The V60 Plug-in Hybrid amazes and confuses in equal measures. Trying to sum this car up in fewer pages than War and Peace is a challenge because Volvo appears to have designed a car that can do everything. It is an estate car that can hit 62 mph in 6.9 seconds, it is all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, it is an electric car, a diesel car and a hybrid car, oh and it is an ultra-low emissions model too. Any questions? No, excellent we will leave it there.
OK let’s start with the tech. The engine is a 2.4 litre turbodiesel which drives the front wheels through a six-speed automatic ‘box. There is also a 67 bhp electric motor which drives the rear wheels. In between there is a modest-sized lithium-ion battery pack. Here’s the trick bit, the car can run for 31 miles in electric only mode (Pure) in which case it is rear-wheel drive, can just use the diesel engine (Save) which makes it front-wheel drive, can operate both when needed (Hybrid), or can be locked in four-wheel drive (AWD) even if the battery is dead as the diesel engine can provide the necessary power for the electric motor. There is also a ‘Power’ mode which delivers everything through AWD and a ‘Save’ mode which saves the battery so you don’t use it all on a fast road before getting to a congested city.
As the name would suggest you need to plug the Volvo into the mains to recharge the battery fully and get the full 31 miles of electric running, but the beauty of these systems is that if you never plugged it in (really not recommended!) the car would work just fine as a diesel estate so you never have the range anxiety that you can get with pure electric cars.
There are a couple of compromises that come with the advanced drivetrain, the first is the list price which is hefty but if you enter the London Congestion Zone regularly and pay company car tax you will save around £12,000 over three years which offsets the £9,000 premium over an equivalent diesel V60. The second is that the batteries eat into the boot space leaving a distinctly un-Volvo like 305 litres of boot space.
There is of course one other point, which is that the official fuel economy test for plug-in cars is silly, so no, you won’t get 155 mpg. However if you regularly make trips of less than 30 miles, you can complete these (at up to 78 mph) in pure electric thus using no diesel. Once you start relying on the diesel engine in the real world you can expect somewhere around 50 mpg (approx 150 g CO2/km) so it pays to maximise the electric running.