First drive: 2009 Volvo XC60 on track

First drive: 2009 Volvo XC60 on track

Volvo XC60 at the Dubai Autodrome
The 2009 Volvo XC60 is a new crossover SUV that the Ford-owned Swedish company thinks will raise regional Volvo sells by an unrealistic 30%. The GCC version was launched in Dubai a few days ago, and Volvo gave the press a taste of the XC60’s capabilities at the Dubai Autodrome on January 28. They certainly had an impressive line-up of events planned.

The XC60 looks like a melted version of a Volvo wagon, and as such wouldn’t attract much attention had it not been for uniquely-shaped LED tail-lamps and swoopy window sills. It comes with a 286 hp 3.0-litre turbocharged 6-cylinder with 400 Nm of torque at only 1400 rpm, mated to an automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive, with more engines to follow. We hear it was locally benchmarked against the RAV-4 and the LR2 among others, but it seems to offer less space than either, and costs between Dhs 140,000 and Dhs 180,000.

After the free breakfast, the first event was a few laps on the track. Chasing the instructor was fun, but the XC60 was no German super-SUV. The all-wheel-drive crossover was perfectly stable around every corner but it understeered heavily, possibly due to the stability control, which we weren’t allowed to turn off. The lack of steering feel turned the accuracy of turn-ins into a guessing game in the middle of curves. It might be more fun without the electronic nannies, but we’ll never know.

Volvo XC60 City Safety exercise

The second event was a demonstration of the “City Safety” feature, and the XC60 is the first vehicle ever to have such a system. Basically the car brakes to a complete stop if there is an obstacle in front, and you are still accelerating blindly. A balloon was hung on a pole stuck on an XC90, and we had to drive the XC60 into that balloon, except it never hit because the XC60 brakes to a stop on its own, and then releases the brake as it assumes you have stepped on the brakes by now. The violent auto-braking occurs at the last minute, and only works under 30 kph. Over 30 kph, it helps braking, but won’t stop an accident, as it is impossible to determine whether the driver was intentionally tailgating. It also won’t work in a sandstorm.

Volvo XC60 City Safety exercise

We were also made to drive into some poles to try out the ghostly braking, and then used the reverse camera with guiding lines to park the car between some cones without using the mirrors.

Volvo XC60 on deep potholes

The third event was a 15-second off-road course that only consisted of a few very deep potholes, to demonstrate the workings of the quick-acting all-wheel-drive system, helped along by the traction control system, even though stability control was turned off. We also noticed the strength of the chassis when one wheel went off the ground without any weird noises.

Volvo XC60 autocross exercise

The fourth event was a timed autocross event, where again we had to leave the stability control on, and the XC60 understeered like a rabid dog, slowing down and going wide at many points under the forceful interference of the ESP nannies. It could safely go much faster without the ESP surely. I never hit a cone, but I did gain a time penalty for dangerous driving, which pissed me off, but in the end it didn’t matter because the results were never announced.

After the free lunch, I gathered that many of the other journalists were impressed out of their minds, mainly because they weren’t even automotive writers. I got the impression that the Volvo XC60 drove exactly like any number of other crossovers. Under the claustrophobic watch of strict instructors, I couldn’t do any of my own handling tests to learn more, so this isn’t a complete review. But the Volvo did differentiate itself with that “City Safety” gimmick that a competent driver will never experience in real life. However, given the response of the non-enthusiast crowd, it is a good alternative to other premium crossovers, if only losing out on the badge.

What do you think?



  1. I like all volov’s but unfortunately the resale value is very bad,parts are expensive and cant find it everywhere except at Futaim were they rip you off and the A/C is awful .I would’ve thought of buying one only if I wasnt living in a place like Dubai where you need your A/C on 24/7.

  2. So suppose to drive through a parade of balloons during a shopping festival event, the car is gonna brake to a halt for every single balloon???? Man that sounds like a weird system to have..

    Its understood that ur quite unlikely to drive through balloons everyday. But wouldnt such a system be better utilized for the rear during reversing??

    And I never like assisted braking based on radar etchnology or the sort, you never know when it might try to slow u down when you really need to step on the gas… TIme will tell.

  3. Dude the balloon was just a demonstration!! That doesnt mean its only gonna stop for balloons lol…So many vehicle manufacturers use this technology and there hasnt been any problems so far..

  4. haha! Spyke, dude, i know its not meant only for balloons 🙂

    But I dunno how this technology will be of use when its only in the front and only for slow speeds….

  5. but Bijoy, I’ve come across a lot of morons who actually fall asleep behind the wheels with the gear shifter still in ‘D’, while in traffic…this technology will surely help save ’em frm gettin some really nasty yells from whoever they bump into!

  6. Yes Vivek, that’s true. I myself was hit from behind once by a young lady who fell asleep at the wheel in her Merc Gl during standstil traffic.

    I hope it does do its job and ppl dont become too relaxed thinking it will always be there to stop them from getting into accidents. Like the last thing i want to see is ppl intentionally driving towards cars so show their passengers the feature, as I’m sure some will. But the idea/concept behind adding more safety to a vehicle is always good. And im all for it.

    – a guy who has been bumped into 🙂

  7. hehe..Imagine, the driver purposely steps on the gas in standstill traffic to show the passengers the safety feature, and the car malfunctions!!! 😆 😆 😆

  8. Author

    My PR dodo hit the balloon. :mrgreen:

  9. Yesterday I went to the Marina Mall and they had an XC60 stand. It is really ugly even in person.

    The problem is the guy is trying to convince me it not and it hip and then I told him look around the and most of them are middle age family men and women.

    it a 4 seaters not 5.

    The interior is spacious so that is okay.

    It full option price is about 180K and which has v6 twin turbo.

    As far as the car it not for the young and the restless :D. As Jay Leno puts on on the XF ” You cant sell an old men car to a young men but you could sell a young men car to the old men.”

  10. I saw this today on the road. Its a beauty. I dunno how to describe it but, looks like a concept car that you see in auto shows. the huge amount of curves on the body makes the thing look fluid and prorbably explains the price. but that straight diagonal line on the grille doesn’t suit the fluid design…

  11. This person Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury does’nt now what his talking about?? The xc60 is full of state of the art safety systems and included now is city-safe.

    General overview.
    1.Lot’s of Boron steel (approx 5 times stronger than Ultra hight strength steel )

    2. SIPS, WHIPS (been around for literally decades)
    Petrol tank behind diff, rollover tested 100%
    intact, safety list is too long for this reply
    etc etc..?
    3, Google chassis (welding) details for xc60 and xc90 these are way advanced over other companies.

    4. I’ve been in a serve accident in a volvo god bless these HUGE air bags I know where my money went into these cars, Will always SUPPORT a company that prides it’s self on safety.

    5.Will never support asian style car companies that produce NOTHING worth BUYING or driving .

    6. Everybody I know who owns a VOLVO in Australia loves them.

  12. Author

    If you weren’t such a RETARD, maybe you wouldn’t be in a “serve” accident.

  13. Well, Hussain, the level of your comment proves my point.

    ps:Volvo for Life ?

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