Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid review

New cars Volvo Reviews
PetrolBlog reviews the ultra-expensive Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid and discovers it's a car with very few flaws. Just as long as you can afford the price tag.

£48,775 is an awful lot of money to pay for a Volvo V60. But then, without wishing to get all M&S about it, the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is no ordinary V60. It is, as Volvo would like you to believe - three cars in one. Back in March, PetrolBlog got to experience the new Plug-in Hybrid on some very wintery Scottish roads. Our conclusion? It might just be the best V60 you'll never wish to buy.

Allow me to explain. By Volvo's own admission, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is not going to be a big seller. Indeed, they only expect to shift 150 units per year, with only 20% of those destined for private ownership. There are two, maybe three fundamental reasons for this.

Firstly - it's not cheap. At £48,775 it's comfortably the most expensive V60 you can buy. The equivalent D5 SE LUX would set you back £34,745 before options. Even the bonkers V60 T6 AWD retails for £41,965, leaving you enough change for some Polestar goodness. But right now, you can take advantage of the government's £5,000 Plug-in Car Grant (PICG), which brings the price of the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid down to an almost palatable £43,775.

Secondly, there's the company benefits associated with running a V60 Plug-in Hybrid. It's not for PetrolBlog to go into the ins and out of company car ownership, but let's just say that the super-green V60 offers zero benefit in kind (BIK) until 2015 and, for company owners, the opportunity for a 100% first year write-down allowance. Perfect for Lord Sugars everywhere.

Thirdly, again by Volvo's own admission, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid doesn't make sense for everyone. If you spend your time charging up and down the motorways of Britain at 78mph, you're far better off buying a standard V60 diesel. Volvo said as much in the press conference, pointing out that the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is "not for high mileage customers", but far better suited for those who do "lots of small journeys".

So then why would anyone buy a Volvo estate - sorry, Sportswagon - simply to do lots of small journeys? Especially one that costs well in excess of £40,000.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid in Scotland

Well it's not going to be someone who likes to shout about their wealth - the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid wears its green label and price tag rather discreetly. Aside from the subtle Plug-in Hybrid badges and the charging cap on the nearside front wing, there's very little to distinguish this from other V60s in the range. Eagle-eyed car spotters will no doubt notice the lightweight 17-inch alloys designed for low drag and the little winglets on the front bumpers, there for similar reasons. But no, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is by no means an extravagent vehicle.

And that's a good thing - the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is a handsome machine. And it's destined to get even prettier still, with the revised front-end, LED taillights and silver roof rails amongst the changes found on the refreshed 2013 V60.

Let's go back to Volvo's promise of “three cars in one” - what does that mean in the real world?

In simple terms, Volvo is referring to one-third electric, one-third hybrid and one-third muscle car. Muscle car? A Volvo? Surely there's been some mistake? Shall we engage in a game of hunt the Polestar badge?

You won't find one, but if you look closely you will find a D6 badge. This is the first Volvo ever to wear a D6 badge and you can thank the electric motor for that. At the front you'll find the same 215hp, 2.4-litre, 5-cylinder engine as used in the V60 D5. But in the back there's a 70hp electric motor powering the rear wheels. Combine the two and you have a 285hp ‘muscle car’.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid on the road

Actually, it's no muscle car, but it does - pardon the cliche - pull like a train. You can decide whether that's a diesel or electric train. Thanks to the electric motor, the torque rises from 440Nm, as found in the D5, to a huge 640Nm. If you're someone who enjoys trailering their horse-box or boat at the weekend, this is the car for you. There's no sacrifice in the V60's standard 1,800kg towing capacity. You see, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is beginning to make more sense (for a select few drivers).

It's no slouch off the line either - 62mph is possible in just 5.8 seconds, 0.2 seconds quicker than the T6 petrol. And there's further bad news for the T6 - let's play a round of Top Trumps, starting with CO2 emissions. Ah yes, the T6 emits 237g/km. The V60 Plug-in Hybrid? That'll be 48g/km. Game over.

