Volvo XC60 T8 TwinEngine review
Volvo's electrification of each of its models continues with the XC60 T8 Twin Engine - the plug-in hybrid version of its latest mid-sized SUV. With a combination of power and economy, the XC80 T8 looks to offer the best of both worlds. NGC puts Volvo's newest PHEV to the test.
Review by Chris Lilly
The XC60 T8 certainly ticks the performance box, with 407hp and 640Nm of torque on tap. This is down to the combination of two motors - one 2.0 litre turbo- and super-charged petrol engine producing 320bhp, and an 86bhp (63kW) electric motor. The combination makes for impressive performance, with 62mph seen from zero in just 5.3 seconds. Pick-up at any speed is impressive, with the natural torque of the electric motor filling in any gaps there might be in the range of the powerful petrol unit. It's fast, very fast, and challenges the Porsche Macan S in a straight line at least. At more sane speeds, the performance available is more than adequate for the task, whatever that task might be. In pure-EV mode the XC60 T8 will potter along comfortably around town as nicely as any pure-EV. Should you need to put your foot down at any point, the petrol unit will kick in to help out, but does so with the subtlety of a rugby player tackling you from behind. The car switches from pure-EV to power modes effectively, missing out the intermediate hybrid mode altogether, with the resultant change in attitudes expected. In hybrid mode, the changeover between petrol and electric - or combination thereof - is virtually seamless, with only the digital dials showing you what's going on really, unless you concentrate hard. It's a very refined setting to be in, helped by a smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. The final setting is power, which gives you everything available for full sportscar-baiting performance.
Although the acceleration might be worthy of the current range of uber-hot hatchbacks, the handling isn't. Considering the XC60 stands rather taller than a sporty family hatch, that's to be expected really. The XC60 handles well, but it's no match for the likes of its rivals from Porsche, or Jaguar's F-Pace in terms of driving dynamics. Following Volvo's aims of providing comfortable cars, leaving the sporty stuff to the British and German manufacturers, the XC60's suspension is too soft to take on a Macan on a track, even if it will best it in a straight line. Instead, rely on the XC60 as a comfortable car and the T8 version will prove an accomplished weapon. The XC60 will tackle a twisty road capably if not with aplomb. It also does very well on a motorway or around town, with the softer suspension that sees it lose marks when compared to the sportier SUVs, proving of benefit in more familiar areas of driving. With air suspension fitted, the XC60 will drop its ride height when in power mode to provide improved handling, while in hybrid it raises back for more relaxed driving.
The XC60 is a stylish SUV, right up amongst the best in its class - especially in the R-Design trim of the test car. More compact than Volvo's XC90, the XC60 looks more agile and sporty than its bigger brother. Where the XC90 competes against a Range Rover, the XC60 takes on the likes of the Range Rover Sport - a surprisingly accurate comparison now that the Land Rover models also offer plug-in hybrid options. As such, although the XC60 isn't the largest of the Volvo range, its still a practical model with plenty of space in the boot. Thanks to Volvo's SPA architecture design, the battery sits in the transmission tunnel and therefore boot space isn't compromised as with many PHEVs. This means the load space is good, as is occupant space. Head, leg, and shoulder room is spacious all round, with the XC60 almost as wide as the XC90 - though shorter. This means that four adults can sit in generous space, or three children able to sit across the rear - that transmission tunnel means there isn't much leg room at all for those in the central seat at the rear.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
Volvo's interiors are first rate at the moment, and the XC60's is no different. The sports seats fitted to the R-Design model tested are as comfortable as other Volvo offerings, but with improved side support for more enthusiastic driving situations. The dashboard is nicely styled, with only a small selection of buttons and controls providing a shortcut for the main functions of the portrait touchscreen. The infotainment system is an excellent one, and works like a tablet allowing you to swipe between screens and show multiple systems on one screen. The driver's digital instruments will change to suit each mode they are driving in, with elements such as sat-nav instructions displayed between the dials too. There are some realy nice materials used across a number of options, with elements such as a natural wood sweep across the dashboard, or a Swedish crystal gear selector available to be ordered. In a market with a number of excellent interiors, Volvo manages to compete with the best, and still retain a distinctly Scandanavian twist to the styling.
