From £37,150
Mid-size premium SUV arrives as the ambassador for a new way of buying cars
Mark Tisshaw
1 October 2021

Why we’re running it: To see if Netflix-style subscriptions such as Care by Volvo provide a blueprint for the way cars are ‘bought’ in the future

Month 4 - Month 3Month 2Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Volvo XC60: Month 4

Not the best start - 22 September 2021

Editor Tisshaw kindly lent me the XC60 to take on a week’s family holiday. I checked it over before departure only to find the 12V starter battery was flat. After failing to start from a booster battery, the car is awaiting recovery by Volvo Assistance, the cause of its electrical illness to be diagnosed by TMS Volvo in Coventry. Time to see exactly what Care by Volvo means, perhaps. Matt Saunders

Mileage: 536

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Just like that, we have a new XC60. The beauty of subscriptions - 25 August 2021

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Only days after we first ordered our fleet’s XC60 T8 Recharge using the Care by Volvo subscription service, a shiny new facelifted version was announced. This kind of issue is one that car buyers constantly face: just when is the right time to buy a new car, to ensure that it’s as ‘new’ for as long as possible?

You might be pretty narked if you had just locked into a three- or four-year PCP or lease deal and a new version was announced almost immediately afterwards. But with Care by Volvo, you’re only ever on three months’ notice to either cancel the deal or switch to a new model. So soon after we had taken delivery of our original XC60 plug-in hybrid, an order went in for a facelifted version: the B4 diesel in R-Design trim.

The order process was again quick and seamless, the Care by Volvo website easy to navigate (just filter out your model and powertrain and you’re 80% of the way there) and the cars it offers are already fully loaded, so there’s no extensive options list to wade through.

The diesel model costs £749 per month, compared with £899 for the pre-facelift plug-in hybrid model, which shows that price parity with electrified models isn’t there yet. That Care by Volvo price includes everything other than fuel and insurance, with no deposit to be paid. Why diesel? As life is opening up, so too are the distances I’m driving.

The electric-only range offered by the T8 Recharge – a mileage in the low 20s – was handy for all the shorter, local journeys that made up the bulk of my driving until recently. Now trips further afield are occurring more frequently, the fact that the powerful supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine of the PHEV struggled to achieve 30mpg when the battery ran out made fuel station visits far more frequent and expensive. Diesel remains a very good option when you do big miles.

With a Care by Volvo order, you can either opt for home delivery, as we did originally, or collect from your dealer. This time, we went with the latter at Volvo Car West London, and after plenty of contact and updates with the central Care by Volvo team who managed the change-over process, the helpful Graham at the Chiswick dealership arranged the switch. It was quick, seamless and thankfully free of too much paperwork.

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And then I was heading back down the M4 by shiny new XC60, safe in the knowledge that if I instantly disliked the car, or that my circumstances were to change again, I could get straight back on the phone or Care by Volvo website and sort out another new car for three months’ time.

The XC60’s facelift is on the minor side, with a few styling tweaks and safety features, but there is one really significant, notable change: the all-new touchscreen infotainment system, based on the Google Android operating system.

The infotainment in the prefacelift XC60 was quite poor; fairly fiddly to operate, with too many menus and laggy responses when first fired up. This new system is much clearer and crisper, the standout feature being the new Google Maps sat-nav, which richly fills the portrait-orientated screen.

A positive first impression of the car, then, at the end of a very positive experience all round.

Love it:

Google infotainment The new Android-based operating system is a huge upgrade on that in the pre-facelift car.

Loathe it:

No Pheverweight The now departed XC60 T8 Recharge was a big, heavy car – something you really notice when you try out a non-hybrid version.

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Life with a Volvo XC60: Month 3

Time to make a change - 18 August 2021

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Give three months’ notice at any time during your Care by Volvo subscription (even on day one) and you can swap for a different Volvo. I’ve had this in mind for a while, as I’m starting to rack up bigger motorway mileages again, making the B4 diesel a better fit than the T8 PHEV. I’ll get the facelifted model, too, for £749 instead of the current £899.

Mileage: 1903

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Wrong kind of leather cream - 14 July 2021

Being good citizens, the Tisshaw household always applies sunscreen before going out into the sun for the day (as should you, dear reader), but sit on the XC60’s swish leather with it on and it gets everywhere, leaving an unsightly white patch. This has never happened before on any other car or leather, so it was surprising to see. Elbow grease got it off

Mileage: 1566

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Life with a Volvo XC60: Month 2

Petrol replaces electricity as we put our subscription car to the test on the open road - 7 July 2021

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After lots of time making use of the plug-in hybrid XC60’s electric range on local journeys, at last a longer drive was on the cards to really stretch its legs.

