The heavyweight class has a new champion, and it’s the Volvo XC60. Already a winner at the What Car? Car of the Year Awards, it’s a winner as a tow car, too.

It does almost everything well. Four-wheel drive will get you out of trouble on a muddy pitch, and it certainly helped make our hill-start test seem insultingly easy.

The ride strikes a near-ideal balance between the iron-fisted control of an Audi Q5 and the plushness of a Land Rover Discovery. In a straight line there’s no sign of instability, and the Al-Ko ATC system data showed not the slightest wobble when slowing from high speed.

Through the lane-change test, the Volvo took firm charge. It may not have been quite as nimble as an Audi Allroad between the cones, but few owners will come close to the XC60’s limits.

Overtaking dawdling traffic should be easy, even when towing. The engine musters a strong-armed 295lb.ft of torque: enough to haul car and caravan from 30-60mph in just 13.4 seconds. It makes quite a noise as it does so, however. At least the engine settles into the background once up to speed.

The driver won’t be the only one able to enjoy travelling in the XC60. There’s plenty of room for both front- and rear-seat passengers. You won’t have to travel light, either, thanks to the huge boot. We found room for a complete load of holiday luggage. Our practicality testers were also pleased to find a full-sized spare and plenty of towing information in the manual.

With a price of £28,150, the Volvo isn’t cheap, but it should hold on to 49% of the original price after three years. Besides, a car this good is worth the money.

Many cars made our judges sit up and take notice, but one stood out over all the others: the Volvo XC60.

It’s just so good in so many ways. First and foremost, it’s a cracking towcar, with a strong engine and unshakeable stability. Unlike some cars, however, control is combined with comfort. It’s the kind of car you’d happily tow with from one end of the country to the other.

It should look after you in an emergency, too. Stand on the brakes, and the Volvo stops in just 10.6 metres. When car and van together weigh over 3.5 tonnes, that’s impressive.

The XC60 is also safe in other ways, with clever features such as City Safety which, at low speeds, will actually stop the car completely if it’s about to hit the car in front. Crash-test experts at Euro NCAP have also given the XC60 their seal of approval with a five-star rating.

Safe to travel in, the Volvo is an equally safe place to put your money. It should hold on to 49% of its value after three years on the road – one of the strongest resale values of any car in this year’s tests.

You don’t just choose this Volvo for sensible reasons, though. The design, both inside and out, is fresh and engaging: a world away from Volvos of 10 or 15 years ago. It’s fun to drive, too, with an impressive turn of speed and agile handling for such a big, heavy car. Anyone trading in a 4×4 from a saloon or hatchback will feel right at home.

Other cars ran the Volvo a close race. The new VW Golf won its class by a street, and we were hugely impressed by the Skoda Superb 4×4. However, for an extra £4000 over the Skoda, the Volvo weighs almost 300kg more, making it a suitable match for a much wider range of vans.

Great to look at, to travel in and tow with, the Volvo just had to win.

Category Winners
2009 Up to 1425kg

Volkswagen Golf

2.0 TDI 140 SE 5dr

2009 1425-1574kg

Ford Kuga

2.0 TDCi Zetec 2WD

2009 1575-1724kg

Skoda Superb 4x4

2.0 TDI 170 4x4 Elegance

2009 1725-1899kg

Ford S-Max

2.2 TDCi Titanium

2009 1900kg+

Volvo XC60

D5 SE Geartronic

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