By Paul Clarke
Model/Engine size: Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine Automatic SE Nav
Fuel: Diesel-electric plug-in hybrid
Fuel economy combined: 155.2 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 9/10
The Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine is an all-wheel drive Estate with official fuel economy of 155mpg, and it’s completely unique because it’s the only diesel-electric plug-in hybrid you can buy.
To assist motorists to make the transition between fossil fuel power and electric power, manufacturers have brought a number of plug-in hybrids to market. In the UK all of these cars are petrol plug-in hybrids – apart from one: the Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine. Petrol plug-in hybrids are cleaner from the point of view of emissions that impact on local air quality, but when such powertrains are in an SUV they often deliver appalling fuel economy in real-life driving cycles. In comparison the V60 plug-in diesel hybrid offers zero emission electric power around town, and efficient diesel power for longer journeys – in other words the best of both worlds for certain driving patterns.
The Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine is a regular V60 Estate with – yes, you guessed it – two engines. One of these power units is a 163hp 5-cylinder, 2.4-litre diesel engine (driving the front wheels), the other is an electric motor which powers the rear axle and allows electric all-wheel drive capability. Power is channelled through a 6-speed automatic transmission.
When four-wheel drive is activated, the diesel engine operates continuously and the generator ensures that the charge level in the battery pack is sufficient to supply the rear axle with the necessary power to enable all-wheel drive even with a low battery charge.
The electric motor produces 68 hp and 200 Nm and is powered by a 11.2 kWh lithium-ion battery which you can plug the into the mains to provide a range of 31 miles on electric power.
The battery pack sits under the boot, and this results in the boot floor being higher than in a regular V60. Combined with a low roof line, this means the boot is not particularly spacious. Other than that, the interior is very similar to a regular V60, as is the exterior. This means that due to a mid-life refresh, the front of the V60 has ended up looking very bland.
The Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine has three driving modes: Pure, Hybrid and Power. Pure means zero emission electric driving. Hybrid uses electric or diesel power as the car sees fit. Power combines the electric and diesel power units to deliver a total power output of 215hp and 68 hp and maximum torque of over 600 Nm.
There’s also a Save button, which allows you to conserve battery charge for use later on. And the AWD button provides electric four-wheel drive.
The result of all this is that the V60 delivers refined, near silent zero emission driving around town, and diesel cruising ability on long journeys. There’s also decent performance, although it’s worth noting that the V60 weighs two tonnes, which somewhat dulls the potential of the 5-cylinder 2.4-litre diesel engine. It also means the handling isn’t as agile as it should be, and the ride suffers on poor surfaces. The steering also isn’t up there with the class best in terms of sharpness and feel. Although you can change gear manually using the gear lever, there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles.
A by-product of its weight problem is that the V60 has a useful 1800kg towing capability, which is unusual for a hybrid.
Back in 2011 Green Car Guide spent time with Volvo during development of the V60 D5 Twin Engine, including in Berlin and in Sweden with the eventual unveil. During that period there was talk of testing the car in the Swedish snow, but that never quite happened. So, as luck would have it, during our week-long test of the V60, we happened to be in the Lake District when there was sufficient quantity of snow and ice to give the V60’s all-wheel drive system a worthwhile challenge.
It’s worth noting at this point that the car had standard tyres rather than winter tyres, but nevertheless we decided to attempt to venture up the very steep and icy mountain road out of the Langdale valley. It was so icy that it wasn’t possible to get out of the car and walk on the road to take photographs without slipping over, but the V60 made it up the side of the valley, and back down. So after five years of waiting, we were finally able to test the V60’s all-weather capability, and it passed the test.
So in our view the concept of the V60 Twin Engine is sound: zero emission electric power for urban use, diesel power for long journeys, a practical estate body, and all-wheel drive. Back in 2011, this V60 was revolutionary. Today, for our driving patterns, it still makes a lot of sense. However there are a few small issues which spoil the overall package…
Let’s start with the infomedia controls, which are buttons scattered somewhat randomly around the base of the dashboard. Compared to the infomedia interface on the new XC90, this is not an elegant solution; but compared to some other cars that have all of their controls on the touchscreen, the buttons and dials are actually reasonably functional when you get used to them. However the touchscreen takes an age to come to life.
