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Volvo XC60 R-Design review

The handsome Volvo XC60 looks even better in R-Design trim and comes loaded with features

The Volvo XC60 is a safe and stylish medium-sized SUV that aims to tempt buyers away from the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Mercedes GLC and Alfa Romeo Stelvio. It takes a lot of its design inspiration and technology from the excellent Volvo XC90, but with five seats and a more rakish exterior.

Coming as part of a renaissance for the Volvo brand, the XC60 takes on the mantle from its predecessor while sharing nothing mechanical; only its target audience. Volvo's R-Design trim sits in the middle of the range, and strikes a chord with buyers thanks to its blend of convenience-boosting equipment and styling tweaks that give the XC60 a more athletic look.

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Even in standard Momentum trim, the XC60 is a very generously specified model, with standard four-wheel drive and 18-inch alloy wheels. Features like dual-zone climate control, DAB radio, Bluetooth, a powered tailgate and keyless entry are sure to impress the neighbours, too.

So, what makes R-Design so desirable? For a start, the exterior makeover is quite far-reaching, starting with upgraded diamond-cut 19-inch alloy wheels that better fill the vast wheelarches. It also has piercing LED front foglights and new bumpers, with dual exhaust pipes integrated into a gloss black lower valance. To help separate the sporty R-Design from other V60s, the door mirrors and window surrounds are also painted in a matte-silver finish, contrasting with dark rear privacy glass.

There are quite extensive changes inside, too, most noticeably Volvo's excellent 'Contour Sports Seats' with enhanced lumbar support and trimmed in a mixture of Leather and Nubuck upholstery. The dashboard gains gloss-black trim and metallic mesh inlays, there's a black headlining and sports pedals and floor mats. Meanwhile, the steering wheel and gearknob are trimmed in perforated leather and gearshift paddles are fitted to automatic versions.

As with Momentum Pro and the range-topping Inscription Pro trims, there's also the option to upgrade to R-Design Pro, bringing a stack of extra kit for around £4,500. Much of it is geared towards driving in the Swedish climate, with heated windscreen blades, a heated steering wheel and headlight cleaning system ensuring you can keep going in the depths of winter.

There's more technology, too, including a head-up display and 'Active Bending Headlights' that follow corners and also adapt for other traffic and road conditions. The driver's seat and door mirrors get a memory function and the interior is bathed in ambient lighting at night; even illuminating the pavement when you open a front door, so you won't step in a puddle. There are styling changes too, including 21-inch alloy wheels and a new instrument panel with contrasting stitching. To cap things off, the Pro upgrades all four corners with air suspension and adaptive dampers, giving you softer and firmer settings to choose between.

The XC60 R-Design trim is available across the engine range, with prices spanning from just under £40,000 to almost £60,000 before options. The most affordable is the diesel XC60 D4 manual R-Design with 187bhp, that can also be upgraded with an automatic gearbox for £1,500. With 232bhp, the D5 PowerPulse diesel is faster and comes with an eight-speed automatic as standard, but the price jumps up to £44,000. Choose the petrol XC60 T5 R-Design and you'll get more power than the diesels (247bhp), but only pay as much as for the D4 automatic.

R-Design and R-Design Pro can also be chosen for the plug-in hybrid XC60 T8 Twin Engine that comes with a 299bhp petrol engine and 86bhp electric motor. Thanks to an all-electric range of around 30 miles, it's not only fast, but it only emits 52g/km of CO2 – making it the apple of company-car drivers' eyes thanks to a low 16% Benefit-in-Kind rating.

Verdict: 4/5

The Volvo XC60 R-Design is a compelling SUV at a time when high-riding, upmarket models are extremely fashionable. It boasts a stunning design inside and out, efficient engines and the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain – if you can afford it. The R-Design makeover will suit British buyers and could even persuade some away from an Audi Q5 S line, BMW X3 M Sport or Mercedes GLC AMG-Line.

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