Since the pandemic started, I’ve gone from about 20,000 miles per year to about a quarter of that, with a fairly long commute and longer weekend drives swapped for working from our spare bedroom and lots of short local journeys that largely make use of electric power.

PHEVs are at their best when most of your driving is local, so you can make use of the electric range (still no more than around 20 miles in the XC60 T8), and the petrol tank is used on more occasional longer journeys. As always, if you do high mileages, they aren’t really for you – but who can blame people for picking them anyway when the tax savings are so good for company car drivers?

As with most PHEVs, the XC60 T8 can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. You can leave it in the standard Hybrid mode, use the battery until it’s empty (unless you’re keen with your right foot, at which point the engine will abruptly cut in too) and then let the engine take over. That’s largely how I’ve driven it to date, given how little I’ve needed to tuck into the fuel tank. There are more driving modes other than the default one that can be scrolled through using a rocker switch on the centre tunnel. They go from the ability to drive solely on electric power to having permanent four-wheel drive, where the petrol-powered front axle and battery-powered rear axle are fired up at the same time.

You can go into the rather complicated menu on the central touchscreen and opt to save your electric range for later in the journey; or choose to charge the battery using the engine, which to me always sounds pointlessly wasteful.

So, like I always end up doing in cars like this, I left it in the default hybrid mode for a 200-mile round trip to the Midlands that was mainly motorway. The electric range was soon depleted, but when the car cuts back to petrol once everything is warm and you’re at speed, it is now less abrupt than when we first took delivery. The car feels brisk whichever mode it’s in, and a surge forward is never further away than a sharp press on the accelerator pedal.

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Speaking of which, I just couldn’t find a comfortable place for my foot on the pedal on this longer journey – a rare ergonomic oversight in an otherwise thoughtfully laid out, comfortable interior.

The XC60 T8 isn’t alone in becoming quite thirsty once it’s out of electricity. A combination of a heavy battery pack, a powerful but smaller-capacity petrol engine and an SUV body makes economy just under 30mpg not uncommon on the motorway. When the petrol range of about 350 miles was showing, I thought the fuel tank was smaller to make space for the batteries, but it’s still 70 litres. Regular trips to forecourts will be in order if the majority of your drives aren’t short.

The rest of the XC60 T8’s cruising manners are largely excellent. It’s a very relaxing car to drive, not as firm in its ride or as urgent in its handling as its German rivals. It takes things at its own more relaxed pace, majoring on that underrated value of comfort.

Still, I sense a diesel XC60 would make for an even more welcome companion should journeys like this become the norm for me once more.

Love it:

Styling I’ve always liked this era of Volvo design, and the more time I spend with the XC60, the more I admire it.

Loathe it:

Slow touchscreen It always takes a good few seconds to be responsive at the start of a journey, a bit like an older laptop.


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Mileage: 1488

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Introducing the automotive equivalent of parental controls - 30 June 2021

Volvo is the car maker that springs to mind when thinking about safety innovation. I’m often reminded just how safety-conscious Volvo is when reversing the XC60 out of my driveway, which is about three car lengths’ long.

About halfway, well before I can get a view of what’s coming down the road over my shoulder, the car already knows what’s there and will sound a warning or occasionally (and aggressively) slam on the anchors.

Such a cautious approach isn’t great for those easily made to jump, yet as it’s a Volvo, you know it’s done with the best intentions. The Cross Traffic Alert with auto-brake system, to give it its full name, is one of five active safety systems in a Driver Assist package that would cost £1500 on retail; but as our XC60 is the Inscription Pro range-topper and CarebyVolvosubscriptioncarslike ours come fully loaded as standard, it’s all included in the monthly price.

Other safety kit includes the orange Care Key, which will allow you to lower the car’s 112mph speed limit. You might want to do this before a new or inexperienced driver gets behind the wheel. Or a valet, if you don’t trust them...

New safety technology is often said to be the thing people most want from their cars but are the least keen to pay extra for, yet all-inclusive subscription services like Care by Volvo are a good way of getting such accident-prevention technology out onto the road.

Mileage: 1449

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Roomy in the rear - 23 June 2021

I recently paid a rare visit to the rear of the XC60 – and it’s vast back there. I had been impressed by the amount of room in the front of the car, but it doesn’t impinge on rear passenger space. The Land Rover Discovery Sport may edge the XC60 with the tape measure, but the knee room and head room seemed endless.
It’s also a very bright and open rear cabin, thanks to large windows.

