Could this be a case of the best just getting better? Today, Volvo has announced the arrival of the new Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid D6 AWD Geartronic R-Design Lux Nav, which – if nothing else – can surely stake a claim for being the biggest name in motoring. Good luck to Google, with its predictive search engine function.
If ever a car has warranted a cosmetic upgrade to match its undoubted performance, it’s the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid. Which might seem like a comment at odds with a review of a car with green credentials. But the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is – by some margin – one of the most convincing cars we’ve ever tested on PetrolBlog. And the R-Design package simply takes the level of want up a notch or two.
As you’d expect, the R-Design upgrade doesn’t come cheap. At £51,675 – before the £5,000 Government grant – the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid R-Design is nearly £30,000 more expensive than the cheapest V60 – the T3 Business Edition. It also costs £1,700 more than the less well-endowed Plug-in SE Lux Nav. But hey, if you’re going to spend £50,000 on a Volvo V60, what’s another seventeen hundred quid?
The V60 Plug-in Hybrid R-Design looks sensational. With the redesigned front bumper and grille, rear diffuser and 18-inch Ixion wheels, it looks like a tree-hugging eco-warrior that’s had enough of being roughed up by Volvos wearing Polestar badges. In fact, for a similar price, you could buy the all-new Volvo V60 Polestar, with its 350hp, 3.0-litre six-cylinder, turbocharged engine.
A game of Top Trumps could go either way – 350 horses plays 285 horses, in favour of the Polestar. A 0-62mph sprint of 5.0 seconds plays 5.8, again, in favour of the Polestar. But with 640Nm of torque, against the Polestar’s 500Nm, the Hybrid gets back into the game. And by the time the Polestar’s 237g/km CO2 has met the Hybrid’s astonishing 48g/km, the young upstart could be heading back to Sweden with its tail firmly between its legs.
Of course, in reality, the two cars are entirely different propositions. But the point is, the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is no timid wallflower. So the R-Design’s sports seats, pedals, floor mats and charcoal headlining won’t feel remotely out of place.
It was about this time last year when PetrolBlog tested the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid up in Scotland. Back then, we concluded that Volvo had “delivered a remarkable car”. Fast forward to 2014 and we managed to secure a Plug-in Hybrid for a week, keen to discover how it would do in the real world.
Only we couldn’t quite manage a full real world review. Even with the 8-metre long charge cable, the power sockets in the garage wouldn’t stretch to the parked Volvo. And having been warned not to use an extension cable, we were unable to fill up with electricity. Reports suggest that it’s extremely difficult to achieve the claimed 31-mile range from a full charge, especially in the winter when most people will have to make use of the climate control and de-misters.
Had we been able to do it, a full charge would have taken anywhere between 3.5 hours and 7.5 hours, depending on your electricity supply. The alternative plan was to head to the nearest charging point, which just happened to be a Waitrose supermarket, some 20 or so miles away. It wasn’t our nearest Waitrose, but we needed some Hobnobs, so this gave us a good excuse.
Only there was a problem – the Polar charging point required a membership card, which we didn’t have. So we were foiled again. In fairness, a Plug-in Hybrid owner would almost certainly be a fully paid-up member to schemes such as this. And Volvo – in partnership with British Gas – is offering the installation of household charging points for free.
But it just goes to show that the infrastructure needs time to catch up, particularly in rural areas. Not that a Hybrid should ever leave you stranded. In fact, the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid offers a combined range of 560 miles, which is quite remarkable, when you consider the performance figures from this D6-engined estate car.
Fortunately, the Volvo’s built-in ‘save for later’ function means that up to 12 miles of reserve battery power can be generated by the engine and regenerative braking. We used this on numerous occasions, but thanks to the topography of the local countryside, we never managed to achieved the claimed 12-mile range. But the ‘save’ function remains useful for city and low-speed driving.
The other thing to point out is just how much fun the big Volvo is to drive in electric mode. Whilst acknowledging that the novelty would soon wear off, there’s a perverse sense of enjoyment to be had simply by silently navigating car parks and urban streets. It will take a while to get used to cars like the Volvo V60 and indeed, the Porsche Panamera, running on electric power. But in the meantime, they represent an intriguing, if ultimately expensive, means of getting about.
Which is why we need to salute the enlightened few who have taken the plunge and bought a Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid. No matter if the decision was financially- rather than environmentally-led, the eco-Volvo is a car you can buy with your head and your heart. Having lived with one for a week, the overwhelming feeling was one of satisfaction, verging on smugness.
It’s like having your cake and eating it. Like selecting a fat-free chocolate cake from the bakery, that retains all the taste of a standard chocolate cake and even has room for some hundreds and thousands on top. And perhaps even those little silver and gold balls your Grandma used to sprinkle on cakes when you were young.
The interior retains all the usual Volvo hallmarks of quality and style and there’s only a marginal drop in the amount of luggage space available in the back. Yes, the infotainment system and dashboard layout is looking dated now, but that’s largely because Volvo previewed its next generation interior at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show, and it’s simply a class above.
And yes, the Plug-in Hybrid represents a huge jump in price over the standard V60, meaning the D5 diesel probably makes more sense to the majority of drivers. But even so, the Plug-in Hybrid remains a compelling package. It’s a car bought by those in the know – you can almost imagine a couple of V60 Plug-in Hybrid owners greeting each other with a knowing tap on the side of the nose and a wink of the eye.
We always felt that the restrained styling, almost total anonymity of the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid was one of its strongest features. But the newly-announced R-Design version – which can be ordered now for delivery in August – changes all that.
Its price point may put it well beyond the traditional realms of PetrolBlog. But it’s a big Volvo that follows in the footsteps of its forebears and somehow hints at what’s to come from our favourite Swedes. The only disappointment is that we’re unlikely to ever own a Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid D6 AWD Geartronic R-Design Lux Nav.
And – in more ways than one – that’s a difficult thing to say.
For the original Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid review, click here.
R-Design images © Volvo. All other images © PetrolBlog.