There are many things to like about the new Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid, but there is always one factor that pleases us more than any other whenever we drive a vehicle with the option of electric propulsion.
It isn’t the electric motor’s smoothness, nor its utter silence, though both are worthy qualities.
Instead, it’s the satisfaction of negotiating the streets of any crowded city and knowing that, no matter how snarled the traffic and slow the progress, your energy use is being measured in pennies, rather than pounds. There are few things more frustrating than listening to your wages burn away as your engine churns over in stationary traffic, and the V60 and its ilk removes that frustration entirely.
The roads of Edinburgh and Glasgow hardly provided us with the worst traffic we’ve come across on a test, but it was a treat to press the button marked ‘Pure’ on the car’s centre console and waft effortlessly through side-streets to our destinations.
You can travel up to 31 miles like this, and even hold its electric range for later, should the first part of your journey not require the silence and cleanliness of electric propulsion.
A little more about the V60 Plug-In’s drivetrain: Its main motive power is a 215-horsepower, five-cylinder twin-turbo diesel, as found under the bonnet of your average V60 D5. In this application it’s named D6, the extra ‘cylinder’ accounted for by the rear-mounted electric motor.
This develops continuous power of 27 horses and a peak of 68, and is capable of taking the car to 78 mph on its own. Top speed of both powerplants combined is a healthy 143 mph, while sinking the right-hand pedal from a standstill will see you reach 62 mph in just 6.1 seconds.
Prodding that pedal hard is the only real way you’ll hear the diesel engine. It’s a credit to Volvo that transition between electric and diesel is nearly inaudible and vibration isn’t an issue either.
The batteries do eat into boot space (the floor is raised over that of the standard model), but then the V60 is the stylish kid of Volvo’s estate range, and outright space has never been its main priority.
Officially, the V60 Plug-In Hybrid will do 155 mpg in Hybrid mode. Volvo freely admits this number depends entirely on how and where you drive the car, and is simply an output from European fuel economy testing. Driving around Edinburgh on a mix of diesel and electricity the on-board display showed figures in the 60s, and open road driving with a depleted battery was nearer high 30s to early 40s.
If you’re able to recharge frequently you may see many hundreds of miles per “gallon”. Various charging options are available, and times depend on the level of current – 230 Volts at 10 amps takes 4.5 hours. This rises to 7.5 hours at 6 A, but drops to 3.5 hours at a full 16 A. Often it’ll take less than this if you’ve not fully depleted the battery.
Important though it is, there’s more to the V60 Plug-In Hybrid experience than its powertrain.
A set of aerodynamically-enhanced wheels, integrated twin tailpipes in the rear valance, Plug-In Hybrid badging and the extra door for a charging point (on the front nearside wing) differentiate it from other V60s, but like its siblings the Plug-In is a sleek, handsome example of the estate genre.
The cabin is typical Volvo – beautifully styled and built, utterly logical and cossetting enough to while away thousands of miles in total comfort. If we are to pick nits, the floating centre console does seem a little over-buttoned, and it took the combined efforts of carwow and our co-driver an embarassingly long time to discover how to reset the trip computer on the slick TFT instruments.
The hybrid gubbins have bumped up the V60’s weight by a not insignificant 250 kilograms, and this can be felt when driving. Or it can in brisk cornering at any rate, where the accurate steering and good grip feel tested by the sheer bulk being restrained. Ride quality is pretty good, the V60 pummelling bumps into submission as it rolls over them.
You’ll the extra bulk on the trip computer too, if much of your V60 driving is done on motorways – it’s simply not as efficient as a long-distance vehicle, though you should still see some respectable figures on a steady cruise.
Priced from: 43,775 (including 5,000 government grant)
Combined MPG: 155
CO2: 48 g/km
If our review sounds generally positive, there are a few caveats. The first is that price – slightly eye-watering compared to regular V60s, and more even than other plug-ins like the highly-rated Vauxhall Ampera. You do of course get more prestige than the Ampera and the potential for better long-distance mpg, but as the Volvo is largely aimed at city users anyway, some may find the Ampera (and its Chevrolet Volt cousin) are are preferable due to their greater electric range.
The V60 plug-in is also slightly less practical than standard and slightly compromised by extra weight. But we like it anyway – it looks great, drives well, is impeccably refined and pleasingly high-tech. If the price doesn’t scare you off, we’re happy to recommend it.
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