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New mild hybrid system is said to improve performance while improving economy and reducing emissions. We rate it
Mark Tisshaw
18 February 2020

What is it?

Volvo’s stated ambition to become an electric-only car maker within 20 years seems quite ambitious when the firm still hasn’t got a full EV on a UK driveway yet, although that’s still nothing on what the UK government expects car makers to do even inside that time frame.

However, since Volvo’s own headline-grabbing announcement a few months ago (one of several Volvo has made post-Dieselgate, including making every car electrified from this year and launching no new models with a diesel option), Volvo has revealed the all-electric XC40 Recharge, swiftly started rolling out more plug-in hybrids, and now new mild hybrids, too. Almost as if a progressive, phased approach towards electrification seemed like a better idea than a blanket ban, allowing consumers to take steps they feel comfortable with

Now those mild hybrids have arrived in the XC60 range to replace the standard non-electrified engine options previously on sale. Offered on petrol and diesel XC60s in both front and four-wheel-drive forms, the new system adds a 48V starter motor/generator, and a battery sited in the boot can regenerate power through braking to then aid the engine under acceleration.

The engine capacity is 2.0 litres whether it's petrol or diesel, and the gearbox is always an eight-speed automatic. Confusingly, Volvo uses a B5 name for this new system whether it’s a petrol or a diesel model, with B4 used for a less powerful version of the diesel with it equipped. We’re testing a petrol B5 with the optional four-wheel drive.

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What's it like?

This version of the B5 offers a really nice powertrain; 'smooth' and 'quiet' are the words that keep coming up when you’re describing it. Start-up is quiet and smooth, cruising progress is quiet and smooth, and the acceleration is brisk and linear. And, of course, smooth and quiet. 

In fact, the acceleration is quite remarkable for a car of this size and weight, boosted by the new mild hybrid system; a claimed 0-60mph time of 6.5sec is fantastic for a car with no sporting pretensions. You never feel the new mild hybrid system in action, such is its role as a silent partner supporting the engine in its operation, with the only indicator a little battery on the instrument display that starts to glow blue when you’re braking and therefore charging it back up.

While boosting the performance, it’s also claimed to help reduce emissions and improve fuel economy by up to 15% apiece. But no matter how much the new 48V system may do for efficiency, applying it to a petrol engine in a car like the XC60 is ultimately a bit like that old adage about rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The petrol B5’s economy of little over 25mpg on a mixed driving route that included plenty of motorway miles goes some way to limiting this car’s appeal. Diesel remains a far superior option in a car of this size and weight, and given that the mild hybrid technology and associated efficiency and performance claims are also offered on the diesel engines in the XC60 range, it seems a bit of a no-brainer about which one to go for. 

Elsewhere, the B5 is the XC60 as we’ve got to know it. That means easy-going dynamics with a smooth, quiet primary ride (those two words again) and handling that never excites yet is always predictable. It’s less comfortable over more broken surfaces, however, something that has plagued other XC60s we’ve tried, too, and the engine seems to have more sporting performance than the gearbox is willing to allow it to exploit.

The cabin is also of a high perceived quality and excellent comfort, yet this tester remains unconvinced about Volvo’s large portrait touchscreen and its usability. Using it requires your eyes to be off the road too often, with too many button presses for even the simplest of tasks. For a company as safety-conscious as Volvo, this has always seemed like an oversight. 

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Should I buy one?

While we applaud Volvo for offering such a mild hybrid system, and commend it on what it does to improve driveability, ultimately that mediocre economy really limits the petrol B5's appeal. 

You’d have to really not like diesel, really want an XC60 and be interested in electrified cars but not enough to choose a plug-in hybrid to choose this particular version of the XC60. Which probably doesn’t leave that many buyers. Yet those who do choose one will still find it a very nice car to drive, if not one with superior running costs offered elsewhere in the same showroom.

Volvo XC60 B5 Petrol AWD R-Design specification

Where Suffolk, UK Price £41,715 On sale Now Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, turbo, petrol Power 247bhp at 5400-5700rpm Torque 258lb ft at 1800-4800rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 1841kg Top speed 137mph 0-60mph 6.5sec Fuel economy 31.3-36.2mpg CO2 185g/km, 37% Rivals Land Rover Discovery Sport, Audi Q5

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Comments
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catnip 18 February 2020

"...yet this tester remains

"...yet this tester remains unconvinced about Volvo’s large portrait touchscreen and its usability. Using it requires your eyes to be off the road too often, with too many button presses for even the simplest of tasks. For a company as safety-conscious as Volvo, this has always seemed like an oversight."

I don't think Volvo are particularly any more concerned with safety these days than other manufacturers.  When the XC90 was introduced, the first with this screen, they had safety listed as number 10 out of 12 features highlighted in the publicity material. You can have as many safety assist systems as you like, but surely keeping your driver's attention on the road is a pretty basic and essential one.

Citytiger 18 February 2020

catnip wrote:

catnip wrote:

"...yet this tester remains unconvinced about Volvo’s large portrait touchscreen and its usability. Using it requires your eyes to be off the road too often, with too many button presses for even the simplest of tasks. For a company as safety-conscious as Volvo, this has always seemed like an oversight."

I don't think Volvo are particularly any more concerned with safety these days than other manufacturers.  When the XC90 was introduced, the first with this screen, they had safety listed as number 10 out of 12 features highlighted in the publicity material. You can have as many safety assist systems as you like, but surely keeping your driver's attention on the road is a pretty basic and essential one.