MPG & RUNNING COSTS
Here we come to the main reason for the T8's presence on the XC60's model list. The Volvo's official economy figures are reported as 134.5 MPG and 49 g/km CO2 - though of course these are largely arbitrary. As with all PHEVs, the car is as efficient as the driver decides. Without any charge in the battery, the XC60 T8 will return around 30 MPG from its petrol unit alone - plus any tiny amount of charge gained from brake energy recuperation. Equally, the XC60 is easily able to be used as a pure-EV should you stick within its electric range. Volvo states that this is 28 miles on a single charge, though in reality it will be less than that. I managed to cover 25 miles sticking to town driving, before the battery ran out of charge. Impressively, the XC60 managed to complete 22 miles on electric power only at higher speeds and over undulating terrain. The distance between Hereford and my home in Monmouth is the same figure, and driving along rural A- and B-roads at around 50-60mph, the XC60 managed to complete the trip with a fully charged battery, on a chilly autumn evening. Over the course of a week with it, the overall average came in at 51.1 MPG over the course of almost 500 miles. This saw me charge at each end of the commute, giving me around 40 'petrol-free' miles within the 110 mile round-trip. With shorter regular trips taken, obviously the fuel economy figure will increase, but even 50+ MPG is a perfectly respectable figure for a family-sized SUV - especially one with zero-tailpipe emission capability. VED will cost nothing for the first year, and then £440 for the following five years, before dropping to the standard rate including alternative fuel discount, which is currently £130. Because no XC60 T8 is available below the £40,000 premium threshold, all PHEV XC60's will be charged the higher rate.
The biggest bit of green technology available is the electric powertrain, with zero-tailpipe emission motoring available for at least 20 miles in most conditions. Chargeable from home or public points, the XC60 has a Type 2 inlet, and has a 3.7 kW on-board charger. This will top-up the kWh battery in around 2.5 hours from a home or public charge point. Volvo's sat-nav system will display a number of public EV charge points, though there are a fair few screens to go through to display them - and there are some newer points I know of that aren't on the XC60's system. The car's drive mode select system will either be left to its own devices - very capably too - in hybrid mode, or can be set into 'Pure' for electric only driving. It starts up in electric mode when there is charge in the battery, and the car's air suspension lowers when in Pure mode - as it does in Power mode - to improve aerodynamics. The throttle response, gear changes, and car's air-conditioning are all calibrated to be as efficient as possible too. Engine/stop start is improved with the support of the electric motor too, and brake energy recuperation will help top up the battery's charge a little when off the throttle or under braking. According to our calculations, the model tested has a Next Green Car Rating of 44.
The XC60 T8 comes in two trim levels, both of which are the highest up the rungs you can go on Volvo's system. Available either in Inscription Pro or R-Design Pro, you can opt either for the more luxurious or sportier trims respectively. As such, the XC60 T8 is well equipped at either level, even considering the relatively high cost of the car. The Sensus infotainment system, 12.3-inch digital driver's display, 20-inch alloys, leather trim, active headlights, heated steering wheel, and adaptive air suspension are all standard, with certain elements - such as the alloys - increasing in size with the R-Design Pro trim. The only aspects added to the car on test were a 360 degree parking camera with park assist, and Intellisafe Pro, which incorporates Pilot Assist II, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System, Cross Traffic Alert, and Rear Collision Mitigation. The XC60 is also one of the safest cars on sale today with a top-notch EuroNCAP score.
Expect the XC60 T8 TwinEngine to be a truly sporty SUV and you will be disappointed by the driving dynamics. It's also fairly expensive to buy because of the additional technology available under the skin. Despite these downsides, the XC60 PHEV is still a very good car. It's quick when you need it to be and efficient the rest of the time. Although prices start around £57,000, running costs can be very low - especially for those covering lots of short distances with the opportunity to charge regularly. As a company car, it will appeal to many thanks to generous standard kit, a very comfortable drive, and some of the lowest BIK rates around. It's not just suitable for company car buyers though as it will prove an excellent family car for anyone with the finances to get over the high price point. It's a practical and safe family car, providing a real Jekyll and Hyde character - capable of being both very quick and very frugal as conditions fit.
Model tested: Volvo XC60 T8 TwinEngine R-Design Pro
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre petrol and electric motor / 49 g/km
Trim grades: Inscription Pro, R-Design Pro
On-road price: From £55,350 inc. Cat 2 Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG)*. Price as tested: £62,250 (inc options exc. PiCG)
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles. Battery: Eight years / 100,000 miles.
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars
* OLEV approval not awarded at time of publication, though the XC60 T8 meets all the criteria required for a Category 2 vehicle. OTR price above is with the £2,500 PiCG expected to be available in the near future.