Towcar Review- Volvo XC60

We give you the honest low down on the Towcar Of The Year

By William Coleman & Dan Carwright

Last year we were part of the judging panel for the Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar Of The Year Awards. During the testing we were totally blown away by the Volvo XC60 and were delighted that our marks went towards the vote that named this Volvo “The Towcar Of The Year”. Now we get the chance to get our hands on one and give a real lift test.

During the testing we used the XC60 in strict test conditions while towing a Bailey caravan full of weights to represent the kind of load you may have on board when going away on holiday.

One thing that we wanted to do is give the Volvo a real world test and see how it handles as both tow car and day to vehicle, because let’s face it, you’re more than likely to use this towcar a lot more without having a caravan attached.

The model we tested was the XC60 D5 PowerPlus AWB R-Design Pro Auto, and without getting too gushy, we absolutely loved it and found it hard to find fault.

During the week we had it myself and Dan Cartwright took turns putting the Volvo through its paces, we did almost 1300 miles, and we did our best to try and find something we did not like. So let’s start off by highlighting some of the few points I, William, was not overly keen on.

It is no secret that I am a borderline technophobe and the Volvo has an extreme amount of bells and whistles that can be a tad overwhelming at times. Once I spent a little bit of time getting to know the system it does become clear and actually quite straight forward.

There are a lot of options to play around with and you do need to spend some time getting your head round them. The iPad style display is easy to navigate through but I found that it is best tackled once you have had a good read of the instructions.

This model came with 4 additional packs on board which come with the following extras:

Xenium Pack- £1,800

Power Glass Tilt and Slide Panoramic Sunroof with Sun Curtain
Parking Camera with 360 Surround View
Park Assist Pilot- Automatic Parallel and 90 degree Parking

Intellisafe Pro Pack- £1,500

Pilot Assist (up to 80mph)
Adaptive Cruise Control
Blind Spot Information System
Cross Traffic Alert
Rear Collision Mitigation

Family Pack- £450

2- Stage Integrated Child Seat for Outer Rear Seats
Load Protection Net
Power Child Locks

Convenience Pack- £375

Power Folding Rear Seat Backrests and Headrests
230v / 150w 3 Pin Plug Socket in Centre Console
Front Tunnel Net Pocket

Single Options

Smartphone Integration (includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with 2 USB- £300
Retractable Tow Bar- £1,075
Tempa Spare Wheel and Jack- £150
Metallic Paint- £650

So as you can see there are a lot of optional extras to suit most driving needs, if you want to spend the extra money that is. Being spoilt with all these extras I would find it hard to have this Volvo without quite a few of them. If I’m being honest I could probably do without the Family or Convenience packs but I can see why it would work for a lot of people.

The on board radio is absolutely outstanding and if you like to have music playing or your favourite podcasts the ApplePlay is top notch. The sound quality is fantastic.

The display screen is basically a large touchscreen tablet like an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab. With a few touches you are presented with a screen full of options and a whole wave of features. At times it can be a little bit of a distraction.

The built in sat nav is very clear and a welcome addition for me as I do not have a built in system. Although there are better ones on the market, if you do not mind attaching one to the window of your vehicle.

Day To Day Driving By William Coleman

Spending this amount of money, £38-£56,535 if you pick the top option, means you are probably going to use this as your day to day car and tow car. So you need to make sure that this vehicle can handle towing and popping to the shops for a pint of milk.

At this price range there is some stiff competition, but the XC60 seems to have blast its rivals out of the water. Over the thousand plus miles we managed to cover inner city driving, motorways, A roads and then your normal high streets and quiet small residential roads.

The XC60 is such a pleasure to drive that you intentionally find a longer route home just so you can spend a little longer behind the wheel.

It is just a shame the weather was not that great during testing as the huge sunroof is such a good extra that I now resent my Ford Focus for its lack of sunroof.

It is a slightly large SUV but you soon get to grips with its size and with the added option of a 360 parking sensor and a bird’s eye view parking assist it makes any situation easy to get out of. You may find yourself relying on it far too much as it really does make life easy.

The steering is extremely light for a vehicle of this size and then add the automatic transmission if feels like you are driving something a lot smaller. A very smooth drive with a silent engine, a bit like a gentle silent giant.

