Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid UK review

4 Aug, 2017 2:15pm James Batchelor

Volvo’s plug-in hybrid XC60 SUV has lots of power, but does it excite? We try it on British roads for the first time


On paper the XC60 T8 offers the best of both worlds: 400bhp performance and potential fuel economy of more than 130mpg. But while the performance is certainly impressive, this Volvo is inherently not dynamic enough. And due to the car’s weight, it’s difficult to match those efficiency claims. Unless you’re hell-bent on driving a plug-in hybrid, the diesel XC60s still make more sense.

It won’t have escaped your notice that from 2019 every new Volvo will come with an electric motor to power it in some way or another – cars such as the XC60 T8, for example.

It’s a plug-in hybrid, or as Volvo grandly calls it, a ‘Twin Engine’ SUV. Of course, this isn’t the first plug-in hybrid that Volvo has made; there have been the slightly underwhelming V60 D5 and D6 estates, and more recently the XC90 T8.

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In fact, you could say the XC60 T8 is just a smaller version of the XC90 T8. Thanks to the Scalable Platform Architecture that first appeared on the XC90, this Volvo’s underpinnings and powertrain set-up are near enough identical to its big brother’s.

So there’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that’s both super and turbocharged serving up 314bhp that drives the front wheels, and there’s an 86bhp electric motor at the back driving the rears, all hooked up to an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

In the XC60, though, the motor gets its power from a 10.4kWh battery rather than the XC90’s 9.2kWh unit, and this car can travel up to 28 miles on pure electric alone.

Connect the XC60 up to a fast charger and it can be recharged in two and a half hours. That jumps to between three and a half and six hours if it’s plugged into a domestic three-pin socket. CO2 emissions are 49g/km, while Volvo claims fuel economy of 134.5mpg.

Do the maths and you realise this SUV has 400bhp. It’s part of Volvo’s aim to make plug-in hybrids seem attractive to a larger number of buyers, and 400bhp and a 0-62mph time of 5.2 seconds are enticing statistics. But that’s only part of the story.

The trouble is the XC60 never feels as quick as those numbers suggest. Switch to ‘Power’ in the drive mode selector and it’s certainly fast and would give a Jaguar F-Pace S or a Porsche Macan Turbo a fright in terms of acceleration, but there’s next to no drama.

The problem lies with the rest of the XC60 range, because even the diesel-powered D4 and D5 and petrol T5 are comfortable but not dynamically outstanding. They float along and are at the opposite end of the premium small SUV segment to where the BMW X3, Jag and Porsche sit.

Where the overly light and assisted steering and pronounced body roll aren’t a problem for other XC60s in the range, they are for the T8 because its power suggests it’s the performance model. Factor in grabby regenerative brakes and the T8 isn’t fun to drive with enthusiasm. Attack some country roads and the car feels as though it’s begging for it to end and instead settle down to a gentle cruise on a straight piece of tarmac.

Moreover, drive the XC60 T8 with any vigour and the 28-mile electric range will disappear more quickly than a tin of Quality Street on Christmas Day. Switch over to the ‘Pure’ (EV) mode and it’s difficult to regulate range with power when behind the wheel.

With just 86bhp from the electric motor and the small problem of pulling a car weighing 2,115kg, the T8 quickly fires up the petrol engine to aid acceleration – and it does this a lot. You can, of course, ‘hold’ the battery’s charge for use later but then you’re using solely petrol power, which makes the T8 quite uneconomical. ‘Hybrid’ is a better mode for the T8, though, and the switch between EV and petrol power is smoother.

You can also ‘charge’ up the car on the move with the engine acting as a generator, but this is particularly inefficient. In ‘Hybrid’ we only managed 31mpg – a far cry from the laboratory-calculated 134.5mpg figure quoted.

It’s a shame because elsewhere the XC60 is a desirable car. The T8 is only available in the two range-topping trims – posh Inscription Pro or R-Design Pro. Our car was the latter and its aggressive bodykit and large 21-inch alloys look the part, while on the inside, there are extra features such as part-leather and Alcantara sports seats and an Orrefors crystal gearlever.

This is on top of exceptional build quality, a smart and minimalist interior design, decent rear space and boot room that’s on par with its rivals.

Key specs

  • Model: Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design Pro
  • Price: £56,680
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged petrol, plus electric motor
  • Power/torque: 400bhp/640Nm
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
  • Top speed: 140mph
  • Economy: 134.5mpg
  • CO2: 49g/km
  • On sale: Now