Volvo may have spent years trying to downplay its "safe as houses" image but times have changed and the Swedish maker is about to launch its safest new car ever.
Priced from $57,950, the XC60 goes on sale on March1 and comes with Volvo's City Safety system, which can help avoid rear-end crashes at speeds up to 30km/h.
City Safety uses a laser sensor integrated into the top of the windscreen to detect cars up to eight metres ahead of the front bumper. It monitors the gap to the car ahead as well as the relative closing speed. If it senses a collision is imminent, it will brake the car automatically. Below closing speeds of 15km/h, City Safety has the potential to avoid a collision altogether.
A 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbo-diesel with 136kW of power and 400Nm of torque opens the range. A luxury version with sunroof, premium audio, front (and rear) parking sensors, wood trim, rain-sensing wipers, power passenger seat, interior air quality system and 18-inch alloys is priced from $64,450. The flagship T6 model starts from $64,950 and comes with a 3.0-litre (210kW/400Nm) six-cylinder twin-turbo petrol engine. It covers the 0-100km/h sprint in 7.5seconds.
Joining the wagon-based XC70 and larger XC90 off-roader, the Volvo XC60 uses an all-wheel-drive system that monitors the front and rear axles to determine where best to send torque if a loss of traction is detected.
A stability control system with rollover prevention is also on the standard safety list. Trailer stability assist, which helps prevent the tail-wagging-the-dog motion that can develop when towing a trailer or caravan, is standard when a tow pack is ordered.
Inside, the XC60 features Volvo's trademark floating centre console. The interior has a three-way split rear seat that can be configured in three- or two-seat form. Luggage space is 480 litres with rear seats in place and a power tailgate is available.
A "Teknik" pack is available for $4990 ($3990 on T6 models), which includes navigation, Bluetooth, rear camera and active bi-xenon headlights. A "Driver Assist" package ($5190, $4990 for LE and T6) includes blind spot and lane departure warnings and active cruise control.
By Jaedene Hudson, The Sydney Morning Herald, as appearing on drive.com.au
2 Minute road test
Under the bonnet
The twin-turbo diesel engine is rated at 210kW and 580Nm, making it officially capable of 6.9 seconds for 0-100km/h, 9.0L/100km combined fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of 237g/km.
These are pretty impressive figures considering the X6 weighs in at a hefty 2110 kilograms. The key to that is the huge torque output that peaks between 1750 and 2250rpm. Aiding it is the turbo design, which uses a smaller, low-inertia turbocharger for low-speed response, while a larger turbo chimes further up the rev range for mid-to-high-end performance. The result is almost lag-free response.
That's something assisted by the ZF transmission, which is smooth and intuitive in 'D', aggressive in sport and good fun to use manually.
This is a great diesel engine. However, a good petrol engine still revs further.
In the X6, the diesel also seemed more prone to vibration and noisiness than when we sampled it in the X5 earlier this year.
In our testing we managed a fuel consumption average of 10.5L/100km, which equates to 278g CO2/km.
How it drives
In its intended function the X6 does brilliantly well, handling more like a sports car than a soft-roader. Our test car was aided by optional Adaptive Drive, which combines active stabiliser bars and dampers.
The flat cornering stance is its great achievement. The X6 eschews body roll no matter how hard it is cornered. You can feel xDrive and DPC doing their thing, shuttling torque around the wheels. Braking prowess is also impressive.
But steering is not up to BMW's usual crisp and communicative standard. Also, the ride is too jagged on sharply pot-holed surfaces. By contrast, it contains softer-edged imperfections very well.
Around town, the forward view is aided by X6's high riding position. But in every other aspect it is difficult to see out of and manoeuvre.
Also, there is no windscreen wiper on the rear glass, which makes the already limited vision almost impossible once it rains or the window becomes grimy.
Comfort and practicality
Nestle into the cockpit and BMW's desire to create a driver's soft-roader is clear. There are body-hugging sports seats, a compact three-spoke steering wheel with gearchange paddles and even knee pads on the centre console to ease the load in corners.
Other elements are more obviously from the X5, including the centre stack topped by a large media screen, the bent electronic gearshifter, iDrive controller mouse in the centre console and the partitioned door bins.
