Does a plug-in hybrid like the Volvo XC60 deliver the best of both worlds?

Volvo XC60 XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 AWD R-Design on long-term test - with James Foxall
Let's find out how an SUV measures up against a traditional estate Credit: Christopher Pledger

Volvo says its XC60 has style, prestige and presence. We’re finding out if the plug-in hybrid version of the mid-sized Swedish SUV lives up to the star billing.

  • Our car: XC60 Recharge T8 AWD R-Design
  • List price when new: £55,005 OTR
  • Price as tested: £59,305
  • Official fuel economy: 94.2-117.5mpg (WLTP Combined)

With our latest long-term test car, we’ve stuck with the Volvo2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app theme but moved things on a notch. Like an increasing number of drivers, we’ve rejected diesel power and plumped for a petrol plug-in hybrid (or PHEV). Again, like ever more buyers, we’ve moved from a traditional estate to the loftier perch of an SUV body shape.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appIn our case, that’s the XC60 T8 Twin Engine All-Wheel Drive. Initial impressions are of a car that’s very handsome indeed. We chose ours in Bursting Blue, a £975 optional extra, and I think it suits the XC60’s shape well. It’s all nicely set off by the R-Design 19” Diamond Cut/Matt Black five double spoke alloys, black door mirrors and black roof rails. 

I liked the look of the previous V90 Cross Country a lot but the XC60 is more handsome still. It’s sportier looking, which will undoubtedly appeal to a younger audience, and it’s purposeful without being overly ‘look-at-me’ aggressive. 

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appVolvos these days are very well-equipped cars and our XC60 is no different. As standard, it comes with all the goodies you’d expect from a premium model including cruise control, keyless start, a power-operated tailgate, heated front seats and a 9” touchscreen with 12.3” driver’s instrument panel. To the standard specification we’ve added the £800 Xenium Pack which gives us the 360° Surround View camera plus Park Assist Pilot. It is fitted with the £525 Winter Pack which means headlight washers, heated front screen and steering wheel and heated aqua blades that cover the screen in water from the wiper blade itself rather than nozzles. 

The equipment is good, although the car's age shows in some of the plastics and the grey interior option can feel rather gloomy when the blind of the full-length sunroof is closed Credit: Christopher Pledger

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appIt has the £850 Harmon Kardon sound system which includes Bluetooth smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. We’ve also specified the £600 electric driver’s seat with memory function as we figured it would be a valuable option when it comes to moving the car on.

The interior is smart in Slate/Open Grey, although it is a little gloomy when the panoramic roof’s blind is closed. One thing that immediately struck us is that the plastics on show, particularly those on the dashboard, aren’t quite the sort of quality we’ve come to expect from a £60,000 car. 

But the real jewel in ‘our’ XC60’s crown is the plug-in hybrid power plant, mustering no less than 385bhp. The 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine produces 303hp which would be healthy enough on its own. However, an 87 horsepower battery motor supplements it. It means a claimed electric-only range of 25 miles, although the readout on the screen has only told me that once; it seems to spend most of its time, even immediately after charging, showing 21 miles.

First impressions are good, with the hybrid drivetrain slipping seamlessly between petrol and electric propulsion Credit: Christopher Pledger

That formidable power is delivered to the all-wheel drive system via an eight-speed automatic transmission. Initial impressions are that it certainly lives up to its 5.2 second claimed 0-60mph time. The petrol engine seems very quiet and refined, to the point where it’s difficult to tell if you’re being powered by internal combustion or electricity. 

Most of our trips so far have been local. In hybrid mode, this means that I suspect battery power alone has been able to take care of things. But whichever mode the car is in, it’s very swift. And that makes me excited for the months to come.

What it’s like on the road?

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appThe XC60 looks like a shrunken XC90, which is no bad thing. And it shares that car’s powerplants too. Again, no bad thing. All engines are 2.0-litre four cylinder units but there’s a choice between mild hybrid diesel, turbocharged petrol and petrol plug-in hybrid. The power ranges from 197hp to our 390hp performance SUV.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appTo achieve this, the engine in our car is supercharged and turbocharged, giving the front wheels 303hp. The 87hp electric motor powers the rear wheels. The 295lb ft of torque from the petrol engine is accessed between 2,200 and 4,800rpm. And there’s a further 177lb ft of heft from the electric motor that’s all on tap from standstill.

The power’s there then. How does the chassis handle it? In a straight line, very well indeed. The all-wheel-drive set-up and quiet, refined capability of the turbo petrol engine means you’re fired forwards efficiently and with little in the way of drama.

Sure, it'll corner at speed but the XC60 isn't the type of car in which you'd tackle a challenging road just for the hell of it Credit: Christopher Pledger

The rest of the driving experience is equally undramatic, which won’t necessarily appeal to keen drivers. The numb and overly assisted steering makes driving the XC60 a remote experience. R-Design models like ours have 30 per cent stiffer springs and anti-roll bars that are 1mm thicker front and rear, plus faster-acting dampers. The result, Volvo claims, is sportier, more responsive handling.

That might be the case compared with other XC60s but if you’re looking for a dynamically involving car to put a smile on your face, we’d advise you choose something else.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appThe XC60 is a fast, refined and comfortable tourer; fun it is not. And that’s hardly a surprise when you understand that Volvo has tuned the XC60’s dynamics to be controllable, predictable and comfortable. It’s something we suspect will be bang on the nail with the kind of audience Volvo wants this car to appeal to.

Economy promise

Efficiency is another thing. Volvo claims between 94.2 and 117.5mpg. We haven’t driven it over sufficient distance to test this claim. However, Volvo says the batteries should be good for 28 miles of electric-only driving. We’ve never seen more than 25 on the readout and 21 miles is more usual. What’s more, those miles seem to disappear disproportionately quickly.

The supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine drives the front wheels, with an electric motor taking care of propulsion to the rear Credit: Christopher Pledger

In hybrid mode, which we usually have it in, the electric motor is used primarily until the batteries’ range has disappeared. The petrol motor simply steps in to do some heavy lifting during acceleration. Then, once the batteries are depleted, the petrol does all the work. Using the central screen, you can press ‘Hold’ which prompts the car to use only the petrol engine, keeping electric power until you really need it around town.

Charging set-up

There’s a charge function, too, enabling you to use the petrol engine as a generator to charge the batteries. But that rather seems to defeat the object of a plug-in hybrid, which to our eyes is to benefit from cheaper mains electricity.

Volvo claims the battery can be recharged in two and a half hours using the optional 16-amp fast charging cable. Using a domestic socket it's best done overnight Credit: Christopher Pledger

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appVolvo claims the 10.4kWh battery pack can be charged in just two and a half hours using the optional 16-amp fast charging cable. I specified one of these and I’m currently enjoying getting free electricity whenever I go to the supermarket.

2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appHowever, I mainly recharge using the three-pin plug socket in my garage. This is a more leisurely affair but seems to be easily accomplished overnight.

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