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Sunday / 23 June 2024
HomeFeaturesVolvo XC60 plug-in hybrid review – An electric daily driver with serious bite

Volvo XC60 plug-in hybrid review – An electric daily driver with serious bite

Volvo’s XC60 T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid is the ideal SUV for those who would love to embrace an all-electric future but has doubts about the supporting infrastructure.

It offers the best of both worlds – emissions-free driving on pure electric power, and face-melting acceleration when the two motors work in unison.

The T8 made its way through the TopAuto testing garage earlier this month and we were impressed by its all-rounder abilities and dashing looks in R-Design guise.

Ergonomics is key

Volvo has the skill to use interior proportions highly efficiently and the automaker builds among the most ergonomic vehicles on the market.

The seats are shaped to accommodate a range of figures in luxury and no features make the driver go out of their way to use them.

Storage spaces can be easily accessed and don’t clutter up the cabin when they’re filled, and while the narrower than usual rear doors did make it somewhat tight to move through them, the back seats open up considerably once you’re in and no passengers complained about roominess.

As Volvo’s flagship mid-size SUV, the XC60 T8 brings a raft of features but it does so in a toned-down manner as the only controls are on the multifunction steering wheel and horizontal set of buttons in the middle.

The long road became a breeze with standard-fit adaptive cruise control, steering assist, and lane aid, and it was impressive seeing how fast and accurately the traffic-sign recognition system operated.

It’s made even more enjoyable by heated and cooled front seats, as well as a top-end Harman Kardon stereo with stylish mesh speaker grilles.

There are, however, two caveats to be aware of if you’re interested in a Volvo.

The infotainment system runs on the new Android Automotive operating system and needs to be connected to a hotspot to use features such as Google Maps and Spotify, this hotspot needing to come either from your smartphone or a mobile router.

It also doesn’t support Apple CarPlay and iPhone owners therefore must make do with Bluetooth.

A shortcut to immediately get to the drive mode options would also have been more ideal than first having to select settings and then navigate to the driving tab. There is a fake button on the centre console that would’ve worked perfectly for this, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Power when you need it, efficiency when you don’t

The XC60 T8’s hybrid foundation sees a 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine married to a 107kW electric motor, and drive is handled by an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

The two-phase powertrain has two big advantages, one being a colossal output of 340kW and 709Nm making this Volvo one of the most powerful SUVs in its class, the other being efficiency as a maximum all-electric driving range of 61km is on the books.

Volvo rates this is enough for most buyers’ daily needs and though I had scepticism about this initially, after getting to know the T8 I have to agree.

Unlike pure electric vehicles (EV), this SUV’s maximum range lives up to its promises and throughout most of the week, my daily commutes of over 50km were done on battery power alone.

This saw fuel consumption go down to an incredible 1.7l/100km at one point, coming close to the official 1.6l/100km stated by Volvo, and also meant that the petrol remained virtually untouched and became the “backup” power source.

It needed little constraint to drive on electrons alone as top speed in this mode is still 140km/h so you don’t often pass it, and in the rare instance when you do need more push the fossil-fuel-powered engine starts up rapidly at the tap of the throttle and its reactions instantly get more urgent.

The smaller 18.8kWh battery in the plug-in hybrid also tops up much quicker than pure EVs and I started most days with maximum range even though it was only plugged into a standard wall socket, which wasn’t the case in EVs we previously tested.

However, even though many provisions have been made to ensure the wide availability of charging points there is still no cure for human error, highlighting another benefit of this drivetrain.

I came to this realization one morning when switching on the XC60 expecting to start the trip with a full battery, but seeing 0% displayed on the screen.

This seemed impossible as I just removed the plug after nine hours, but only then did I notice it was never switched on at the wall.

With a pure EV, I would have had to reschedule plans while waiting for it to charge, but luckily this was a plug-in hybrid, and after pressing a few buttons the petrol engine was charging the battery as we drove and the crisis was averted.

The traditional motor was now feeding 1km of range into the battery after roughly every 4km on the road, and even though it was doing more work than usual it remained one of the most efficient petrol motors of its size.

At the end of the test after putting down over 600km, approximately 200km of that on electricity alone, the Volvo’s average consumption still stood at a low 6.6l/100km and the tank was still above 25%.

Though one area where the XC60 does not surpass its peers is handling.

The padded steering wheel and seats do not relay much surface info and it’s less direct and surefooted on winding roads than something from, for example, Germany.

This is compensated for by the fact that it takes only 4.8 seconds to sprint from 0-100km/h partly thanks to the instantaneous electric torque, meaning this Swedish machine will still leave most SUVs in its price range in the dust in a straight line.

Verdict

The Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge is one of the most well-rounded SUVs at its price point of R1,278,900.

Being remarkably economical, quick between red lights, well-appointed but not overpacked with useless equipment, and attractive both inside and out, it’s certainly worth your time if a mid-size luxury SUV is your next purchase.

If you can look past the not-so-sporty ride and lack of Apple CarPlay, odds are this Volvo might make your shortlist.


Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge

 


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