Is the Volvo XC60 a better buy than the Renault-powered Merc GLB 200 and other Germans? One of my friend’s sister, a doctor, was looking to upgrade from her 2017 Jeep Compass diesel last year. She was prepared to spend around 60 lakh rupees, and, living in Delhi, she wanted a petrol vehicle this time. […]

Is the Volvo XC60 a better buy than the Renault-powered Merc GLB 200 and other Germans?

One of my friend’s sister, a doctor, was looking to upgrade from her 2017 Jeep Compass diesel last year. She was prepared to spend around 60 lakh rupees, and, living in Delhi, she wanted a petrol vehicle this time. She didn’t want a sedan, therefore, the recommendations of Skoda Superb and Toyota Camry, from my friend and me, respectively, were rejected faster than the sudden emergence of unmarked speed-breakers on our roads. She test-drove the Skoda Kodiaq and VW Tiguan too, but didn’t find them worthy enough to be called as “upgrades” to the Compass. She knew she had to increase her budget…
But, there was another problem now. With the increased budget, she now wanted the Merc GLB whereas her husband, also a doctor, was adamant on the BMW X3. She found the X3 to be quite basic (she called it an entry-level BMW SUV; I didn’t even ask what she thinks of the X1, then. She liked the X5 though.) whereas her better half said that the GLB was the saddest looking Merc SUV ever. Before they could strangle each other with stethoscopes, my friend intervened and suggested the Volvo XC60. The fight stopped; the stethoscopes were put back in their designated places; the surgical blades weren’t summoned, and peace was restored.

They bought the Volvo. My friend got the Jeep.
Now while the story until here would itself pass off as a review for most, and sometime later I shall also do a long-term ownership experience story, right now I would give you my review of the XC60 you see here in pictures. It’s not my friend’s sister’s car. This was a press unit sent by Volvo, which I tested for over 500 km last week.

Hands down, this is the most beautiful car in the segment, but one that doesn’t look delicate or, dare I say it, feminine (Mini Cooper comes to mind). There is no oversized grille or any such absurdity; in fact, there’s absolutely nothing that’s overdone OR underdone on this car. The design, contours, proportions—everything is just perfect.
The XC60 has panache, but in true Volvo fashion, it’s not ostentatious. It still turns a lot of heads though, and if you’re in that minority who hates attention; well, be prepared to get lots of it. But I must also tell you that most of it would be in admiration, and not in jealousy or contempt. It’s almost like they know that you’re not nouveau riche, but someone who’s worked hard to buy this car. And also that you’re someone who has education…

Aesthetically, what I said about the exterior of the XC60 holds true for the interior as well. It’s perfect. Everytime you get inside the cabin, you silently pat yourself on the back and say, “yeah, it’s money well spent.” And it’s not that it just LOOKS good; it FEELS great too. There have been no compromises in the fit and finish, and the quality of materials used is impeccable too.
I won’t go over the complete feature list as you can check that yourself on Volvo’s website. Here, it would just suffice to say that you get every convenience and comfort feature that you’d expect from a car at this price. Inbuilt Google Maps, front seats’ massage function, and that bonkers music system were the three features I used the most in this car. If you live around Greater Noida, and saw someone in a White Volvo XC60 last week, heading in the right direction, with a serene look on his face, despite listening to 2 of America’s Most Wanted by Tupac at full volume, you now know who it was.
The volume control is a proper rotary knob, and I wish there were physical controls for the AC too. However, since it’s a Volvo, who cares for you more than your mother, the AC controls are not buried deep into the touchscreen—the AC menu is exactly a touch away, and it’s the most intuitive to use HVAC touch system that you’ll come across.
Coming to the rear, the seats here too are immensely comfortable—a fact that’s corroborated by my friend’s sister who has done some really long drives in her XC60 with all seats occupied.

In the next section, I’m going to tell you about a feature that’s not yet explored by her, despite using the car for exactly over a year (she bought it in May, 2023).

Like most owners, and all reviewers, even my friend’s sister just leaves the headlights on Auto and forgets about it. Not me, of course. I explore. But before I tell you about it in detail, let me first share that even in Auto, the XC60’s low beam follows your steering inputs. Plus, the fog lamps also double up as cornering lamps, but you can switch them on permanently as well. They also light up while reversing at night.
And now comes the Active Headlights hidden feature. When you rotate the knob, at the end of headlights/indicators control stalk, once anti-clockwise, the Active High Beam gets activated. And what does it do? A lot of things. It will first decide whether you need the high beam or not. Plus, it continually scans the road ahead and lights up the darkest patches, thereby ensuring that you have maximum visibility at all times. If there’s a vehicle approaching from the opposite side, the XC60 automatically shuts off the high beam on that side, and switches it back on when the vehicle has passed. Yes, if there was an award for the most considerate citizen in the world, it would go to Volvo.