But the further back you head the less convincing the X6 becomes. The sloping roof curtails headroom space so that anyone over 180centimetres will struggle for comfort. Access to the rear is also compromised by small doors. However, legroom is fine and there's heaps of elbow room.
The boot offers a sizeable 570litres of luggage space, expanding to 1450litres with the rear seats split-folded almost flat.
However, the tailgate is high and heavy (our test car had an optional power function that certainly made things easier) and the lip is very high.
The X6 includes dual front, front-side and curtain airbags, traction and stability control, ABS, a reversing camera and parking sensors.
Further traction is provided by BMW's full-time xDrive all-wheel-drive system, which normally runs with a 60:40 power-split, but can push all the drive to either end.
The X6 adds Dynamic Performance Control, which shuttles power between the rear wheels to aid handling.
As with current X5, the X6 has not been independently crash tested.
There is no argument that the X6 is a true niche vehicle of the type that will appeal to a select few. They will revel in its brilliant, punchy engine and outstanding handling.
The rest of us will scratch our heads over the styling and the packaging and go and buy a cheaper, more user-friendly (and still fun to drive) X5.
The RCZ was first unveiled as a concept car two years ago in Frankfurt – public demand compelled Peugeot to turn motoring fantasy into the real thing.The production model certainly does not disappoint – looking almost identical to the radical yet classically proportioned concept of 2007.Designed to enhance the sheer enjoyment of driving, the RCZ is both dynamic and responsible, offering an innovative blend of performance and environmental-friendliness.The RCZ will arrive on Australian roads from the middle of 2010.Three engines will find a place under the aluminium bonnet of the RCZ – all complying with the Euro 5 emissions standard.A new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine has been developed for the RCZ, producing maximum power of 147 kW at 5800 rpm and maximum torque of 255 Nm at 1700 rpm (or 275 with overboost).The RCZ benefits from dynamic acceleration – 80 to 120 kph in 6.5 seconds in fifth gear, and 0 to 100 kph in 7.6 seconds – while fuel consumption does not exceed 7.1 litres/100 km in the combined cycle (less than 165 g/km of CO2).This 4-cylinder engine combines all of the most recent technology to create a world first: a Twin-Scroll turbocharger for performance and instant response at very low engine speeds, direct petrol injection, and variable valve lift coupled with variable valve timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts (VTi technology), for reduced fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.The RCZ will also be available with Peugeot’s HDi FAP technology via a 2.0-litre engine developing maximum power of 120 kW at 3750 rpm and generous maximum torque of 340 Nm at 2000 rpm.To obtain this level of performance it has a new generation ECCS (Extreme Conventional Combustion System) combustion chamber, a variable-geometry low-inertia turbocharger, a high-pressure pump allowing a pressure of 2000 bar in the common rail and solenoid injectors with eight apertures.This engine gives offers wide scope for driving enjoyment, despite limiting fuel consumption to just 5.4 litres/100 km in the combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 139 g/km.A second petrol engine is available in the form of a 1.6-litre turbocharged direct-injection unit that achieves 240 Nm from 1400 rpm and 115 kW at 5800 rpm.It offers fuel consumption of 6.9 litres/100 km and 159 g/km of CO2 with a manual gearbox.
