Despite its official 134.5mpg NEDC economy figure, thanks to its combined power output of 407hp, the Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine is more of a performance SUV than a green SUV.
We’ve already driven the new Volvo XC60, with the petrol and diesel engine options, on the UK launch. Overall the XC60 is very impressive; however the petrol engine won’t prove to be the most economical way to travel, and the diesel engine… well, it’s a diesel, so it’s being demonised in the media regardless of whether it’s the latest Euro VI technology or whether it’s a 20-year old diesel truck engine. So – does the petrol-electric plug-in hybrid powertrain make more sense? Let’s find out.
The Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine has a 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol engine (which can feed up to 320hp to the front wheels) as well as an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery (which can feed up to 87hp to the rear wheels). Drive is fed through an 8-speed automatic transmission, and all XC60 models are all-wheel drive.
In terms of design, the new Volvo XC60 is very much a scaled-down version of its XC90 big brother. The XC90 looks good, but we think the XC60 looks better (helped by the huge 21-inch alloys on our test car).
The interior is also very similar to the XC90, and again, that’s no bad thing, as it’s very simple and stylish. The minimalistic feel is helped by the fact that Volvo has taken lots of buttons off the dashboard and incorporated them (in various places) on the 9-inch centre console touchscreen. There’s also an 8-inch driver’s information display.
The Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine presents you with a very upmarket interior ambience. The dashboard is stylish and simple, with a large touchscreen with clear graphics (which also provides a clever (but optional) aerial view when reversing). The interior is a refreshing change from the German manufacturers. This theme continues with the engine start switch, a chrome-effect dial that you turn to switch the car on.
When you’re underway you’ll be impressed with the XC60’s refinement, and its performance. With 407hp and 400Nm of torque (the torque figure matching that of the D4 diesel engine), and a 0-62mph time of 5.3 seconds, the T8 is no slouch. It also has a 2100kg towing rating.
Even with the huge 21-inch alloy wheels on our test car, the ride is generally good. In terms of handling, the XC60 is pretty big, and it weighs 2086kg, so its handling is never going to be described as agile. However the steering is reasonably well-weighted, and overall the XC60 offers a very impressive, and luxurious, driving experience.
The XC60 also has a degree of off-road ability. It has all-wheel drive, and our Inscription Pro XC60 had electronically controlled air suspension, which can increase ground clearance by 40mm when the off-road drive mode setting is selected. With its 21-inch wheels, it looks like it could drive over anything, but in practice the XC60’s ability, like any car, is limited by its tyres – which, in the case of our test car at least, ultimately didn’t have that much grip.
There are steering wheel-mounted paddles to change gear, which have a grippy surface on the back, rather than the shiny surface that you’ll usually find.
The XC60 T8 Twin Engine has five main drive mode settings: Hybrid, Pure, Power, AWD and Off Road. When you first drive off in the XC60 T8, the car defaults to hybrid mode. If you want hybrid mode then that’s fine, but if you’re looking to minimise the use of petrol power during local driving then you’ll need to override the hybrid setting and select the EV setting. This entails pushing down the very nicely designed cylindrical drive mode button, then rolling it one setting upwards, and then pressing it down again to select ‘Pure’ mode. So although the drive mode dial is very stylish, it would actually be easier to just press one button once to select a different drive mode.
However this gets even trickier if you want to hold the powertrain in petrol mode, so saving the battery for later, as rather than pressing the drive mode dial (which you did in the original XC90 T8), this function is now hidden away. You now have to go into the central touchscreen and swipe it sideways to view another (very busy) ‘car functions’ screen, and then press the ‘Hold’ button. We really would prefer a button near the drive mode dial to press to hold the car in petrol mode rather than having to delve into the touchscreen. There’s also the ability to charge the battery from the petrol engine.
In Volvo tradition, the XC60 has lots of safety systems. However while you’re in the car functions section of the touchscreen, if you’re awake, then you might also want to take the opportunity to switch off the lane keeping aid, as it messes with the steering. If you’re asleep, then feel free to keep it switched on.