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Mileage: 1365

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Is its PHEV set-up a double act or soloists performing together? - 9 June 2021

Once your Volvo has been delivered to you by the Care by Volvo team and there’s no service or dealer visit on the horizon, the experience of living with the car is just like that of those who’ve acquired theirs by any other more traditional method.

So far in previous updates, we’ve discussed how big it feels (mid-size is how its maker describes it, but it’s wider than the original XC90, which shows just how big all cars – not just Volvos – are getting); and how its electric-only range is hovering around 20 miles, even in warmer weather – some way short in percentage terms of the claimed 27.

That’s not atypical of other plug- in hybrids, but what happens when that EV range expires is where the XC60 T8 diverges slightly. The electric motor powers the rear wheels and a 314bhp, 295lb ft turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol engine powers the front wheels. Put too much force through your right foot when there’s still some electricity left and that powerful engine cuts in with all the subtlety of a squeaky tannoy system with about 50% more power than you actually need.

Run the battery flat and the engine is much more sedate and progressive in its power delivery, just as the car is smooth, quiet and calm when running on electric power. Put them together, though, and they’re like a pair of naughty children who’ve had too much pop, which goes to show the challenges in getting two propulsions systems to work together.

Mileage: 1222

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Life with a Volvo XC60: Month 1

Electric range isn’t all that - 2 June 2021

Twenty-eight miles is what Volvo quotes for the electric-only range of this plug-in hybrid XC60. I’m getting just below 20 so far in this milder weather. The BMW 330e saloon of similar footprint that I ran last year got around 27 miles from a slightly larger battery, which goes to show just what the extra size and weight of SUVs will do for efficiency.

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Mileage: 1076

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Care by Volvo subscription service starts to show its value straight away - 26 May 2021

It’s the little things: the phone call and the email a few days after delivery to check how I was getting on with the car and the rather smart reusable water bottle that arrived in the post. All three are received from the Care by Volvo team after you take delivery of your new subscription car, and they’ve come my way since my introductory XC60 report.

However small they may be when weighed up next to a £914 monthly bill, they’re things that make you feel good – not like you’re just another step towards a monthly sales target.

As it turned out, I did have a couple of teething problems: my XC60 was supplied without a fast charger, as only three-pin plugs came as standard on pre-facelift plug-in hybrids. Facelifted cars announced since we placed our order get a fast cable, and Care by Volvo was happy to provide me with one to allow for home charging from my wallbox, rather than drive everywhere solely on petrol power with an empty battery.

Also, my phone was struggling to synchronise with the car and the Volvo On Call app that allows you to do things like preset the air-con, but all that is now working.

With those issues straightened out, I’m already close to 1000 miles on the odometer in just a few short weeks. Having spent most of the past year in a tiny Honda E, it was a strange feeling getting used to such a big car again. And the XC60 is just that: such a big car, particularly its width. I never quite got used to how wide the 1827mm BMW 3 Series saloon I ran a year ago was, and the XC60 is wider still, at 1902mm. The XC90 would surely feel enormous.

Luckily, the XC60’s lofty driving position gives a commanding view of the road and makes it easier to place the car than it might be, and manoeuvring is helped no end by the halo-view camera that shows your surroundings from the top down.

It’s a reminder of just how well equipped this XC60 is in Inscription Pro trim, a point made by reader and fellow Care by Volvo customer Brian Robertson, who rightly notes that the value of these options is rarely recognised when it comes to depreciation in a PCP finance deal. There’s another tick in the subscription service’s box.

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Mileage: 911

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Welcoming the XC60 to the fleet - 12 May 2021

Not only are there ever more cars in ever more segments with ever more propulsion methods, but now there are ever more ways to buy them, too. The ubiquitous PCP, PCH, HP and leasing deals are all fixed-term agreements, typically with deposits attached and varying levels of options regarding what happens to the vehicle at the end of your committed term.

And now there’s another way: the subscription service, which is, if you like, the Netflix of the car world. Car subscription services are offering monthly payment plans with no deposit, no fixed-term contract (and thus the ability to cancel at any time) and servicing, road tax and wear and tear costs – including tyres – all included, so there’s nothing extra to pay apart from fuel and insurance. The car will even be delivered to your door, for free.

Jaguar Land Rover was first into the subscription space last July with its Pivotal service, and the British car maker was swiftly joined by Volvo’s Care by Volvo offering. The – deep breath – Volvo XC60 2.0 T8 Recharge PHEV Inscription Pro 5dr AWD Auto you see here is the latest addition to our fleet, and it has come our way using Care by Volvo.

