Volvo V60 plug-in Hybrid SE Lux
Week ending January 31
Driven this week 77 miles
The Volvo's loopy economy figures continue to suprise and amaze, but I think a trip to the dealer for a bit of a health check might be in order.
On the plus side, I recorded an economy figure on my regular commute which I could have scarcely beaten by walking – 1348 miles per gallon. This was done by forcing the V60 to commute in 'Pure' mode, by pushing a button on the centre console. This is the electric-only mode of operation but it is not without its limitations. For a start, on a wet, grubby January night, the car did not want to heat up so it was a pretty chilly drive home. At least it was cheap, with less than 0.1 gallons of fuel used.
This sounds a good result, and of course it is, but there was a downside. The quoted range for electric operation is 31 miles, but after 12.2 miles a mere seven remained to get me back to work the next day. I presume this is due to the low temperature but it was hardly the polar condtions that any self-respecting Volvo should laugh in the face of.
To make matters worse, the following morning, with seven miles stored in the battery, the V60 stubbornly refused to let me at it. Instead, I got a message saying it was not available. That meant my journey to the office was completed on diesel-only operation, giving me a fuel figure of 25.6mpg. I am going to put in a call to Volvo Customer Service to check whether the car has a problem.
That said, if you average out the mpg over the two commutes, it makes around 680mpg. Most people would be happy with that.
Week ending January 23
Driven this week 377 miles
For the OCD sufferers among us, Volvo’s On Call smartphone app is a godsend. It gives owners the security of knowing what their car is up to when they are not there to watch over it.
The free app (bi-annual subscription to pay though) presents a host of information about your Volvo, some of which is useful, some of which is not. Information includes where the car is (hopefully where you left it), whether it is charging, how much diesel or battery power it has, the current mileage, the temperature near by, whether it is locked and even if you need to top up the washer fluid.
All very clever of course, but whether you are using it on Apple, Android and Windows-based phones, the app falls into the same trap as so many Smartphone downloads in that it is not desperately useful. In three months of ownership, I have used the app twice - once because it told me the car was unlocked and once to find the car in a car park by remotely honking the horn. Actually, that is useful, but it is hardly essential.
One little own goal where the hybrid is concerned is that it also logs every journey and gives you a fuel economy figure for it. It makes interesting reading, but it does little to ease my worries about the V60’s liking for diesel. In Hybrid mode, the car switches itself between diesel and electric power as it sees fit, but in doing so, tends to favour diesel power on my commute and that delivers very ordinary, perhaps disappointing fuel economy. At least according to what the app is telling me.
In an effort to improve things, for the next week or so, I’m going to force the car to commute in ‘Pure’ mode, which uses only electric power. The total distance of 23 miles there and back is well within the car’s claimed 31 miles range and that should allow me to sample the sort of clean, green motoring that the brochure promises. It could also make the app something useful and fun, rather than something which delivers an endless string of disappointing fuel economy figures, direct to my pocket.
Week ending January 17
Driven this week 113 miles
This wasn’t just my first time behind the wheel of Nigel’s V60 Hybrid, it was also my first experience of diesel-electric hybrid power - and in some respects, I quite enjoyed it.
There’s certainly enough get up and go when it’s needed, and the switch from electric motor to combustion engine is completed smoothly and quietly. The V60 is also an extremely comfortable car to travel in, with excellent seats, a great stereo and a cushioning ride.
However, there’s no getting away from the fact it’s a heavy (not to mention expensive) car, and the combination of its inconsistently-weighted steering and torque steer don’t encourage you to drive it quickly. But that’s fine, because the V60 Hybrid feels best when it’s wafting about.
A clever feature I discovered on my stop-start morning commute is an electronic gauge to the right of the speedometer, telling you how much throttle you can apply before you’re forced to switch from electric to diesel in hybrid mode. It’s never distracting, and becomes a bit of a game, as you try and remain battery powered for as long as possible.
By Rory White
Week ending January 10
Driven this week 204 miles
As previously mentioned, the hybrid V60's boot is not the most cavernous load space on the market. In our long-term test car however, it is pretty hard to see what you are doing, Especially at night. One reason for this is that there is precious little lighting in the load area, but the other is because the boot lamp had fallen to bits. The assembly fits into the trim panel on the boot lid itself, but on my car, the lens had detached, leaving the bulb holder to slip behind the trim panel.
It hardly seemed worth bothering the dealer for, so I had a little look at it myself. The bulb holder fits behind the panel and the lens cover clips on the outside, locking it in place. The lens was intact so a few minutes fishing around behind the trim panel with my finger meant I could pull the holder through, clip the lens on and put it all back as Volvo intended. Lets hope it stays that way.