As with virtually all cars with a lane departure warning system, this feature is just plain annoying. You can switch it off by pressing a button, but you have to do this every time you get in the car to keep your sanity. Also, if you keep the headlights on the auto setting, the idea is that they stay on main beam until they sense oncoming traffic, when they dip the beams. However there were many occasions on dark and twisty Lake District lanes where you desperately needed main beam and the car wouldn’t let you select it.
Along with most EVs, when the V60 was in electric drive mode, the heating and demisting was mostly rubbish, especially when there was ice on the windscreen.
Finally, the car seems determined to keep you locked out of all doors except the driver’s door, and if you inherit the car with the traffic announcements on, it takes a Google search on your smart phone to find out how to deactivate this feature.
The official combined fuel economy figure for the V60 Twin Engine is 155.2mpg. If you drive on the NEDC test cycle every time you drive the V60 then you may come close to this in real-life. However back in the real-world our driving pattern is typically around 80% on motorways and A & B roads, and around 20% on local urban journeys. Petrol plug-in hybrid SUVs perform terribly on such a driving cycle, usually returning around 25mpg. However after a week with the V60 diesel plug-in hybrid we averaged 52.6mpg. The V60 may have a very unfashionable diesel engine, but this is around twice the economy we would expect from a petrol plug-in hybrid SUV.
The V60’s official electric driving range is 31 miles. It consistently displayed 30 miles of electric range after a full recharge, even though this fell to around 26 miles in real-life driving.
With a 9.9 gallon fuel tank, the V60 has a useful overall driving range.
The Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine Automatic SE Nav is available from £38,105. Our test car had the options of the Driver Support Pack (£1,900), Twin Engine Winter Illumination Pack (£1,150), Premium Sound by Harmon Kardon (£500), Rear Park Assist Camera (£375), Keyless Drive with Personal Car Communicator (£550), Power Passenger Seat (£400), 18’’ Titania (Diamond Cut/Black) alloy wheels with 235/40 tyres (£775), metallic paint (£625), and detachable towbar (£750); taking the price of our test car to £45,130.
The V60 range is available from £23,075 for the T4 Business Edition.
The V60 D5 Twin Engine enjoys a number of financial incentives. There’s the government’s £2,500 plug-in car grant, and there’s a low BIK rate of just 7% for company car drivers. And 100% exemption from the London Congestion Charge.
Today the politically correct choice for global markets that are sensitive to emissions that impact upon local air quality is a petrol plug-in hybrid. However if you have a typical driving cycle like ours, ie. lots of long distance driving and some local driving, and want better real-life economy than a petrol plug-in hybrid would offer, then a diesel plug-in hybrid makes sense. However there’s only one diesel plug-in hybrid you can buy and that’s the Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine. This powertrain option is not fashionable, and the V60 D5 Twin Engine is an under-rated and overlooked car. But with its practical estate body style and the all-weather traction offered by all-wheel drive, it’s a highly sensible car.
When we tested the V60 Twin Engine in 2013 we awarded it a 10/10. For us, the concept still deserves a 10/10 today, but unfortunately time, and the competition, has moved on since then, and so today the Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine gains a Green Car Guide rating of 9 out of 10.
Fuel economy extra urban: N/A
Fuel economy urban: N/A
Test economy: N/A
CO2 emissions: 48 g/km
Green rating: VED band A – first year £0
Weight: 1998 Kg
Company car tax liability (2016/17): 7%
Price: £38,105 (before the £2,500 government plug-in car grant)
Insurance group: TBC
Power: Engine 163hp + 68 hp electric motor
Max speed: 130 mph
0-62mph: 6.9 seconds
Torque: Engine 420 Nm + 200 Nm electric motor