automatic transmission
- Apple Music integration would broaden the appeal
- Doesn't look a whole lot different from the old model
For a new-car review we would ordinarily take it for a drive in a variety of environments, spend as much as we can living with it day-to-day and generally, well, do stuff out in the world.
But this one’s a bit different. I could fill my word quota on the Volvo XC60 B6 R-Design and never leave the garage. Because it’s the first car in the world to have a fully integrated Google infotainment operating system. Or “Hey Goggle” or “Okay Google” as you might like to call it.
We tend to think of these in-car services as being inextricably linked to your connected smartphone, but that’s not the case here. It’s completely separate.
So no, you don’t have to own an Android (which is the Google mobile OS of course) smartphone to get the best out of the XC60. And yes, you can still operate an Apple device through the XC60 infotainment system; you just need a Google account to access the car’s online services.
For example, I use an iPhone and MacBook laptop, but on them I have Chrome as a browser and I use the Google Calendar app for personal stuff; those are run through a Google/Gmail account and that’s what I’m signed into this XC60 with.
The “smarter” XC60 (to use Volvo’s words) is similar to the intelligent assistants being offered by the likes of BMW and Mercedes-Benz. But while they have developed proprietary systems, Volvo has simply made Google its heart and soul.
The upside of all this is that Google is already mind-bogglingly comprehensive and very accessible, so the online world is at your fingertips in the XC60: any kind of voice search you want, live navigation (there’s a SIM card in the car with a four-year data plan), e-books… you can even ask it what’s happening in your diary today. All drawn from your existing Google account; you don’t need to input anything into the car separately.
Auckland | Auckland City
$761.91 p/w $3,047.64 p/m
Auckland | Auckland City
$719.96 p/w $2,879.85 p/m
“Hey Google, what kind of Volvo did Roger Moore drive in the 1960s television series The Saint?”. I did get the correct answer, by the way. Because it’s Google.
It would also make sense for the XC60 owner to use Google music services, as you can’t yet run (say) Apple Music through this system; but that may happen too. You can still play any kind of music directly from your phone of course, through the standard Bluetooth connection or Apple CarPlay; but that’s separate to the Googling.
Lot’s to love, but the downside of all this is that you’re letting the Google giant infiltrate yet another area of your life; the very reason why many carmakers are resistant to this kind of thing and want to create their own online assistants. Reality check: the automotive industry couldn’t keep Apple CarPlay and Android Auto back, because consumers really wanted it and in the end even the most staunch holdouts (Toyota and Mazda spring to mind) had to give in. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here. Ford and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance are signed up already.
The updated XC60 isn’t entirely about Google. It may look the same save a few visual tweaks and interior upgrades, but there’s a lot going on underneath. The entire XC60 range now employs mild hybrid technology through a 48-volt system; the models now carry a “B”-based badging convention for reasons that are not entirely clear.
Anyway, the B5 versions have a 2.0-litre turbo engine with 183kW/350Nm, but our flagship B6 R-Design test car gets an electric supercharger on top of that to make 220kW/420Nm. It’s AWD with an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Unlike the current XC40 and XC90 ranges, there’s no XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) for New Zealand at the moment. But it’s coming for 2022.
Options abound for the XC60, but a key one for our test car is Four-C Active Suspension for $4500. It’s especially interesting because the XC60 no longer offers selectable drive modes. The car just does its thing and doesn’t feel you need input.
If you must, you can delve into a sub-menu and adjust the “feel” of the steering and suspension between two settings, or select an off-road mode. But none of it is terribly obvious.
That tells you a lot about the XC60 B6. Despite impressive power and performance, it’s not dead-set on full driver engagement and gung-ho handling. It aims to be a swift, stable and satisfying family SUV. Note I didn’t say “safe”, because that would be such a cliché with a Volvo (although it’s true).
It delivers all of the above and feels absolutely unruffled doing it. The engine is punchy and delivers an interesting soundtrack, with a bit of supercharger spin, but it’s not intrusive. It’s easy to catch the eight-speed gearbox out if you’re frisky with the throttle, but you soon learn to keep it smooth.
Same goes for the chassis, at least with the active Four-C setup as fitted to our test car. It offers a nice blend of compliance and predictable cornering that makes the XC60 a great open-road companion.
The interior remains effortlessly chic and beautifully made – distinctive and definitely premium. Seats are always a Volvo highlight and the XC60’s are predictably superb. The rear chairs get Volvo’s signature built-in booster seats as well.
The XC60 has always been a hugely appealing alternative to the German SUV brigade: a pleasingly unpretentious choice. That’s even more true of this new model, even though it now apparently knows everything.
VOLVO XC60 B6 R-DESIGN
ENGINE: 2.0-litre supercharged/turbocharged petrol
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, AWD
0-100KM/H: 6.2 seconds