At 48g/km, the V60 Plug-In Hybrid is one of a very short list of cars which falls under the new 75g/km London Congestion Charge. Check out Green Motor's guide for the others.

So if you're a company director based in London and you enjoy towing a boat at the weekend, the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is arguably the greatest car you could ever own.

There are three driving modes available in the V60 Plug-in Hybrid - Pure, Hybrid and Power. Each one is selected via a button situated just behind the gear selector on Volvo's ever-brilliant floating centre console.

Pure, Hybrid and Power in the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

The default setting is Hybrid and the V60 will automatically set off in this mode each time you start the engine. The diesel and electric motors work in harmony to provide the best balance of performance and economy. Within this mode a theoretical range of 560 miles is available, 108 miles less than the V60 D5. This is due in part to the Plug-in Hybrid's reduced fuel tank capacity, down from 67.5 litres to 45 litres.

In Pure mode, assuming you have sufficient charge, the V60 will run solely under electric power. Volvo claims a range of 31 is achievable, giving the V60 a combined total range of 591 miles. But, as Volvo were quick to point out, this range will be reduced by traffic, driving style, the outside temperature, topography and ‘comfort’ accessories being used in the cabin.

Charging is possible via a standard home socket or via one of the charging points located at various towns and cities throughout the UK. But the fact that we had to fly to Glasgow to test the V60 proves that this country isn't exactly awash with charging points right now.

Charging socket on the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

The length of time it takes to charge the V60 depends on the power source. A 16A socket will provide a full charge in 3.5 hours, whilst a 6A socket will take a further four hours. The cost of charging will depend on individual tariffs, but Volvo reckons a fee of £1.30 should provide 31 miles of range. Just go easy on the heated seats, air con and use of your right foot.

The 11.2kWh battery pack can also be replenished whilst driving. The V60 Plug-in Hybrid uses two stage braking, with the electric motor slowing the car down whilst recharging the batteries. It's only when increased braking force is required that the mechanical brakes are called into action.

There's also a clever 'save for later' button, which keeps the electric charge in reserve for when you arrive in the city later. Clever stuff.

And ‘clever’ would be a good word to describe the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid as a whole. Yes, it's expensive, but then this thing has been in development since 2007. And it's not like they've simply whacked a set of batteries in the back and hoped for the best.

The entire suspension system has had to be reworked to compensate for the increased weight of the batteries, so the V60 Plug-in Hybrid has new shocks, new bushes and new springs. Even the brakes are new, as is the all-wheel drive system, which distributes power between the front wheels and the rear axle, depending on road conditions.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid on-street charging

So what's the catch? Put the price tag to one side for one moment, where does the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid fall down?

Well it's not in the driving - if anything, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid feels like the most accomplished V60 of the lot. The extra weight over the rear wheels gives it a nice balance and it rides beautifully. Then there's the engine. Now admittedly the Power setting is not the most sociable or sensible way to get about, but good lord, this thing is quick. Money no object, you'd buy this simply for the Power mode.

There are also no compromises in the level of it. The SE LUX trim - which happens to be the only trim level available - provides just about everything you could ever need, plus the V60 now has the rather good Adaptive Digital Display as seen in the Volvo V40.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid Adaptive Digital Display

So we're beginning to scrape around the bottom of the barrel here. OK, so it's 250kg heavier and the boot space is down from 430 litres to 305. It also shares some common characteristics with other Volvos - so you can expect steering lack in feedback, a disconnection with the road and, surprisingly numb brakes. Although the latter is probably down to the electronic wizardry being performed behind the scenes.

There's also the issue of the claimed 155.2mpg combined fuel economy. As Volvo said, it is highly "unlikely" that anyone will see anywhere near this figure, but if your morning commute consists solely of city driving, you might see some amazing results. If you've bought one of these, let PetrolBlog know what real world figures you're seeing.

Once again, Volvo has delivered a remarkable car. If this sets the benchmark for more affordable diesel hybrids in the future, we're in for a real treat.