Oct 6 2008 Steve Hughes
Two wheel drive for Volvo XC60
VOLVO has joined the rush to rid SUVs of their environmentally-unfriendly 4x4 systems with the announcement of a new version of the latest XC60 and the promise of a hybrid to follow.
Sales of large 4x4s have been hit as motorists downsize to more economical models but now the makers are fighting back by endeavouring to offer the best of both worlds.
In the case of the Volvo XC60 there is to be a new version with front wheel drive only, which will improve economy to 40mpg whilst slashing the CO2 figure to a car-like 170g/km.
The first XC60s to go on sale here next month will have permanent four wheel drive and a choice of powerful six-cylinder turbocharged petrol or five-cylinder turbodiesel engines plus a 2.4-litre oil-burner.
Now, even before these vehicles take to the streets, the Swedish manufacturer has announced that a two-wheel-drive version will be added soon and that there will also what the company calls a micro-hybrid with a CO2 figure of just 140g/km.
The idea is to create a more socially-acceptable image for SUVs, the overwhelming majority of which do not need to be encumbered with 4WD anyway because they never go off road.
However, many motorists like the chunkiness, higher driving position and the perception of increased safety for which they would still be prepared to pay a premium if they also had the benefit of two wheel drive only.
When the front wheel drive XC60 arrives here during the first half of next year it will have a more powerful version of the 163bhp 2.4-litre five cylinder engine with an output of 175bhp to give it a sporting edge.
As it will be significantly lighter and have reduced drag it will be cleaner and more economical. There will be a series of other mechanical modifications that are possible with front wheel drive to improve the economy and CO2 emissions even further and a choice of manual and automatic transmissions.
It will also be cheaper than the 4x4 versions although prices have yet to be announced.