Volvo’s first plug-in hybrid is its first step into this new world and is part of its broader aim to bring its cars in line with other manufacturers, but is the V60 hybrid worth taking the leap for?
Volvo is cleaning up its act. Not that it had anything particularly negative to come back from, but this marks a new era for the company as it looks to move on from just being that company that makes particularly safe cars, to being one that makes cars that are also less harmful to the environment.
While the Volvo V60 Hybrid marks its first eco-friendly model on the market, it also announced last month that it plans to launch its first fully electric car by 2019.
Sure, that sounds like an awfully long way away, but by then we would hope that phrases like ‘range anxiety’ can be done away with and finally brought in line with internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.
Anyway, looking at the present, this is Silconrepublic.com’s first plug-in hybrid car, so perhaps we should get on to explaining what exactly that means.
Engine – taking things up a gear
While a typical hybrid, like a Toyota Prius, is the most successful hybrid car around, it doesn’t have the ability to charge from public charge points or electrical points like the V60 Hybrid.
Underneath the boot of the car lies a hefty 11.2kWh battery, which powers the rear wheels of the car in either ‘pure’ all-electric mode, or four-wheel drive when that is activated.
When I say hefty, I wouldn’t mean compared with some of the electric vehicles (EVs) I’ve covered before due to them being entirely electric-powered, but it’s still larger than a typical hybrid.
But the real power of the car comes from its 215bhp 2,400cc diesel engine, which will be taking you up to the higher speeds, and longer range, than an EV will ever take you.
From driving at both low and high (legal) speeds, I can tell you that over the course of four days of driving my fuel gauge went down one bar the entire time, which was pretty impressive.
The reported range is 250km per gallon (or just under 4l for those of us not in the US), which can always be increased when the battery-save option is engaged.
With the press of a button, your car will effectively turn into an all-diesel car, pumping energy generated from the engine back into the battery if it’s running low.
I have the ‘pure’, ‘hybrid’ ‘power’
Like I touched on earlier, there is a pure electric mode that can turn the V60 into all-electric model for some silent, clean running. But there are also two other options to run, which are activated with the press of a button in the centre console, those being: ‘hybrid’ and ‘power’.
The first is pretty self-explanatory, but the latter uses both the diesel engine and electric to take things up a notch, which it certainly does.
In pure mode, the car can reach a top speed of 125km/h, which is more than enough for driving speeds obviously, but, bear in mind, when I tried doing this in motorway conditions the 50km battery life understandably shrank by a fair bit.
You can still hit 230km/h with the diesel engine, though, and when combined it’s certainly punchy for what is essentially a family car.
Charging is on-point
It’s certainly a different experience charging a plug-in hybrid, compared with an EV. After all, it’s not totally necessary to do much in the way of charging, as if you wanted you could charge the battery using the car’s engine.
But that would defeat the purpose now, wouldn’t it? Charging time is pretty standard for EVs with an estimated 7.5 hours to charge it through a plug, and 3.5 hours to charge through a standard, non-fast, public charge point.
I would say that while some charge points worked for me, others didn’t, telling me that it couldn’t recognise the car due to the fact it’s not in ESB’s database at the moment, being a new car and all.
Interior – roomy and full of buttons
Bearing in mind I was test driving the higher-end version of the V60 Hybrid, I was quite comfortable with my leather trim, heated seats and air-con, which all come as standard, which makes sense given its higher-end price.
Being a Volvo estate, it’s unsurprisingly roomy, except where you would expect, as the inclusion of the battery in the rear of the car reduces its boot capacity considerably, to what would probably amount to a standard saloon car.
This might be a little disappointing to estate owners who like being able to haul small loads in the back, but it is enough for a large shop.
The optional extras, however, make you question whether they’re really worth the potential €6,000 if you went with all of them.
While the €2,300 driver assist pack that comes with a whole range of safety features like cyclist detection and automatic braking for collisions might seem like a sound investment, €1,000 for navigation that comes as standard in cars of its class is very steep.
Especially considering smartphones can do everything it can for no extra cost, and then there’s the €174 rear seat cupholders, which makes you wonder why we have hands in the first place.
Drive – needs to get warmed up
While off-roading was not on my itinerary when testing this car, I can say that it handled well on both regular roads and motorways, with little discomfort going over bumps, it has to be said.
The steering wheel, however, had a bit of weight to it that was a little jarring at first, but eventually I got used to it. This might not appeal to everyone, though, depending on what car you currently own.
But the one issue that bugged me was when the car was initially turned on, the braking was severe, even with the slightest tap, which would eventually disappear as the pads heated up but was still a minor grievance.
Verdict – luxury, at a price
When we get down to the brass tacks, this car is more than capable of performing well in any scenario thrown at it. With the plug-in hybrid, you don’t get the EV anxiety that still sits in the back of the mind of most potential EV owners.
It’s definitely a comfortable ride, straightforward to drive and should definitely appeal to any previous Volvo driver, but you really have to be certain that you’re looking for a long-range cruiser that will offset your carbon footprint.
After all, in Ireland the standard Volvo V60 will set you back at least €32,545, but the Volvo V60 Hybrid (at least the higher-end model that I drove) costs more than double that at €66,053.
That’s including the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) grant and VRT relief that totals €5,000 for plug-in hybrids.
The BMW i3 EV I drove back in 2014, meanwhile, cost €41,040.
All images of the Volvo V60 Hybrid via Connor McKenna