The RCZ benefits fundamentally from a highly efficient suspension set-up developed from the existing 308 range (McPherson type front suspension and rear torsion beam).In addition, the car’s ride height and centre of gravity have been lowered by 20 mm and 40 mm respectively, while the RCZ is wider (+ 30 mm) with wider front and rear tracks (+ 54 mm and + 72 mm).The suspension and dampers have been adapted accordingly and, with the addition of wider tyres on 18 or 19-inch wheels, the end result is road-holding of the very highest order.On models featuring the 147 kW engine, the front axle incorporates a special lower anti-roll bar to make the car even more responsive and agile.Braking, meanwhile, is powerful and durable and is assured by ventilated discs with a diameter of 302 mm and a thickness of 26 mm. The 147 kW model receives discs of 340x30mm.All models are equipped with rear brake discs with a diameter of 290x12 mm.To facilitate manoeuvres on steep gradients, all versions of the RCZ come with Hill Assist. This function is coupled as standard with ESP which, except on versions with an automatic gearbox, includes an intelligent traction control system (ASR), dynamic stability control (DSC), electronic brake force distribution (EBFD) and emergency brake assist (EBA).The DSC, ASR and EBA functions can be disconnected simultaneously (ESP Off) so that experienced and demanding drivers can fully exploit the car’s capabilities.An active rear spoiler also contributes to the already impressive aerodynamic efficiency of the RCZ’s slippery shape – it can be deployed in two positions according to the speed of the car, to ensure an ideal balance between road holding and fuel consumption.Deeply contoured bucket seats, a sports-themed dash and a jewel-look analog clock make for an inviting cabin.The RCZ also offers versatility, with the boot offering a capacity of 384 litres with additional storage spaces under the floor – this can be increased by folding the rear seat backs down, giving a maximum boot volume of 760 litres.There are also two occasional seats, fully sculpted and perfectly usable, especially since the design of the roof with its double bubble offers extra headroom to these occasional rear passengers.Ken Thomas, general manager/ director Peugeot Automobiles Australia, says the RCZ is a signal of intent for Peugeot.“The RCZ is a real example of the positive and aggressive direction being taken at Peugeot,” he said.“The stunning lines meld beautifully with the classic proportions – and as with all Peugeots there are a number of special design features like the double bubble rear window, the prominent roofline rails and the craftsmanship of the clock in the dashboard.
“Merging the gap between creating a true sports car and minimising fuel consumption and emissions was a key focus for the engineering team.“They have succeeded in blending those two challenges perfectly, with a car that offers both sporting driving and efficiency with low emissions figures.”The RCZ will be assembled at the Magna Steyr plant in Graz, Austria – a production centre that specialises in exclusive vehicles.
The RCZ is intended to meet the dynamic requirements of discerning drivers and the modern demands for cleaner and more efficient vehicles.Continuing this philosophy, the study of an RCZ powered by Peugeot’s HYbrid4 technology will be revealed at this year’s Frankfurt Motor Show.The RCZ Hybrid4 is based on the power train seen in the 3008 HYbrid4 which will go on sale in Europe in mid-2011: a 2.0-litre HDi FAP diesel engine of 120 kW at the front and an electric motor of 27 kW maximum at the rear.Remarkably, if this sports coupe was available in Australia today, the RCZ HYbrid4 concept car would be the most fuel efficient car in the country.It offers a level of fuel consumption and CO2 emissions previously unheard of in the world of sports cars: 3.7 litres/100 km and 95 g/km of CO2, proof that sportiness can also be environmentally responsible.Power and torque figures suit the sporty pretensions of the RCZ Hybrid4, with a combined potential power of 147 kW and maximum torque of 300 Nm at the front and 200 Nm at the rear.Peugeot’s 6-speed electronically controlled manual gearbox, already used throughout the Peugeot range, is combined with the internal combustion engine due to its automatic operation mode and ability to optimise fuel consumption.The chassis is even more effective as it benefits from the multi-link rear suspension which makes up the rear module of the Hybrid4 technology.The 2.0-litre HDi FAP engine under the aggressive front bonnet powers the front wheels and the electric motor in the rear powers the rear wheels to create a four-wheel drive system.PSA Group’s Hybrid4 vehicles are powered by an internal combustion engine (diesel) and an electric motor, which can operate independently or together.The internal combustion engine operates mostly on main roads and motorway journeys. The electric motor takes over from the internal combustion engine during its less efficient phases, in particular when moving off or when driving at low speed or again on deceleration (energy recovery).This corresponds exactly to the needs of the vehicle when operating in urban conditions.
This application reflects Peugeot’s desire to offer Hybrid4 in different vehicles across its range – vehicles that may be very different (crossover, coupé…), based on different platforms, but with a common goal: to offer renewed driving enjoyment.Peugeot has logically turned to its own well-respected HDi FAP technology as the internal combustion engine in the Hybrid4 system – technology that features exceptional performance and fuel economy from engines that are thermodynamically more efficient than petrol engines – approximately 30% lower consumption on equivalent cubic capacity.Peugeot has a lot of historical expertise to call upon for the electric element of Hybrid4 – to date, the Peugeot 106 Electric, marketed between 1995 and 2003, remains the best selling zero emissions vehicle in the world.In fact, the PSA Group has produced 10,000 electric vehicles, establishing itself as a true industrial pioneer in this sector.
