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Egypt-Exclusive: First Drive of Volvo XC60 – Is it better than Mercedes GLC, BMW X3 and AUDI Q5 ?

Volvo is aiming at setting a new benchmark with the Volvo XC60 in the premium medium-size SUV segment and changing the perception of the consumer and the new leadership in this highly competitive and lucrative segment, not only in Europe, the USA and China but also in the Middle East and Egypt.

Therefore it was no surprise that the Volvo mother-company invited Auto Arabia as the only media from Egypt to the international XC60 media launch event last month in Barcelona, in order to use its position as the leading opinion-making and independent automotive authority in Egypt, for explaining to the Auto Arabia audience in Egypt and the Middle East and to Volvo's potential customer the pros and cons of this new car.

In 2008 Volvo introduced its first-generation XC60, which became a huge success as this was the time when the international boom in the mid-size SUV segment kicked off. When Volvo introduced the current Volvo XC90 in 2015 it was obvious that Volvo had shifted the benchmark quite a lot in the premium large-size SUV segment as well, building on its experience and success with the first generations of the XC60 and XC90.

And now with the all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 the benchmark in the premium medium-size SUV segment has even been raised a few inches higher, while the automotive managers in Stuttgart, Ingolstadt and Munich are surely getting quite nervous simultaneously due to several reasons. Firstly, because the new XC60 is succeeding the old XC60, which not only sold around one million vehicles and was extremely successful in many international markets, but also because the all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 is also extremely good and much better in almost every aspect than its predecessor.

I test-drove both the available D5 diesel (235hp) and T6 gasoline (320hp) engines during the international launch event, and was very impressed by the smoothness and torque-development of the powerful D5 diesel engine. The massive 480 Nm of torque harmonized perfectly with the 8-speed automatic transmission and were much more fun to drive than the 400 Nm of torque of the T6 gasoline engine.

But what is surely even more impressive is the T8 Hybrid version of the XC60, which is expected to launch officially later this year and which generates 407hp and a whopping 640Nm of torque, and most importantly, is able to drive 45 km in pure electric mode. Many Egyptian customers will like this last part, especially after the recent increase in fuel prices. This means that you could 'theoretically' drive all the way from 6th of October to 5th District without using any fuel, solely on electric power.

So, in brief, will the all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 be able to beat the Mercedes GLC, the BMW X3 and the AUDI Q5 in Egypt and the Middle East? Well, let us focus on the Egyptian market for now in this article as we will talk about the XC60 potential in the Middle Eastern markets in our detailed review in a few days.

In Egypt, the Volvo XC60 has only to compete with the Mercedes GLC for the time-being. Why? Well, because AUDI Egypt and its 'manager' Karim El Naggar are 'busy' and caught in the hassle of the courts in Egypt, as this very same Karim El Najjar, one of the former 'partners' of Egyptian Automotive Company and Trading EATC, the official dealership and importer of Volkswagen and AUDI in Egypt, has been accused by the other EATC partner MEATCO of fraud, manipulation of official documents and corruption in management. So, this turmoil and uncertain future of the AUDI dealership, which will probably close down because of this ongoing legal dispute, is keeping many potential customers away from the AUDI dealership and showrooms in Cairo, including the potential AUDI Q5 buyers.

BMW Egypt and the Bavarian Auto Group is facing similar problems. Aside from the bad reputation and the many complaints of BMW owners from the incompetent company management and extremely unprofessional customer service and the bad quality of the locally-assembled Made-in-Egypt models, such as the BMW X3, BMW X4, BMW X5, BMW X6, BMW 3series and the BMW 5series, the Bavarian Auto Group is also currently linked to the political tensions between Qatar on one hand and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on the other hand. Why? Because of the name 'Al Kawari'. The owner of the Bavarian Auto Group, the official importer for BMW and MINI in Egypt, is a member of the Al Kawari family who used to have tight links to the former Emir of Qatar. At the same time the name 'Al Kawari' is also listed as one of the 52 names in the terror-supporting list of individuals and organizations which are supposedly supporting terror group and terror activities. This list was made by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt.

Needless to say, the listing of the name 'Al Kawari' in this terror-support list immediately started the spreading of rumors and suggestions that the Bavarian Auto Group will be affected massively by the blockade and cut of ties between Qatar and the other four nations, and that this means that the Bavarian Auto Group would have to close down all its official and 'non-official' dealer network operations, its so-called 'insurance' companies, as well as its outdated assembly line in Egypt.

