Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid SE Lux
Week ending October 25
Driven this week 315 miles
Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid review
A rash of new long-termers have just arrived at What Car?, the Plug-In Hybrid being one of them. Usually, the custodian of a freshly delivered car is allowed to have exclusive access to their new charge for a week or two - it's a sort of unwritten rule here.
However, I needed something that could take me to Milton Keynes in relative comfort, before heading down to Poole in Dorset and then back to our office in Teddington in south-west London. So I asked Nigel very nicely if I could borrow his Volvo for a few days.
When I started my journey, there was very little charge in the batteries, so most of my miles to MK and then down to Poole were spent with the V60 running on diesel, with the electric motors running only on their own when I was crawling along in traffic.
My weekend involved shortish journeys, so I was determined to see if I could get more use out of the batteries. A full charge from empty took two or three hours, with the dashboard display indicating a range of 30 miles.
That proved pretty optimistic, although I managed to complete a trip to Sainsbury's and Christchurch on mostly electrons. The actual electric range seems to be just above 20 miles, which doesn't sound that good at all, but I became pretty obsessed with charging and then recharging the Volvo so I could run it just on electricity.
I live too far away from the office for an electric car to work for me, but this Plug-In Hybrid makes much more sense.
By Rob Keenan
Week ending October 18
Buying cars is all about numbers. Price is the most obvious one, but CO2, 0-60, mpg, bhp and BIK are all vital figures, depending on the sort of buyer you are.
On paper, a Volvo V60 looks about as average a numbers game as you can find. After all, most models in the range are solid three-star cars, they have reasonable economy, enough power, appropriate pricing and adequate performance. However, the numbers for the V60 Hybrid are definitely not average; they’re a long way from average, in fact.
The very important number here, and main reason we have added it to the What Car? fleet is the number one – the V60 Hybrid is the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid. We want to see how much sense it makes in the real world.
It’s certainly a complex bit of kit. Essentially, it’s a front-wheel-drive V60 powered by Volvo’s familiar five-cylinder, 2.4-litre D5 diesel engine. However, this is backed up by a 70Kw electric motor that drives the rear wheels, effectively making the car four-wheel drive. Fuel tank capacity is reduced because of the batteries, but the range on diesel-only power is still claimed to be 560 miles.
The batteries are charged from mains power or by harvesting the kinetic energy of the car’s momentum when coasting and braking. The electric-only range is 31 miles, which pushes the total range to nearly 600 miles.
It’s a strong thing, the V60, because it has 285bhp and 472lb ft of torque. Those big numbers translate into a small one: 5.8 seconds. That’s how long it takes the V60 to get to 62mph, making this both the fastest and cleanest Volvo ever built.
The V60 is certainly pretty quick off the mark, but the serenity provided by pure electric power draws sharper focus on to the gruffness of the five-cylinder diesel engine. That said, switching between the two modes (and between front and rear-wheel drive) is a smooth process. The Volvo rides well enough too, although the extra weight of the batteries makes the whole driving experience somewhat less than dynamic.
For company car users, the 5% tax rating is deeply attractive. Benefit-in-kind liability is around £2500, which is pretty impressive for a plushly equipped estate car. Add the fact that the Volvo emits 48g/km and therefore attracts no road tax fee, and the list of eye-catching figures just keeps on growing.
However, there’s a number that is much less palatable; the V60 costs an eye-watering £50,000, putting it up against some high-class opposition. The cutting-edge drivetrain is what the bulk of your money goes on, but it remains to be seen whether the Volvo badge has sufficient allure to tempt buyers away from a BMW or a Mercedes.
A claimed economy figure of 155.2mpg looks ludicrously optimistic, and Volvo concedes that official testing regimes flatter the car. That said, we have been told that 80mpg should be achievable. We’ll put the V60 through our True MPG cycle shortly to see just how well it fares in the real world, and we’ll have long-term economy figures to back that up in time.
Our car has a host of options fitted, based on what we consider will be the most popular. We’ve opted for the Driver Support pack which gives us the full spectrum of Volvo safety systems. Aside from the normal stuff, this adds pedestrian and cyclist detection systems, and intelligent forward lighting to prevent dazzling other road users while maintaining full-beam headlamps.
Two interesting options are the Volvo on Call facility and the Sensus Connect Touch system. The former allows a host of car features to be controlled from a smartphone – surely a feature that will become more commonplace – while the latter keeps the car connected to the internet as you drive. This facilitates real-time, intelligent route planning and allows streaming of music to the stereo.
We’re just settling in with the Volvo at present but early impressions are pretty good. Still, whether all these numbers add up to a decent ownership prospect will be made clearer over the following six months.