Price and equipment
The 3-Series range extends from a $54,500 entry-level 320i Executive sedan all the way to $176,142 for the M3 drop-top.
For this test, though, we've gone for the most popular model, the 320i Executive, and paired it with the more flexible wagon body. Priced from $57,700, the revised model is $3500 more expensive than the outgoing vehicle; that's because BMW has dropped the entry-level model and sharpened the price on the more popular Executive.
It translates to more equipment, including full leather trim, partially electric front seats, alloy wheels, front foglights and a chunky, tactile sports steering wheel incorporating buttons for the audio system and cruise control.
That's the start of an impressive level of equipment that encompasses automatic wipers, Bluetooth phone connection, rear parking sensors and a decent sound system with iPod integration through a USB input.
Notably missing from the 3-Series is a spare tyre. Instead there are expensive run-flat tyres, which typically must be replaced if punctured.
Key to the appeal of the 3-Series is a long list of trim materials and other options to customise your car. It can start to add up, though.
The 320i gets a modest 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that makes 115kW of power and 200Nm of torque. It's a dull sounding engine, but feels honest and viceless, accelerating the 1.4-tonne 3-Series to 100km/h in about 10 seconds.
Performance is acceptable rather than astonishing, and it's aided by the standard six-speed automatic transmission, which works well to select and hold the right gear.
In most conditions it thinks intuitively, holding a lower gear when climbing hills or pre-empting a down-change during more enthusiastic driving.
Driving dynamics are still central to the BMW sales pitch, something that hasn't been diminished with the updated 3-Series. BMW has increased the distance between the front wheels to improve stability and response.
In reality it's difficult to pick a difference in the new model in everyday driving.
The rear-drive 320i is still masterfully balanced and communicative. Steering is accurate, well weighted and admirably shielded from bumps and imperfections, ensuring the car grips well through corners and maintains its poise.
The 3-Series is BMW's most compact sedan, so rear legroom even in the wagon isn't great for adults. Head room, though, is generous thanks to the wagon's longer roof.
There's a classy feel to the cabin, which is beautifully put together and well thought out, with the exception of a lack of storage space up front for small items such as a mobile phone (then again, with Bluetooth connection the phone doesn't need to be within reach). Tilt and reach adjustment for the steering wheel as well as partial electric adjustment for the front seats make it easy to find a good driving position. The comfortable seats, too, provide reasonable support.
Hinged glass on the tailgate gives access to the load area, which makes it easy to load or unload smaller items. Two nets keep smaller items from rolling around the boot.
Under the floor, and where the spare tyre would normally sit, is a segmented storage compartment for smaller items.
BMW owners frustrated with the confusing iDrive system will be pleased to learn the new system (included when you option satellite navigation) is vastly improved.
The 3-Series achieves a maximum five-star NCAP crash rating. The safety package includes dual front and front-side airbags as well as curtain airbags that protect heads in a side impact.
There are adjustable headrests for all five seats as well as proper lap-sash seatbelts.
Electronic controls include anti-lock brakes (ABS) with brake assist and stability/traction control. It all helps to control a skid if required.
There's no shortage of good cars in the entry-level luxury market, but the 3-Series continues as one of the most impressive. Extra equipment now gives even more of a luxury feel without detracting from the successful 3-Series formula.
What the 320i lacks in outright engine performance it makes up for with superb driving manners and respectable value for money. The attention to detail and impressive core engineering of BMW's most popular model help cement it as one of the leaders in the more affordable end of a hotly contested luxury field.
Australia's ONLY automotive dealership offeringQantas Frequent Flyer points on vehicle purchases*
Earn 1 Qantas Frequent Flyer point for every 2 dollarsspent on eligible purchases
© 2012 Trivett Classic Pty Ltd. All right reserved