This is a £48,000 Volvo estate, but it's no tyre-smoking Polestar performance version. The V60 Plug-In Hybrid has a part-time electric mode, and boasts some typically astounding combined economy figures. But does the idea work in the rear world, and can that price tag be justified? Read on for the CAR verdict.
Why would you buy Volvo V60 D6 Plug-In Hybrid over any other V60?
Because of its 155.2mpg combined fuel claim and high spec level. Now before we get into the fact that such figures are rarely achieved, let’s look at it in relative terms. The regular V60 diesel, which is powered by the same common rail 2.4-litre diesel five-cylinder, makes 212bhp and has a claimed figure of 44.1mpg. This diesel hybrid – badged D6 AWD – adds a 67bhp/147lb ft electric motor to achieve its 155mpg.
Whether or not these are the actual numbers, the hybrid is around three-and-half times more economical. Yet it has the full gamut of gear, including all-wheel drive, full SE Lux specification, a five-star crash rating and a 6.1-second 0-62mph claim. That also means that it’s faster than the regular version, but, more significantly, with 48g/km of CO2, it steers clear of the lower-boundary London Congestion Charge being introduced in July 2013.
How do you charge it, and for how long?
You can plug it into a regular UK power socket that’d you’ll find in any flat, house or workplace. Charging it for between three and four hours gives you a full battery (from flat) and up to 31 miles of electric drive in ‘Pure’ mode. The electric motor also works with the all-wheel drive system, feeding the rear wheels while the diesel powers the fronts.
Can you drive it as an electric car?
Yes. The V60 has split personalities, depending on which of the three modes it’s in. Selectable via the buttons between the audio and the shifter, the default mode is ‘Hybrid’, but it kicks off under electric power. Choose the ‘Pure’ mode to travel under electric power with zero emissions, where it’s perfect for saving fuel in traffic jams, and even for shorter bursts around town as you can reach speeds of up to 60mph. It also gives the V60 the ability to leap into action instantly with its quick response and low-down electric torque – surprising the odd London taxi in the city hustle.
What happens when the battery goes flat?
Once all the juice is gone, the V60 reverts automatically to ‘Hybrid’ mode, where you’ll find the electric arsenal making all sorts of whirring and whizzing noises, and vibrations coming through the brake pedal as if there’s a coffee machine under the bonnet. The noise might not totally put off some buyers, but it’s not the seamless transition between diesel and electric that you’d expect from a premium product – especially when this car costs £48,775 before the £5k government grant. It also means that you don’t know which pedal feel you’ll get next time you hit the brakes, as it’s constantly changing as it switches between modes.
So what’s it like to drive on longer trips?
After the near-silent slow speed electric slinking about, a hard shove of the throttle gives you access to the 212bhp five-pot diesel. The diesel has a great burble when you’re on it, but isn’t as quiet and refined around town as you’d expect. It has loads of torque though and, in ‘Power’ mode – which uses the diesel exclusively and has the sharpest throttle – this is a properly quick estate. But you’d be missing the point of this car if you used this mode all the time, as it’s thirstier and, frankly, if you’ve forked out for all those batteries and bits, you’d want to make use of them.
What are the drawbacks though – weight? Dynamics? Space?
There are 300 more parts in the Hybrid over the regular V60 diesel, and they add 301kg to the V60’s mass for a total of 2044kg. The batteries, mounted behind the rear axle, mean you can feel it, too, especially when changing direction out of a roundabout or during fast cornering. The brakes are more than up to attacking corners, but the lack of shift paddles doesn’t help, while the steering shows up the doughy body control, again largely down to the extra heft. The beefiness does help to make the V60 a composed and solid long-distance motorway cruiser. Here, only the excellent Hybrid display on the brilliant, crystal clear dash graphics that have a ‘Hybrid’ theme – tells you that you’re not in a regular V60, as you enjoy the comfortable leather chairs, great audio system and superb surface finishes.
There’s still plenty of luggage space, but open the tailgate and you’ll find that the floor’s interrupted by the charging cable’s stowage area. Exterior changes are subtle, but include redesigned bumpers and more aerodynamic alloys wheels as well as what looks like a fuel filler on the passenger side front wing, which is where the charging cord plugs in.
We’d stick with a regular V60 unless you do serious miles, and option the Sports chassis for the sharpest dynamics. Take the government grant into account, and the V60 Hybrid’s £49k price drops to £44k, making it slightly less of blow compared to the equivalent diesel’s £39,030 asking price. It is the most luxurious PHEV we’ve driven, though, but having said that, your Volvo dealer can offer you the same level of luxury and a better car dynamically for less money. Yet the bean-counters and eco-warriors out there with revel in the cost and fuel benefits, so if you’re after a frugal, fast tourer and drive miles on end, the V60 Hybrid might just make sense.