Richard Bremner
7 January 2013

What is it?

Volvo has spent £280 million developing what it reckons to be the world’s first series-production plug-in diesel hybrid and, happily for the company, Swedish utility firm Vattenfall has paid half the R&D bill. Why? Because it produces an electricity surplus in Sweden and is keen to see motorists buying volts, amps and ohms instead of oil for their personal propulsion. Volvo has developed this hardware for the V60 estate, although it plans to offer the technology in several models.

Even though this V60 delivers a spectacular 155.2mpg combined and CO2 emissions of just 48g/km – excluding grid-supplied go-juice – Volvo is pitching it as a performance car. And not without justification. This twin-engined, four-wheel-drive estate is good for 60mph in 5.8sec, with a 142mph top speed. That’s not all. It can be front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, with enough grunt for a battery-powered top speed of 77mph and, say smiling Volvo engineers, the scope for excellent ice-lake drifting fun.

What is it like?

Its default operation is as a hybrid, and the striking difference between a plug-in and lesser hybrids is that you can drive extensively with the electric motor alone and at decent speeds, your quest to avoid triggering the diesel aided by an easily understood dial. There’s also a pure electric mode that’s good for a 31-mile range and is most efficiently deployed in low-speed city driving. A Save button reserves the battery’s charge for later city use, which could prove very handy in zero-emissions zones. Performance lovers can guiltily hit the Power switch, the electric motor’s instant 148lb ft of torque giving serious off-the-line shove by filling in the turbo-lag torque hole of a diesel that itself delivers serious thrust.

The result is genuinely sporting performance that’s heightened by a responsive six-speed automatic and, if you’re advancing in electric mode before sinking the accelerator, impressively tremor-free feeding of the diesel motor’s beef into the mix. With all-wheel drive, a well balanced chassis, unique suspension settings and even a strut brace bar, this Volvo proves pretty adroit through bends. We didn’t have the scope to push it hard in rear drive or the all-wheel drive setting that optimises traction rather than performance, but there’s enough go to provide an engaging drive, even if the V60 isn’t the last word in dynamic sensitivity. Its ride can turn a bit sharp at times, too, but in every other way this is a refined car.

Should I buy one?

Volvo aimed to make this V60 as easy a drive as possible, and in default hybrid mode it proceeds as straightforwardly as any automatic, complete with instruments configurable for simplicity. Those fascinated by its technology or craving economy can call up additional instrumentation, a power flow graphic and energy consumption graphs as aids. Volvo says this plug-in diesel hybrid is, in the real world, half as thirsty as the standard D5 diesel AWD.

Recharging from a modest 10-ampere power supply needs 4.5 hours, this process ensuring that the battery and engine cooling systems are temperature-optimised to further boost economy. Highly sophisticated, intelligently integrated and impressively refined, this Volvo makes an intriguing eco performance car.

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid SE Lux Nav

Price £48,775; 0-60mph 5.8sec; Top speed 142mph; Economy 155.2mpg (combined); Co2 48g/km; Kerb weight 1955kg; Engine 5 cyls in line, 2400cc, turbodiesel plus electric motor; Power 215bhp diesel plus 70bhp electric, 280bhp combined; Torque 325lb ft plus 148lb ft; Gearbox 6-spd automatic

Join the debate

Comments
16

Nice, but that price...

1 year 14 weeks ago

It costs £12000 more than the regular D5 SE Lux NAV!

True, you get better performance as well, which would be worth say £4000. But saving £8000 on fuel might take you a while. If you save an (overly optimistic) £0.10 per mile and count an investment intrest rate of 4% then you would break even after about 150 000 miles...

£12000 performance premium

1 year 14 weeks ago

plenty of people pay a far higher premium to get the 0-60mph in 5.8 seconds version of a car, and with far worse economy to boot.

jer

....

1 year 14 weeks ago

A lot of raw materials but I suppose if you are wealthy and want to demonstrate a greenish credentials it makes some sense. I wonder what they charge in Sweden for this car. If the electricty company wants to encourage take up it must be a lot less than 48k.

£££££££

1 year 14 weeks ago

As mentioned above, the price is the killer. I cant see this having a significantly higher residual value than a standard diesel, and there will obviously be concerns about the cost of replacing the battery.

 

I'm a little surprised the price isnt listed as a major consideration in the "should I buy one" section, as it's what usually upsets the apple cart when reviewing other hybrids such as the new VAG group stuff.

the 3.0 T6 R-Design is

1 year 14 weeks ago

the 'old' 3.0 T6 R-Design was already knocking on the door of £42K, and as Volvo are selling this as their new cutting edge tech performance car I'm not sure we should get too hung up on the additional cost.

And what else in this sector offers the same power with 155mpg and switchable RWD/FWD/AWD?

I agree the depreciation will be heroic and that there are question marks over the battery - but this is still something of a one-off, and as I have already said people often pay a much higher premium for their thrillseeker versions (e.g. fastest 3-Series is twice the price of the entry level car).

Well done Volvo

1 year 14 weeks ago

I was worried with the sale of Volvo this would get canned.  What we have here seems to be the first to deliver on the promise of what a Hybrid could deliver.  Plug in, good basic all electric capability.  Long range diesel hybrid efficiency.  4wd.  Performance boost when required   with very decent 0-62 time.  The downside is price but literally no other car offers these features in a complete way.  It seems a proper execution of the concept.  

 remember first reading about

1 year 14 weeks ago

 remember first reading about this on this site about a year ago (?) - a lot of people were very negative about the concept, mainly the price, and I was one of the only ones who liked it. 

Still do!  That performance at that price is pretty competitive I reckon, it's a good looking car, practical too, so it is great to hear it works well.  Whilst I do like BMWs, I am all for supporting the underdog, and hope it is a winner for Volvo, both in this incarnation and in other models in the future.  XC60 for me thanks.

Missing the point!

1 year 14 weeks ago

I guess most of the vehicles sold will be as company cars, where the low Co2 will offer a real benefit despite the high P11d list price.   The benefit of low emissions and some 4WD capability adds further to the appeal.     The report fails to mention if the vehicle will qualify for the current 5K government grant?   

Whilst this seems a decent

1 year 14 weeks ago

Whilst this seems a decent effort, its £20,000 more than a Hybrid Peugeot 508, which used pretty much the same system, but a smaller battery pack. 

In execution its better than the Peugeot, mainly because Volvo use a decent gearbox, but that is still a huge amount to pay for slightly better fuel consumption 

Different to the Peugeot 508

1 year 14 weeks ago

Hi Artil, I think this is quite different to the 508.  For me this succeeds where the 508 fails.  The 508 offers no better economy than a standard diesel, no ability to operate as a plug in electric and costs best part of 34k.  Oh and the performance is poor.  This Volvo does the two key things no hybrid has yet managed together, a viable plug in range and a genuine performance boost.  The 508 offers literally nothing over a conventional diesel whereas this moves the hybrid game on.  

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