Harry, he’s here to help

Road test: Volvo XC60 D3 SE LUX DRIVE

During the Volvo XC60’s stay, it has repeatedly reminded me of the 2000 French film, ‘Harry, he’s here to help’. In the film, Michel meets an old school friend (Harry) who tries to make his life as easy as possible in order to encourage him to start writing poetry again. And making one’s life easy is exactly what the XC60 is designed for.

On arrival, the XC60 quickly shuttled one of our cats to the vet with a bleeding leg. (He’s on the mend.) Within an hour, the Volvo’s imposing rear end was used to block a lane of traffic at the scene of an accident until the emergency services arrived. (Chap had a sore head and a rather bent car but otherwise fine.) And on through the week, there were jobs to do, the weather was appalling and the XC60 just got on and did.

The XC60 is Volvo’s smallest SUV and is well proportioned and easily identifiable with its corporate nose and distinctive tail lights. The neat styling and large wheels hide the car’s size well; a couple of people noted how large it actually is but had only realised once close-up.

Inside, the cabin is one to induce calm in even the most stressful of moments.  The almost-black leather seats are excellent, the number of controls is seemingly few and the simple two-dial instrument display is pleasing (although would be even better with 30, 50 and 70mph more clearly indicated). Even during the slightly hectic drives it was possible to determine how everything works without recourse to the manual – and this is some achievement given the number of features on this particular car.

It’s certainly worth mentioning some of these features to hint at the extent to which Harry is trying to help. This SE Lux press car is fitted with a Driver Support Pack, bringing blind spot and lane departure warning, pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control (£1,635) and Security pack for laminated windows including water-repelling side front windows plus keyless drive (£665).  Family pack adds a further £225 for power child locks and integrated booster seat. Add to these extras the £1,000 for rear passenger entertainment, £640 for metallic paint, £310 for the tinted windows, £895 for an exterior styling kit, £275 for heated front seats and £270 for the Nordic light oak central console (the most controversial styling item according to family members).

On the move, the frugal five cylinder D3 engine has the delightfully off-beat thrum; it is smooth and willing, particularly in the mid range although a little wheezy below 1,500 and slightly reluctant to climb once it approaches 4,000 rpm. Ride is generally fine, but is occasionally let down by roll on uneven road surfaces. Handling is reassuringly competent although I lost traction a couple of times on wet roads with this being just the front wheel drive version.

It should be noted that ‘Harry, he’s here to help’ is actually film noir, just as it is worth mentioning that there is a difference between computer systems and fully cognitive reasoning. And this is why a little part of me isn’t prepared to trust in all the driver aids just as Michel learns that Harry is somewhat obsessive.

During the week, the collision detection warning (loud beeps and flashing red strip on the dashboard) went-off six times when I was merely passing stationary objects. The blind spot warning light also detected a tree on a roundabout and a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction. These are all false positives, so the worst that would happen is that the driver is less likely to pay attention to them. The chap running out of a ginnel in front of the car without looking, however, didn’t trigger a single alarm (except the hard-wired signal forcing my right foot hit the brakes).

So enjoy this elegant, calm and clever car but tell Harry to keep quiet unless he has something important to say.

Model tested:

Volvo XC60 D3 SE LUX DRIVe stop/start fwd manual, £32,300 (options on model tested bring retail price to £35,825; range starts at £27,650)

Power: 163PS (3,000 rpm), torque: 400Nm (1,400-2,850 rpm), emissions: 149 g/km CO2 (band F), 0-62 mph: 9.7 secs.

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●○

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