Volvo V60 Plugin Hybrid review (2012 onwards) MSN Cars UK

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Volvo V60 Electric Cars

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid review (2012 onwards)

What: Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid prototype

Where: Gothenburg, Sweden

Date: December 2011

Price: £45,000-£50,000 est (tbc)

Available: November 2012

Key rivals: Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid, Chevrolet Volt/Vauxhall Ampera, Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4, BMW ActiveHybrid 5

Summary: Volvo bridges the gap between the internal combustion engine and the electric-only car with the V60 Plug-in Hybrid. Extra-strong eco claims, powerful performance — and a production reality come November 2012.

We don’t like: minor sensation of extra weight over rear wheels, remains to be seen whether reality gets anywhere near the fuel economy claims

Volvo Cars

First impressions

The Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is a world first: when it goes on sale late next year it will become the very first plug-in diesel electric hybrid to hit the market. It won’t be cheap — pricing is currently estimated at around £45,000-£50,000 — but it is extraordinary.

A short while ago we drove the new Mercedes SLK55 AMG. a high-performance roadster powered by a 422hp V8 that emits a remarkably modest 195g/km CO2. Remarkable, absolutely, but not quite the stuff that green dreams are made of.

Why mention the Merc now? Because the innocuous-looking Volvo V60 estate pictured here is capable of producing very nearly 300hp, yet also claims the astonishingly low emissions rating of just 49g/km CO2.

It also has a theoretical combined fuel economy of nearly 150mpg, yet goes 0-62mph in just 6.2 seconds. Which, thanks to the on-going optimisation process, is 0.7 seconds faster than previously announced, and now matches the V60 T6 turbo petrol.

Volvo Cars

How is this even slightly possible? The clue is in the ‘Plug-in’ part of the V60’s hybrid drivetrain. With a big battery pack under the boot floor that can be charged at home using a regular plug socket, Volvo says this car will go up to 30 miles on electric power alone.

The combination of this electric-only ability with Volvo’s familiar 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel creates a machine that offers a highly flexible driving experience that can deliver zero emissions, serious power, or something in between.

The V60 Plug-in Hybrid is still nearly a year away from series production, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the car we’ve sampled here is a prototype. But you may be surprised to read that it is also already a year old.

Volvo Cars

This is a measure of the kind of development that goes into such a project, for although the V60 is an existing model, Volvo describes the process of bringing the hybrid to market as akin to developing an entirely new car. It is incredibly complex.

Part of the complexity comes from having a two drivetrains: the ‘D5′ engine under the bonnet provides 215hp at the front wheels, while the battery pack in the boot powers a 70hp electric motor that’s attached to the rear wheels via an ERAD — that’s Electric Rear Axle Drive.

Total combined output is therefore 285hp, which together with a maximum 472lb ft of torque gives this V60 hybrid more than enough thrust to embarrass almost every hot hatch on sale — not to mention a fair number of sports cars.

There are three driving modes: Pure, Hybrid and Power. Pure is the electric mode, and although this limits the V60 to rear-wheel drive and 70hp, 147lb ft of instant electric motor torque means it feels more than adequate at the kinds of city centre speeds it’s been designed to handle.

Volvo Cars

Hybrid, meanwhile, lets the car make the decisions about when to use the battery and when to deploy the diesel engine. This prototype didn’t have the latest gearbox modifications, but by production Volvo hopes to make the transition between propulsion types virtually imperceptible.

Finally, Power uses the ERAD to boost performance. This is where you can standing start to 62mph in just 6.2 — making the most of the dual drivetrain, the back end squats slightly as the electric motor launches the car, before handing over to the diesel’s turbo as the speed increases.

Within yards the V60 starts to feel properly quick. With all four wheels being driven it has immense traction, and the six-speed auto snaps through the cogs like a dog that’s finally been let off its leash. Hybrid or not, this car likes to go fast.

Ride and handling — 3 out of 5

The all-wheel-drive capability can also be exploited to deliver extra stick in slippery situations; there’s a button on the dash to engage both axles when required, though the V60 does a slick job of switching to the end with more grip of its own accord.