You might already know that Volvo developed and patented the three-point seatbelt, but decided to leave the patent open for all manufacturers, saving millions of lives in the process. Volvo didn’t stop there; it went on to invent more and more safety features over the decades, and you may read all about it on the Internet if you haven’t done that already. I won’t give redundant information to you, because, let’s be honest here—isn’t talking about safety in a Volvo akin to discussing religion with God?
In fact, some even say that when Euro NCAP crash-tests a Volvo, Volvo gives them a rating. It’s also alleged that Volvo owners don’t need COVID vaccine. I somehow also think that Volvo owners use their cars, and not bank-vaults, to keep their valuables safe…
Guess what, even when you turn off all the drive-assist features, the car will still brake for you in emergency situations. Therefore, if you somehow still manage to crash a Volvo, your driving license should be cancelled for life.

The Volvo XC60 is perhaps the easiest car to drive in this segment. It’s neither too big, nor too small—it’s the perfect size. And how’s that, you ask? See, in our conditions, a vehicle, irrespective of the segment, should not be that big that it feels cumbersome to manage in the city, but it also shouldn’t be so small that it gets easily bullied by other vehicles and strong crosswinds on the highways.
So, yes, the size is perfect, and so is the all-around visibility too. Plus, you obviously get a fantastic 360-degree camera to help you maneuver the car in the tightest spots. And that rear-cross-traffic alert warning is a life saver! Again, the vehicle will brake automatically here too if you fail to do so.

You may have noticed that I don’t usually mention spec-sheet numbers (as you can check those yourself), but I’ll make an exception here to put things into perspective. In India, even if you have the heaviest car around, a 200 horsepower (hp) engine is generally more than enough. This one makes a claimed 250 hp, and it’s not the heaviest car around, so it’s a given that you’d never feel any shortage of power at any occasion. Volvo claims a 0–100 km/h time of 6.9 s. You might not get anywhere near that. I managed an 8.8 s run with the AC on. That’s not blisteringly quick, but it’s not slow as well.

Overtakes are easy too and the gearbox downshifts quicker than you yourself would if it were a manual. Speaking of which, there is of course a manual mode, but you’d never use it as this engine-gearbox combination is so well calibrated that you always feel in control. The power delivery is neither lazy nor overwhelming. It’s predictable, which is a good thing for a family vehicle. I just wish that the initial throttle response while reversing could be smoothened a bit. I am nitpicking though, and most wouldn’t even notice it.
The ride quality is sublime as well, despite the relatively low-profile rubber (235/55) on those gorgeous 19-inch alloys. For perspective, it’s way more comfortable than the X3, but it’s definitely not close to the Mercs, which are in a different category altogether.
The opposite is true in the handling department. You’ll have the most fun in the X3, while the XC60’s handling is definitely more entertaining than the GLB’s. However, while both Germans will constantly remind you of their size, the Volvo feels like a hot hatch in comparison and not the big crossover it really is.
The XC60 is an AWD vehicle which means that you will always have more traction than a 2WD vehicle (GLB 200) but you shouldn’t mistake it for an off-road SUV. Still, with a good driver behind the wheel, it will take you where no 2WD will go, and bring you back safely as well.

In this 500 km test, the XC60 was returning between 9–11 km/l. My friend’s sister says she gets 10–12 km/l. Her vehicle’s current odo reading is about to touch 15,000 km. My test vehicle was fairly new—the odo showed close to 1,700 km when I returned the car. It has a 71-liter fuel tank, which you may expect to refill every 600 km or so if driven with a light foot.

Right now, the ex-showroom price of the Volvo XC60 is INR 68,90,000. The top-end Audi Q5 is the closest at INR 70,45,000 and is indeed the next most sensible option in this segment. My friend’s sister and her husband didn’t like it enough, so they didn’t even take a test drive, but I’d still recommend that you do, if you’re not averse to buying an Audi.
The BMW X3 petrol is available only in the M40i guise, which costs an eye-watering INR 87,70,000. The Mercedes GLB 200 might appear surprisingly cheap at INR 64,80,000 in comparison, but it’s actually exorbitantly expensive for a vehicle that uses a puny, underpowered, 1,332 cc Renault engine. For a true Merc experience, you’ll have to go with the GLC 300 that costs INR 74,45,000. But the unreasonable service costs might see you filing for bankruptcy in the near future. My friend’s sister’s boss has a GLC and she says that its usual service bill itself exceeds a lakh rupees everytime, and the highest she saw recently was 1.65 lakh rupees where the GLC needed some minor bodywork in addition to the regular service. Coincidently, that’s also the price for the five-year service plan from Volvo that she has taken for her XC60, due to which she ended up paying just around 2,500 rupees for the first service. Do you still need a long-term review? Let me know.