The Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid shouldnt work. With a 2.4-litre diesel engine mated to an electric motor which then shuttles you about through a complex four-wheel-drive chassis, it sounds like an engineering fudge executed in a pretty body-shell justto impress environmentalists.
Yet Volvo and its engineers have an admirable knack for getting it right. With the expectation that Volvo is probably right and Im probably wrong, I booked one for a week. And held my breath.
If youve ever strayed just a tiny bit above the UK motorway speed limit youll have been scanning your rear view mirror for a V60. It’s tough, purposeful and restrained funnily enough, just what we want our Bobbies to be, and they’re a group that loves the V60 almost as much as I do.
As a design the V60 is perfect for Middle England, with plenty of space for three kids, a couple of Labradors, and a Waitrose shop. Unlike most four-wheel-drive cars the V60 has a saloon car stance, not a Land Rovers, which illustrates what Volvos customers want; they need all-weather mobility, rather than real off-road prowess.
The result is a fine looking car that looks every inch of its 50,000 price tag. Yes, this is an expensive car, and if youre spending that much on a Volvo it needs to be perfect…
The interior is everything weve come to expect from the Swedish company. Its minimal, cool, and extraordinarily comfortable, although the front seats arent as comfortable as I recall them being in previous models. Blame the multitude of adjustments,along with a non-functioning memory button that meant having to readjust the seat every time my wife had used it. Which was rather a lot, because she loved it.
Remember how much the V60 plug-in hybrid costs? Well, a fair chunk of that is down to the 8,000-worth of optional extras fitted to my test car: The Driver Support Pack (collision warning and full braking, pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, queue assist, lane departure warning, blind spot information, active high beam, and traffic sign recognition) looks like good value at 1,900 but I think I could manage without Sensus Connected Touch (internet connectivity) at 1,200.
Ditto the digital TV at 800 and Arctic Night Trim at 225. Yet the rest of the optional equipment is all sensible and sensibly priced so well call it a 48,000 car, shall we?
Why would someone buy an estate car like the V60 plug-in hybrid? To provide fast transport for crossing continents? Go the tip at the weekends? Or to provide quiet, congestion-charge-free city work? If youre looking for one or all of the above youll be pleased to know the V60 delivers. Its fast, quiet, smooth, comfortable, economical, and capacious. Which it should be, given how much it costs.
Yet it is also great fun to drive with sharp handling, huge mid-range torque and an agility that belies its design; it is as versatile as the Range Rover Evoque but even better on the road thanks to a lower centre of gravity.
Dont forget that an electric car can givea more satisfying driving experience than a fossil fuelled car can too: there is real pleasure to be gained from watching the battery recharge itself when you are coasting and braking. The road from my house is steep and downhill, giving me three-quarters-of-a-miles worth of free energy every time I took the Volvo out and something for nothing is always worth having.
The D5 diesel engine comes with a lovely five-cylinder warbling sound and 325 lb/ft of torque, so its a quick car, even moving almost 2,000 kgs of weight around. Yes, this is no lightweight; lithium-ion batteries are heavy.
There is also a 70hp electric motor driving the rear wheels, which can be used alongside the 215hp diesel engine that drives the front axle, perking things up even more: how does 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds sound? Or a top speed of 143mph? Figures like that translate into devastating overtaking ability from the middle of the rev range, which is always nice even if the gruff engine is sometimes overly intrusive.
The V60 is no one-trickpony though. Switch from Power mode to Hybrid and you have a civilised touring car that alternates between diesel and electric propulsion depending on what the driver is demanding. It can also be driven in Pure mode, which is, as the name suggests, fully electric and effective up to speeds of about 50mph. This, combined with the Volvos decent ride and plush interior, gives limo-like levels of serenityand civility.
With a full battery charge the V60 has an electric-only range of about 30miles, which should be enough for most commuters, especially if they can charge it during the day while theyre at work. For the rest of us, especially those who live in the countryside and so have to travel greater distances than urban folk, the diesel engine is always there in a back-up role to make sure you get where you need to be without worrying you might run out of electric power.
Value for money
The Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid is not a cheap car: the base price of 43,775 (taking into account the 5,000 plug-in car grant) is just the starting point; most owners would need to spend another 5,000 or so to get a car that works for them. Yet the rewards the V60 provides are worth every penny. This is an all-purpose car that can slug it out with the best of them in what is a very, very competitive market.
The Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid surprised me; I was expecting a fudge and came away impressed. Sure, it isnt perfect: the diesel engine is a bit louder than Id like, and the gear ratios have been designed with fuel efficiency rather than performance in mind but on the whole the Volvo provides the perfect solution for families that want large, environmentally friendly cars.
That it is great to drive is a welcome bonus, andraises the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid from the ranks of the worthy to the very impressive. Environmental integrity has never been so easy to live with. Click here to find out more about the Volvo V60 range, including reviews, stats, photos and more.