Volvo XC60 PHEV long-term test month 1
An unexpectedly long stay gives us some time to really get to know Volvo’s plug-in family SUV
The Volvo XC60 you see here should have been with us for a week but, thanks to lockdown and some scheduling snafus, it has ended up as a sort of accidental long-termer.
Logistical difficulties mean that rather than a few days, it'll be spending a few months with us, giving us a chance to get to know it in a bit more depth.
But let's get the basics out of the way first. What you see before you is, according to the spec sheet, a Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Inscription. What that actually means is that this is a high-spec, £64,000 plug-in hybrid destined to take on the likes of the BMW X3, Mercedes GLC, Audi Q5, Lexus NX and Jaguar F-Pace.
The T6 badge denotes that this is a petrol-electric plug-in hybrid. A 250bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine drives the front wheels while an 86bhp electric motor powers the rears. A 46bhp starter generator can also weigh in at the front in EV mode. These motors can run individually or together, with the driver able to select drive modes between Pure (all electric running) Hybrid (smart switching between one, other or both motors) and Power (both main motors all the time). There are also Constant AWD and Off Road settings for tougher terrain, although this is no Range Rover when the going gets tough.
Get all the motors working together and it’s lively enough to cover the 0-60 dash in 5.6 seconds and on to a limited top speed of 112mph. It certainly makes for a surprisingly sprightly SUV off the mark but the real pleasure is the way that in normal circumstances the car simply glides away from a standstill in smooth, silent electric mode.
With a full charge Volvo says the XC60 can cover 32 miles. So far our trip computer has never offered more than 23 but has consistently achieved that. It means that, restricted as we have been to our local area, we've been able to do the school run and local shopping trips without ever dipping into the fuel reserves. Even heading out onto 60mph stretches the electric drive has enough oomph to accelerate and keep up with traffic on its own. Call upon the petrol engine and there is occasionally a noticeable tug as it joins in and a little hesitation from the transmission but it’s overall a pretty smooth process.
Inscription trim sits in the middle of the luxury side of Volvo’s line-up - as opposed to the sportier R Design range. It has a decent array of premium features, such as active high beam LED lights, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, a powered tailgate, parking camera, digital instruments and a nine-inch touchscreen with live navigation. Our test car, however, has £10,000 of options, adding luxuries such as a panoramic sunroof; a climate pack with heated windscreen, rear seats and steering wheel; a phenomenal Bowers & Wilkins sound system and four-corner active air suspension which offers a beautifully smooth ride. All of this is wrapped up in Volvo’s typically effortlessly cool interior. Simplicity is at the heart of the XC60’s interior and the calm feeling is emphasised by the pale wood and perforated Nappa leather finish in our car.
I've previously been a little dismissive of the XC60 as the slightly forgotten middle child in Volvo's SUV range. It doesn't have the confident eye-catching styling of the smaller XC40 nor the dominating presence of the larger XC90. But after the first few weeks with it I'm beginning to see the appeal of this model's softer design. Its segment is dominated by brash in-your-face models where it's all about getting as much attention as possible. Amongst this the Volvo is more subtle and less pushy. Particularly in our car's Denim Blue (£675) it's a large SUV that doesn't scream about its status too much. For some buyers that will be a turn off but for others who need a big car without the big car attitude it's a pleasant change and matches the overall calm and easygoing feel of the XC60.
Whether I’ll get bored of blending in remains to be seen but for now I’m happy to waft around inconspicuously and take advantage of that laid back feel.
Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Inscription
Price: £54,520 (£64,045 as tested); Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol plus electric motor; Power: 335bhp; Torque: N/A; Transmission: Automatic, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 112mph; 0-60mph: 5.6 seconds; Economy: 100.9-113mpg; CO2 emissions: 55-64g/km