A darn sight easier to get on with than its complicated powertrain suggests. Like most PHEVs these days, there’s no need to ensure you’re in the right mode - just fire it up, off you go and the systems deal with the fine art of juggling the power sources as efficiently as possible.
Of course, there are modes if you want them: one that locks the electric motor on for permanent four-wheel drive, an Eco mode for extra fuel-sipping at the expense of responses, and a Power mode that does exactly the opposite. You can also charge up the battery by shutting down the electric motors entirely, if you need to. But we found the standard Hybrid mode to be the most balanced for most situations.
Volvo has had several years of (under Geely ownership) well-funded development time for its plug-in powertrains, and it shows. In town or country pootling, it’s as delightfully smooth and serene as a pure EV, and when the engine is fired up, it does so almost imperceptibly unless you stomp inelegantly on the throttle. It’ll shoot up to 78mph in pure-EV mode, but that requires precision with the right foot as it’s easier to wake the engine in the S60 T8 than it is in the new BMW 330e.
“But I thought you said this was a performance saloon?” I hear you cry. Oh, it is, on paper at least. Volvo’s T8 system still has a clear edge over (admittedly cheaper) rivals like the 330e and Mercedes C300e for straight-line pace, and in the S60 that means 0-62mph is dealt with in 4.6sec. It feels quick pretty much everywhere, but it doesn’t always respond with the satisfying surge exactly when you want it to: mashing the throttle without warning in Hybrid mode can mean a crucial second or so before the system wakes from its eco-friendly slumber.
When you do, the motor’s four-cylinder note is pleasingly distant up until the final 1500rpm of the rev counter, where a slightly industrial but not entirely unwelcome intrusion makes itself heard. None of this will be news to anyone who’s driven a Volvo T8 before, but what makes this S60 unique is that it has a chassis more capable of dealing with the performance.
Volvo claims that the S60’s suspension tune is distinctly different from that of its V60 sibling because those buying into the shrinking saloon segment are increasingly enthusiasts put off by SUVs. Happily, the sportier set-up provides a good (if not outstanding) balance between dynamism and comfort.
Where an S90 T8 might pitch, wobble and generally feel out of step with the road surface in spirited driving, the S60’s trade in outright softness results in greater composure and confidence-boosting precision. The steering seems quicker and more positive than other Volvos, too, without becoming too darty under gentle cruising.
It not perfect: there’s still an artificial feel to the helm that never really goes away and, while the T8’s cornering balance is entirely neutral, don’t mistake composure for fun, as there isn’t a huge amount. There is a modest trade in ride comfort, with effortless absorption making way for a feeling of being a little more connected to the Tarmac, but on our car with 19in wheels it’s entirely acceptable and doesn’t impact on the S60’s everyday abilities in the way the set-up of true performance saloons often does.