Looking at the new petrol-electric plug-in hybrid Volvo XC60 T8 is a bit like looking into a crystal ball. After all, Volvo has made some pretty bold statements about the planned electrification of all its products.
Despite that sparky-sounding future, there’s nothing especially radical about Volvo’s Twin Engine tech. Ahead of the driver is a 314bhp supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine driving the front wheels; behind them, turning the rear axle, is an 86bhp electric motor taking a charge from a mains-chargeable 10.4kWh battery pack.
We’ve already seen this setup in the bigger XC90, but it’s new for the XC60. There are obvious performance benefits in having the same total power output as the XC90 in a smaller and 200kg lighter vehicle – and the big car is no slouch when it comes to the 0-62mph sprint.
The 60’s emissions and economy are the same as the 90’s at 49g/km and 134.5mpg. Perhaps more interesting and relevant are the numbers for the all-electric range in miles – 28 – and the hours it takes to recharge from a regular domestic plug – 3.5.
In Inscription Pro trim, which is the top spec (you can also get it as an R-Design), the T8’s cabin quality easily matches that of a Range Rover Sport. Set the drive mode to Power and the result will be a 5.3sec 0-62mph time, but even in the softer Hybrid mix of motor and engine the XC60 is very much in the upper percentile of fast SUVs.
Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Pro
Engine: 4 cyls in line, 1969cc, supercharged and turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor
Power: 314bhp at 5700rpm (petrol), 86bhp (electric)
Torque: 295lb ft at 2200-4500rpm (petrol), 177lb ft (electric)
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight: 2115kg
Top speed: 140mph
Economy: 134.5mpg (combined)
CO2 and tax band: 49g/km, 5%
Not that you’d necessarily spend much time or effort on extracting the maximum performance from it. It’s not really that sort of a car. For a start, with most of the drive going to the front wheels, the handling is more steady than Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Macan-scintillating. The antiseptic steering, hefty weight and grabby brakes see to that.
On top of that, leaning on the throttle will munch through the car’s modest battery life. Monitoring the charge level is a normal sort of activity in a plug-in hybrid. As in many vehicles of this type, the T8 lets you conserve your zero-emissions range for a later, more appropriate use, usually in town-friendly Pure drive mode. The difficulty comes with the two-tonne weight of the Volvo. That’s a lot for 86bhp to shift. As a consequence, the petrol engine is always primed to jump in and assist, and its arrival on the scene in Pure mode could never be described as subtle.
Things are smoother In Hybrid mode, but you’ll still notice the engine stepping in. The ironic fact about the XC60 is that the driving experience is at its best when the battery is dry, or being recharged by the engine – and this is when the T8 makes least economic sense. With a flat battery, we were averaging 24.8mpg. That compares to the 24.6mpg Porsche claims for its Macan Turbo in city use.
Nevertheless, the decision to buy an XC60 T8 can be justified by other factors, like its luxury, its straight-line speed, and its general aura of desirability. If you’re mainly looking for something to use on local hops or between charge points, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by its performance/running costs equation.
Stretch it out into a more recreational role, as F-Pace or Macan owner might, and the justification process becomes more difficult. Once that limited electric range is gone, you’re left driving the most expensive XC60 with a thirst to match its lofty purchase price. Plenty of other fast SUVs deliver a lighter and more engaging drive, exposing the limitations of not only the XC60 T8 but plug-in hybrid cars generally.