Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid SE Lux
Week ending November 29
Driven this week 180 miles
I quite like Volvo's, they seem to fill a niche left open by Saab as the 'alternative' choice to the more mainstream Germanic metal, but plug-in Hybrids are a bit of an unknown for me with my only car being a TVR.
Let's be brief. Looks? Yep, like it. Equipment? More kit than my house. Handling? Squidgy. Diesel engine? Gruff. Comfort? Superb. Usability? Perfect, we had a great few days in it. Price? Wow. Hybrid tech? Impressive, better than a Lexus I'd say. Economy? Not great on diesel alone, but not awful.
I don't want all the safety buzzers and lights, I probably don't need 4WD either, and I'd like it to be a bit cheaper too, but I was oddly sad to hand it back. One of these could fit into my life quite nicely, very nicely in fact, but I think I'd'd forfeit the hybrid bits for a combustion engine to lower that purchase price a bit.
Week ending November 22
Driven this week 40 miles
I took my former colleagues from Practical Caravan magazine out in the Volvo this week and their initial views on the startlingly bright white, curvy and capacious V60 was that it looked like a ‘polar bear’. I can see what they mean, but that analogy is better than it first seems. Good cold weather capability has long been a Volvo trademark, and nothing to do with the way it looks.
Polar bears are obviously pretty well geared up to cope with the cold. So too the V60, whose full gamut of comfort features have been used to the fullest extent during the recent cold snap. The car is set to preheat itself every morning, meaning I have a clear windscreen and cosy cabin waiting for me when I leave the house. The heated seats are obviously welcome too.
Four-wheel drive delivers surefootedness on slippery surfaces and much like the furry Arctic dweller, it is surprisingly quick across the ground. It may not look very athletic, but is well capable of catching out slower-moving prey on motorways and A-roads as it prowls about.
Week ending November 15
Driven this week 98 miles
We're having some problems charging the V60. I plugged it in at home – which I have done before without any problems – and it kept fusing the whole house. We've also tried charging it at the office but without any success.
It's been plugged in for a number of hours but the battery hasn't been powered up at all. It's time for a trip to the dealership.
Week ending November 8
Driven this week 336 miles
I'm an ideal candidate for a plug-in hybrid. I live in central London with access to a parking space and a power socket. Plus, my journey to work is 10 miles so I can do a day's commute on a single charge. I also do journeys out of town at the weekends on a fairly regular basis. So I could run the car on electricity during the week and then use the diesel engine when I need to go further afield.
I put this to the test this week. Driving into the West End on a Friday night is not something I would normally undertake but in the V60 it was remarkably easy. I was able to park in an electric bay and didn't have to pay for parking or electricity. A fantastic result.
The disappointment came when I drove out to Oxford on the M40. The battery's supply of electricity was drained very quickly requiring the diesel engine to kick in. At motorway speeds the displayed MPG was frequently in the low 30s or high 20s. I could definitely cope with this for occasional trips but if you travel long distances on a regular basis, the V60 Plug-In Hybrid is probably not the car for you.
Week ending November 1
Driven this week 315 miles
The link between cars and technology is growing stronger all the time. Time was that syncing your phone to your car using Bluetooth felt like you were at the bleeding edge of technology. The Sensus Connected Touch system in the Volvo makes Bluetooth seem like two paper cups joined with a bit of string.
The ‘infotainment’ setup in the V60 consists of a standard Volvo in-car entertainment unit, the Connected Touch screen and, if you choose to use it, an iPhone App which logs details such as journey times, fuel economy and allows you to preheat and or pre-cool the car remotely . The Volvo unit is a mass of small, fiddly buttons, with various car controls embedded around the perimeter but as with most cars, a bit of time spent with the system makes it easy enough to get your head around.
The Connected Touch system is related rather than integrated. The touch screen controlled system runs a version of the Android operating system, as used on the loads of smart phones and tablet computers. It is an automotive-focused version of Android called Asteroid developed by car tech company Parrot. The number of apps to download from the Asteroid store is fairly small and exactly how useful getting instant messages, Facebook or email through the car actually is remains to be seen. None can be used while driving, and when stationary, a mobile phone does the same job. Just better.
The apps that make the most sense are the those which work on the move. Our car came preloaded with music streaming services Spotify and Deezer, along with iGo navigation but there are other ones for speed camera warnings, journey logging and internet radio. We’ll be downloading and trying them all as we get to know the system and reporting back on the results.
The downsides of the system are that the touch screen is a stretch from the driver’s seat and not desperately responsive. Our car is using a 3G data dongle in the glovebox, costing around £10 per month and in order to use Spotify, you need to have a £10 per month ‘Premium’ account with the service too. In order to get the most from the system, you need to invest. There is also the issue that system is restricted by the the amount of signal available. If you have no 3G signal, you’ll be sat in silence. Until you switch back to the CD player, radio, DAB radio, Bluetooth streaming or USB stick. You aren’t short of options in the V60.
The upside though is that you have a huge selection of music and entertainment at your fingertips. Before setting off on my daily commute, I can fire up Spotify, search for pretty much any music artist in the world, and be listening to their entire back catalogue within a minute. Most of my journeys weave in and out of the M25 where there is a consistent data signal and the system works brilliantly.
It seems inevitable that the future of in-car entertainment will be web connected. As to whether the future has already arrived in the form of Sensus Connected Touch, remains to be seen.