Volvo Cars

There’s almost no point trying to make a judgment on the ride quality at this stage, since Volvo had us lapping its decidedly smooth Gothenburg test track. But with nearly 300kg in extra weight over the rear wheels you can imagine the spring and damper rates will be a little higher than they were.

Compared to the earliest set-ups Volvo is please to say it no longer ‘handles like a truck’, and although it does feel slightly strange over cresting corners — an attribute the test track seems to specialise in — it’s unlikely you’ll experience any actual difficulties in day-to-day driving.

Interior — 4 out of 5

Volvo V60 Electric Cars

Volvo Cars

At a glance the Plug-in Hybrid appears to be little more than a very nicely specced regular V60 on on the inside, with fine leather and fancy wood. But given a few moments more you’ll note the Pure, Hybrid and Power buttons on the centre console (no accident, that word order. ).

Then when you switch it on you’ll find an all-digital instrument cluster, that will subtlety alter, depending on driving mode. The gauge with the floating level that shows you exactly how much throttle you can use before the diesel engine cuts in is an especially clever touch.

Out-of-sight changes include revision to the heating and cooling systems. There’s now a diesel-powered heater (Sweden is cold, remember, and this saves the batteries for driving), while the extra efficient climate control is also tasked with maintaining the ideal battery temperature.

You can also pre-set the interior temperature before you set off using the key-fob or a smartphone — do this while the car is plugged into the mains to save the batteries further. Cramming the batteries into the car has meant raising the boot floor by 60mm, incidentally, slightly reducing load space.

Volvo Cars

Economy (5 out of 5) and Safety (4 out of 5 )

That’s not to say the V60 Plug-in Hybrid isn’t practical, however, since alongside being an estate car and a hybrid it can tow up to 1,800kg. Doing so is likely to dent the fuel economy, somewhat, but it is possible, none the less.

All the stats on the car are subject to homologation, but Volvo has run tests to the usual EU criteria, and that 49g/km CO2 comes together with ‘1.9-litre per 100km’ — the European measure for fuel economy, and equivalent to 148.6mpg. Wow.

That sounds ridiculous, but, given that the electric-only range is enough to cover the average daily commute of many, many people, it does start to make at least theoretical sense: keep the batteries topped up and you won’t need to trouble the diesel pump at your local filling station very often.

A full recharge is said to take 7.5 hours using a regular plug socket, but drops to as little as 3.5 hours using a fast charger — still not as convenient as chugging in the diesel, but since the lithium ion cells have no ‘memory effect’ you can recharge them when only partially depleted without issue.

Volvo is confident the batteries will last the life of the car, which in its terms is around 15-20 years; so while battery performance is likely to fall away over time, the V60 will still function as a hybrid even then. Regenerative braking and a start-stop system also help the economy.

As for safety, it’s a Volvo — do you really need to ask? The Plug-in will be tested above and beyond all mandated requirements; over 150 prototypes are scheduled before it goes on sale, and some of these will be sacrificed accordingly.

The MSN Cars Verdict: 5 out of 5

Not only will the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid be pricy, initially it won’t be easy to get hold of — the first run of highly specified cars is limited to just 1,000 examples, of which the UK will only be getting 130; but after that it goes into ‘series production’ and by 2013 you’ll be able to order one in a variety of trim levels.

It does, however, qualify for the government’s electric car grant, which will knock £5,000 off the retail price. And beyond that there’s the £0 annual road duty. If you’re lucky enough to get one as a company car, it will cost just £80-a-month in benefit-in-kind tax.


The blend of performance and eco motoring is similarly outstanding at this point, and with as yet no direct rivals on the horizon, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid represents an excellent choice for the well-healed, tech-savvy motorist who wants to show their sensitive green side without compromising too much on power.

Volvo V60 Electric Cars
Volvo V60 Electric Cars
Volvo V60 Electric Cars
Volvo V60 Electric Cars
Volvo V60 Electric Cars

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