This is the second generation of the XC60 and in comparison is it a lot safer, so much safety tech, a lot nicer to drive also a lot more fuel efficient, but I found it did quite enjoy fuel on shorter stop start journeys.

Technical Specs

Engine Size- 1969 cc
Kerb Weight- 1836kg
85% KW- 1561kg
Towball Limit- 110kg
Maximum Towing Limit- 2400kg
Power- 187.0 bhp
Torque- 295.0 lb ft
Official MPG- 55.4 mpg
CO2- 133 g/km
30-60 MPH- 11 Seconds
30-0mph- 9.4m

The XC60 As A Tow Car By Dan Cartwright

When it comes to towing with a modern “luxury SUV” you may think they can all easily tow and you would be right. They are all capable of towing and they are all powerful and heavy enough to tow a big twin axle caravan of your choosing.

But here the similarities end. The towing characteristics of each brand and model vary markedly, and much more so than the difference when driving these cars un hitched. If you drove the current array of new LSUV’s at there towing capacity you would see very quickly the difference between them when towing.

The reason for this difference is that at the luxury end of the market you are having to think if the majority of these will be used, and that is firmly on the road, on the school run and motorways. This means a manufacturer has to add a whole host of driving features and potentially compromise things like off road or towing capabilities to make there LSUV more appealing to the mass market.

If you’re lucky enough to be looking at this market for your next tow car it’s not the “paper exercise” it was years ago of weight, power and torque, get them right for your caravan and your done..

Unfortunately today it is about how the electronics, dynamic suspension, driver aids, emissions and fuelling all work while towing. This is where the XC60 wins over its competitors, and wins big.

Towing with the XC is effortless. For a car that has a user manual so big it’s integrated with instructional videos in to the car itself, for a car that can literally drive itself to specifications you set, for a car that dynamically augments reality to give you a top down view when reversing all you have to do is press a button to reveal your towbar, put on your towing mirrors, hitch up your caravan and drive away. If you do this the XC60 will drive very much as it did before you hitched it up.

Talking today about tower and suspension when towing is a bit redundant on this type of vehicle because everything can be changed and normally together. The XC60 does this very well, whilst there are endless menus to change the main driving dynamics there is a single button that blacks out the full display to give you three simple options, Economy, normal and dynamic.

Simply select one of the three options. This is very useful, no longer will you finally set off on your holidays after packing and checking everything to set off and realise your in the wrong setting and limp along until you find somewhere to pull over and search through menus for the right setting for towing.

In tests Normal and Dynamic worked very, very well, especially on a twisty A road. Economy made towing a bit sluggish and noisy on hills and twisty roads, but it’s worth noting that it worked perfectly on the motorway when we got it up to speed and saved a lot of fuel.

Also whatever is done with the suspension in these modes doesn’t affect towing, there is virtually no pitch or roll in corners and we never felt that horrible push from behind the middle of a corner in any setting.

Whilst the hitch and go ability of the Volvo is great there are a lot of driver aids and if you put in a little time to understand how to personalise these you will be able to use them all whilst towing.

In some luxury cars driver aids can almost work against you when towing, from violently braking (and in some cases tightening the seat belt in a bladder splitting crash position) if the caravan moves at all on the rear to cruise control that won’t accelerate or even switches off. Somehow the XC60 doesn’t do this at all meaning you use active cruise/follow control and pilot assist.

The following control is amazing for slow moving traffic or busy motorways particularly when towing, it will simply follow to your maximum speed and distance to the car in front. It will also slow you down if the traffic in front slows. No need to cancel cruise control and reset if traffic fluctuates.

The pilot assist will keep you in a lane even steering for its-self. As mentioned these features work well when towing but a couple of tips – you may want to go in to the setting and increase braking distance to the car in front and move the pilot assist in to the middle of a lane as it is quite far over to the left – especially if you have a 8ft wide caravan.

Are there any issues with the XC60 as a tow car? Well for its ability to tow no, that said I did find the boot a strange and inconvenient shape, whilst the load capacity is good it will struggle with bulky items such as awnings and aqua rolls.

Also control centre and menus take a bit of time to get used to. I got stuck on a 2 hours tailback on the A14 but still couldn’t quite work out if I could change the view of one of the two sat navs… which leaves the only other fault of the volvo is the driver, I actually forgot that I was towing and got the fright of my life when I looked in the mirror to see a giant white box inches from the rear of my car.