Last but not least, the all-new 2018 BMW X3 will be unveiled at the upcoming 2017 IAA Frankfurt International Motor Show in Frankfurt next September. So, the current soon-to-be-succeeded BMW X3 is also out of the competition.

So, this only leaves the Mercedes GLC as a potential competitor in the Egyptian market. So, what are the chances of the Mercedes GLC when confronted with the Volvo XC60 in the Egyptian market anytime soon?

Well, theoretically the chances are not too bad. With its new management under Thomas Zorn as the new CEO & President of Mercedes Benz Egypt, the company is now being managed by an experienced automotive manager and car guy, who knows how to run an automotive business in difficult market conditions, such as Egypt or China. So a wise and 'modest' pricing policy of the GLC and other Mercedes models would surely help a lot.

And with a better test-car management, and with a better media relation and more effective communication methods in Egypt, the image of Mercedes Egypt and Mercedes Benz cars among the Egyptian consumer can easily be restored in Egypt. Of course this means staying away from immature and teenage-style Mercedes reviews of some wonna-be automotive journalists (who at the same time do the PR work for BMW Egypt and the BMW Egypt Magazine) and also means staying away from Mercedes reviews of some self-claimed 'journalists' who interview other marketing manager from other automotive brands in an E180 review, to take their opinion on the E180, like what we have seen during the past 2-3 months on several media platforms. In that case the chances for the GLC (and of course other Mercedes models) should not be too bad in Egypt in the near future.

Now, what about the pros and cons of the XC60 and the GLC when compared directly to each other?

Well, interior-wise the Volvo XC60 gives you a more luxurious feeling than the Mercedes GLC because the XC60 is copying many design elements from its bigger brother the XC90 while the GLC has a more practical and more down-to-earth interior. But being down-to-earth and more practical does not mean that it is bad. The operation of the many functions and button in the dashboard and the console of the GLC is in many ways easier and faster than the XC60, although not ideal in some cases. On the other hand, the challenge with the XC60 is that almost everything has to be done through the large touchscreen in the dashboard. Of course this looks much neater and more luxurious, but could be a hassle if you are driving on a highway or on a curvy country-road.

The cabin of the XC60 feels a little bit more spacious while the loading capacity in the back of the GLC is bigger than the XC60. This is mainly due to the fact that the chassis of the XC60 is based on the front-wheel drive concept of the SPA platform while the GLC is based on the back-wheel drive chassis of the C-Class, which makes the leg-room and head-space not as 'spacious' as in the XC60.

The Pilot Assist system as well as the other active and passive safety system of the XC60, especially the Oncoming Lane Mitigation and the City Safety System are extremely advanced and can be considered the current benchmark in this segment. So the Mercedes GLC must have the full active and passive safety package in Egypt in order to be able to compete with the XC60 in this aspect.

What I really missed during our Egypt-exclusive first-drive of the XC60 were the shift paddles on the steering wheel, some more USB charging options for those sitting in the back row and the massage seats. Any dynamic driver will miss those paddles especially since the smooth and powerful engines as well as the effective 8-speed transmission are a real joy, which really need those paddles to complete the dynamic driving experience. And the 20-inch wheel in the Inscription version I tested gave the car an amazing stability and made me miss the paddles even more on those curvy mountain roads around Barcelona.

And although the seats are extremely comfortable with dozens of different setting possibilities, you would not want to miss air-conditioned massage seats on a long trip to the Red Sea or to Sahel on the North Coast.

Indeed, the XC60 was not only a joy on the curvy country and mountain roads around Barcelona, but was also fun to drive inside the narrow streets of Barcelona due to its rather small turning circle.

As a primarily conclusion of this quick first driving impression, it seems that the all-new 2018 Volvo XC60 is currently indeed taking the lead in this highly-competitive premium mid-size SUV segment, especially when taking into consideration that the official launching price in Egypt will be 1.220.000 LE according to Emre Karaer, the Managing Director of Volvo Middle East.

As soon as the Volvo XC60 and the Mercedes GLC will be officially available in Egypt we will try to test them on the Egyptian roads in order to bring you a more in-depth analysis and comparison of those two strong competitors.

In the meantime you can watch our short 'first-drive & first-impression' videos of the new XC60 in our video section and stay tuned for our long and detailed video and a more detailed review during the next few days.

Barcelona – Cairo – Dubai

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