2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid review
* World's first diesel plug-in hybrid * 155.8mpg and 48g/km of CO2 * On sale in May, priced from 48,775...
This new version of the Volvo V60 is the world's first diesel plug-in hybrid. It combines the strong economy and pulling power of a diesel engine with an electric motor, which is powered by a battery that can be charged from the mains.
The idea is that you charge the car overnight this takes less than 4.5 hours from a conventional domestic power supply and get a pure electric range of up to 31 miles. If you need to go further, the diesel engine gives a total range up to 560 miles.
Theoretically spectacular economy and emissions are the result; the V60 Plug-in is good for an official 155.2mpg on the combined cycle and 48g/km of CO2. Not bad for a car that can accelerate to 60mph in 5.8 seconds.
However, these figures don't include the mains energy used to propel the car, while quirks of the official fuel consumption test significantly exaggerate the Plug-in Hybrids economy.
In the real world, Volvo claims you can expect around 80mpg.
What's the 2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid like to drive?
It takes plenty of hardware to achieve all this. Besides the 215bhp 2.4 litre five-cylinder diesel engine driving the front wheels, the Plug-in's rear wheels are driven by a 70bhp electric motor.
Like all hybrids, this V60 harvests the kinetic energy of its momentum when coasting and braking to recharge the boot-mounted lithium-ion battery pack, usefully extending its range beyond the 31 miles that a mains charge provides.
Three main driving mode choices are offered, but ignore these and the Volvo defaults to its hybrid strategy, both electric motor and diesel engine propelling the car singly, or in tandem, depending on the situation.
However, unlike conventional hybrids in which the electric motor drives the car only if you accelerate gently at low speeds the V60 Plug-in can gather pace briskly using pure electric power, and manage far higher speeds (around 77mph) before it requires assistance from the diesel engine.
Accelerate really hard and the diesel engine does cut in, but this is done so smoothly and quietly that you might not even notice.
Besides the standard hybrid mode you can select 'Pure' mode for pure electric driving, which prevents the diesel engine cutting in at all. There's also a 'Save' setting that preserves the battery's charge for later city use - useful in zero-emission zones. The third button is labelled 'Power', and is all about maximising acceleration. Indeed, Volvo considers the V60 plug-in as something of a performance car, and has tuned its suspension for a slightly more entertaining drive.
We wouldn't quite call it a sports estate, but it's certainly fast, highly capable and, with four-wheel drive, secure is slippery conditions, too.
True, the ride is a bit busy at times, but all-round refinement is excellent.
What's the 2013 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid like inside?
Like all V60s, the Plug-in Hybrid is well made and tastefully finished inside, with high-quality materials and an elegantly minimalist dashboard. Comfortable seats make for a fine long-distance car, while the Plug-in's SE Lux trim level provides plenty of equipment.
Those interested in the car's workings or are keen to extract the maximum fuel economy can call up a powerflow indicator that display's the car's energy usage.
The cabin is adequately spacious in the rear, but the V60's boot (not the biggest in the first place) has been slightly reduced by the need to store the battery pack below floor.
Should I buy one?
At nearly 50,000, the Plug-in Hybrid is far from cheap. However, it is expected to qualify for the Government's 5000 plug-in car grant and promises to be extraordinarily economical (although our True MPG test will reveal how many miles you can realistically expect from a gallon of diesel).
The Plug-in Hybrid also qualifies for a super low rate (5%) of company car tax, which means your monthly salary deduction will be less than if you'd gone for a diesel Ford Focus.
You'll need to be able to plug the car into the mains to get the full economy and emissions benefit, but this new version of the V60 provides a very appealing combination of economy, performance, comfort and technology.