Most of the common used items can be operated via voice control, perhaps the tester might want to try reading the manual. Thatcham and NCap dont seem to have a problem with the Volvo system, and even Audi have decided to do away with mmi in favour of touch screens and voice control.

catnip 18 February 2020

Citytiger wrote:

Citytiger wrote:

Most of the common used items can be operated via voice control, perhaps the tester might want to try reading the manual. Thatcham and NCap dont seem to have a problem with the Volvo system, and even Audi have decided to do away with mmi in favour of touch screens and voice control.

But nearly every review of Volvos thus equipped mention these problems, and other posters on here say voice control isnt reliable. I just think that they're answering a question no-one asked, but we all know its a cheaper way of doing things. I don't think Thatcham nor NCAP concern themselves with such things. Companies such as Renault and Honda are listening to their customers and reverting to physical controls for such things as climate, which is just common sense really.

Nigelgrant 18 February 2020

I have this system in a v60.

I have this system in a v60.

It is dangerous. There is no other way to describe it.

I've driven Volvos for years but never before have I had to continually take my eyes off the road to perform basic tasks as previous models had a thumbwheel or knobs that you knew two clicks would operate xyz.

Voice control is useless if you've got passengers who are talking or listening to music.

m2srt 18 February 2020

We have the B4 version of the

We have the B4 version of the Xc60. Great car but in mixed driving isn't that much more economical than my F15 X5!
00se7en 18 February 2020

Disappointing MPG

We have one of these with the T4 petrol engine.  Fantasdtic car.  It helps that ours is FWD but we are averaging c30mpg from it, so it does not seem that the mild hybrid system is helping economy at all.  Happy that we have a much simpler drivetrain to maintain and while economy is not great, we only do about 6k miles a year and so plan on keeping the car for a very long time (10+yrs I hope, if it proves to be reliable).  That mileage is too low to justify buying a diesel, with all the complexity they entail.

si73 18 February 2020

00se7en wrote:

00se7en wrote:

We have one of these with the T4 petrol engine.  Fantasdtic car.  It helps that ours is FWD but we are averaging c30mpg from it, so it does not seem that the mild hybrid system is helping economy at all.  Happy that we have a much simpler drivetrain to maintain and while economy is not great, we only do about 6k miles a year and so plan on keeping the car for a very long time (10+yrs I hope, if it proves to be reliable).  That mileage is too low to justify buying a diesel, with all the complexity they entail.

Does this have better performance than yours and have you tried one? Only asking as I can imagine the testers thrashing it and using the performance all the time through this test where as you doing normal driving as you do yours may well achieve better economy?

xxxx 18 February 2020

Petrol v Diesel debate again

si73 wrote:
00se7en wrote:

We have one of these with the T4 petrol engine.  Fantasdtic car.  It helps that ours is FWD but we are averaging c30mpg from it, so it does not seem that the mild hybrid system is helping economy at all.  Happy that we have a much simpler drivetrain to maintain and while economy is not great, we only do about 6k miles a year and so plan on keeping the car for a very long time (10+yrs I hope, if it proves to be reliable).  That mileage is too low to justify buying a diesel, with all the complexity they entail.

... I can imagine the testers thrashing it and using the performance all the time through this test where as you doing normal driving as you do yours may well achieve better economy?

I really can't see journalists thrashing cars on the public roads despite what they say, they'd soon lose their all important licence. It also says plenty of motorway miles in the review. To be honest if I only did 6,000 miles a year I'd go for a petrol XC60 (brilliant car) without the Hybrid %£$£ (if possible) saving a £1,000 or so at a guess.

00se7en 18 February 2020

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:
si73 wrote:

... I can imagine the testers thrashing it and using the performance all the time through this test where as you doing normal driving as you do yours may well achieve better economy?

I really can't see journalists thrashing cars on the public roads despite what they say, they'd soon lose their all important licence. It also says plenty of motorway miles in the review. To be honest if I only did 6,000 miles a year I'd go for a petrol XC60 (brilliant car) without the Hybrid %£$£ (if possible) saving a £1,000 or so at a guess.

Yes, the B5 is much faster than ours (and it's AWD), so appreciate that makes a difference, and we are clearly not doing racing starts with the family on board, which road testers may have felt obliged to try. I don't find ours slow though. The T4 is/was a limited edition with extra kit, so it was more like £5/6k cheaper and therefore a no-brainer for our level of mileage. I had just expected at the time that the B5 would have had better fuel economy than ours, but that doesn't seem to be the experience of the tester. Having since read tests of other 'mild hybrids' they don't seem to be delivering big fuel savings. Perhaps the tailpipe emissions are better, and there does seem to be a performance advantage. I'm not sure it's worth the complexity though, if one ignores the various regulations that are no doubt pushing manufacturers in this direction.

si73 18 February 2020

Obviously they aren't going

Obviously they aren't going to threaten their licences, that's not what I was implying, that they have heavy right feet and use the power and don't drive in a similar vein to normal users is all I was implying, and as such wondering if a normal user may achieve better economy than them.
Not saying it's a car I'd want but if they went for that performance without the hybrid I'd imagine the economy to be even worse.
Myk 18 February 2020

MPG

00se7en wrote:

We have one of these with the T4 petrol engine.  Fantasdtic car.  It helps that ours is FWD but we are averaging c30mpg from it...

I'm averaging 30mpg from a BMW X3 with a 3.0 turbo petrol engine and 4WD, and I live in central London. I'd be gutted to only be getting the same from a 2.0 2WD car of the same size! It really goes to show that you have to pick the right size engine for the car.

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