As car orders go, this was perhaps the simplest I’ve come across, and more akin to buying a new television than a car. On the Care by Volvo website, you select your model (XC60 for us), followed by your fuel type (petrol-electric plug-in hybrid in the more powerful T8 version). Then you pick a trim (plush and well-appointed Inscription Pro), and what colour you’d like inside (black) and out (red), all by simply clicking the options on the left-hand side of the page, pretty much like the interfaces on eBay, Amazon or any online retailer you care to think of. In the case of the XC60, the only option is whether you’d like a towbar or not.

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There’s no configurator to go through, nor blocks in the road where you are asked to input your details or find out you can only get a certain version or a certain option by calling a dealer. Cars are either displayed as ‘in stock’, with a maximum of one- month wait for delivery, or offered as built-to-order models taking four to five months. You’ll be offered a temporary car while you wait.

The pricing and all information is displayed up front as and when you select the various options. The XC60 starts at £799 a month, and our plug- in hybrid T8 version in Inscription Pro trim came in at £899 (since we ordered, prices for our version have dropped to £819 after Volvo announced a facelifted XC60). The least expensive option on Care by Volvo is a Volvo XC40, which can be ordered from £559, while the most expensive is £1079 for a plug-in hybrid S90.

That £899 for our XC60 includes the standard 6000 annual miles (calculated pro rata if you hand it back early), and we selected an extra 2000 miles per year at £15 per month. So £914 all-in as one monthly payment, and 30 days of free insurance are offered.

Next, enter your details to submit for a credit check and select whether you’d like the car to be delivered or if you’d prefer to collect it. Then you pay for your first month’s subscription and sit tight, waiting for the Care by Volvo team to get in touch to check you’re happy with everything, answer any questions, discuss next steps and advise you how long the car will take to be delivered. My call from the very helpful Daniel came on the Monday morning after I’d ordered the car on Friday evening.

As a headline figure, that £914 does sound expensive, particularly compared with the monthly payment of a PCP deal. But remember, there’s no deposit. This XC60 in this trim can be found for about £55,000 on a PCP, so with a 10% deposit, an assumed residual value of 50% after three years and a 4.9% interest rate, a monthly PCP payment comes to around £770 over three years. Spread that £5500 deposit over those 36 months and you get a figure of just over £920 a month.

So the PCP deal actually costs slightly more, has a longer, binding term to it and doesn’t include servicing or wear and tear. Of course, stay under your allotted mileage and it’s likely you’ll have equity in the car at the end, but when it comes to the monthly bill, there’s nothing really in it, other than the greater freedom offered by the subscription service.

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By the end of the week, my appointed dealer of Volvo West London was in touch to fulfil the order, and I could have had the car within 10 days of that if there had been space on my drive before the Honda E went back. As it happened, Eleanor from Volvo West London arrived three weeks after I’d placed the order and provided a very helpful and informative handover.

The only binding bit is that once you’ve paid for the first month, you’re committed to it, even if you decide you want to hand the car back after day one. After that, the notice period is three months – so not totally Netflix-like in being monthly, but shorter than any fixed-term lease or finance deal, and in theory giving you the option of a new Volvo of any flavour you fancy every three months.

To date, it’s been an impressive process. It’s quite a clinical way of ‘buying’ a new car, which removes much of the excitement but also much of the anxiety, both in the short term (there’s no haggling for a deal, for one) and in the longer term (you’re not locked into something if your personal circumstances change).

I can already vouch for the appeal.

Second Opinion

On the surface, Volvo’s approach to subscriptions looks like a tempting alternative to a short-term lease of a premium model – which often carries hefty prices – and could become a great way to create brand loyalty faster than the typical PCP cycle currently does. Will the numbers stack up, though? The brand-agnostic, EV-centric alternative that I’m currently trialling includes fully comprehensive insurance and free electric charging. I’ll be interested to see if Mark thinks there’s real value for money here. 

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Tom Morgan

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XC60 2.0 T8 Recharge PHEV Inscription Pro 5DR AWD specification

Specs: Price New £60,115 Price as tested £914 per month Options 2000 extra miles per year £15 per month

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Comments
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xxxx 1 October 2021

Volvo on recovery flat bed, imagine the posts if it had been a Jag, imagine the cost if it was outside of the warranty.

289 30 June 2021

This deal doesnt "sound expensive".....it is expensive!

HiPo 289 28 June 2021

It must be weird being a car tester these days.  Swapping a Honda E for a Volvo plug-in hybrid SUV must be like trading in your Model T Ford for a horse.  Not only is any new vehicle with a pollution pipe now obsolete, but PHEVs are if anything worse, because they will be gone in a few years as EVs take their place.