Delving into the touchscreen menus to select Hold is tricky enough, but trying to switch off local traffic announcements is near-impossible. There are two very small grey lines at the very top of the touchscreen which you have to land your finger on, then you have to find ‘announcements’, then ‘traffic announcements’, then untick this box. This takes a bit of finding – especially when you’re driving and trying to keep your eye on the road while also desperately trying to get rid of the annoying content of a local radio station.
BMW owners are likely to find one feature of the Volvo’s gearbox a challenge. In an automatic BMW, you pull the gear lever back, it goes into Drive, and off you go. In the Volvo you do the same thing and it puts it the transmission in neutral. You then have to pull it back again to select Drive. It’s a similar story for reverse.
The XC60 has a voice-control system, which is a great idea in theory, but we experienced mixed results from it in practice.
And one final thing, the key fob has three very small almost identical-looking buttons down one side for locking, unlocking, and for the tailgate. The entire XC60 has had a lot of design thought applied to it, so it’s shame they couldn’t quite extend that thought process to the key fob.
The official NEDC combined fuel economy figure for the Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine is 134.5mpg, equating to CO2 emissions of 49 g/km. On 1 September 2017 the new WLTP test was introduced to replace the NEDC test, and that is due to generate more realistic car fuel economy figures, especially for plug-in hybrids. In the meantime, the good news is that we averaged around 21 miles of electric range from the XC60 in non-motorway driving, which is better than many rivals (although the official all-electric range is 28 miles). If you mostly drove on zero tailpipe emission electric power, then, like us, you might see fuel economy figures somewhere between 108mpg and 234mpg. However if you drive on electric all the time then you might as well buy a pure electric vehicle.
On longer journeys – and we drove the car from Manchester to Millbrook and back – you’ll average between 25mpg and 40mpg, the latter only being possible with very careful driving.
Overall, after a week with the car, with 80% of driving being long motorway journeys, we averaged 41.3mpg – predictably, some way off the official 134.5mpg figure.
A full recharge of the XC60 takes between two and a half to six hours depending on how it is charged.
The XC60 range is available from £37,205 for the D4 AWD Momentum. There’s also a D5 diesel, and a T5 petrol engine. Trim levels are Momentum, Momentum Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription and Inscription Pro.
The XC60 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription Pro is available from £57,950. This model as tested, including options, cost £66,650. The options consisted of the Xenium pack – Parking Camera 360˚ Surround View, Park Assist Pilot: Automatic Parallel and 90˚ Parking (£1,000); Intellisafe Pro (£1,500); Convenience pack (£400); Smartphone Integration, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with 2 x USB/1 x Aux Input (£300); Sensus Connect with Premium Sound by Bowers and Wilkins (£2,500); Laminated Side and Rear Windows (£750); Head-Up Display, includes Road Sign Information, Distance Alert, Set Speed and Navigation (£750); Dark Tinted Windows – Rear Side Windows and Cargo Area, includes Chrome Window Surround – Momentum only (£350); Keyless Drive – includes Keyless Entry and Keyless Start – with Remote Tag, plus Handsfree Tailgate Opening/Closing (£500); and Metallic Paint (£650).
The Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine is without doubt a highly desirable car. It looks good on the outside, and the interior is a very stylish environment. It’s comfortable, and pleasant to drive. And it’s great that it offers electric-only driving (usually over 20 miles in real-life) as well as performance, as well as off-road ability, as well as family practicality.
The T8 is expensive, and so many people who buy it are likely to be company car drivers, tempted by the 9% BIK company car tax, as opposed to the BIK of between 28%-32% for the diesel and petrol models. Many of those drivers are likely to be covering high motorway miles, when the fuel economy could easily slip down to 25-30mpg, because this is an SUV that weighs 2086 kg (compared to 1802 kg for the XC60 D4), and big SUVs are not the most aerodynamic of vehicles.
So in summary the Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine is a very impressive all-round car, but due to its steep price and its fuel consumption on long motorway journeys, it scores a Green Car Guide rating of 8 out of 10.
It’s worth remembering that there’s also the Volvo V60 D5 Twin Engine, which, at the moment, is the only plug-in car that you can buy in the UK with a diesel rather than a petrol engine, which still provides the ability for local all-electric driving, but results in better economy on long journeys than a petrol plug-in hybrid.
Economy/emission figures quoted are for Momentum and Momentum Pro versions