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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine Inscription Pro

Click to view picture gallery“Plug-ins purchase or pass?
  If it
s a Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid
  we
re talking about, then purchase
  it will surely be...”


AND NOT BECAUSE of its 390hp and headline-grabbing 122.8mpg. Sure, 390hp is a powerful number although, unless you are able to commute in pure electric mode for less than 28 miles between charging posts, you're more likely to see 30-40mpg. Not that you'll give a hoot though because it's not the T8's 140mph top speed and 5.5-second 0-62mph sprint that will seduce you, but the way it glides serenely along at real-world speeds.


Few cars look right from every angle — the XC60 is one that does. Styling an SUV is a tricky business; for a start it rides high and complicating matters is the physical imperative to serve three masters — one who wants friends and family to have plenty of room; another who needs to load up with lifestyle stuff such as trail bikes and the like; and a third who must accommodate youngsters and all the paraphernalia that goes with them.

Petrol-electric hybrids
are complicated to build.
Thankfully the end-user
doesn
t need to
understand a bit of it.
Climb behind the wheel
and the T8 more or less
runs itself.
Most of the time you
ll
be motoring in hybrid
mode — all you need to
do is brake and
accelerate and the
system blends the petrol
and electric power
as necessary to provide
whatever degree of thrust
your right foot has
asked for...”
Delivering on the space to satisfy everyone is not so hard but making it look elegant is the challenge. Run your eyes over the XC60 and, if you're being mindful, you'll catch yourself nodding because its proportions are perfectly judged and enhanced by well-considered detailing such as the beautifully fitted tailpipes, eye-catching high-set L-shaped rear lights framing the tailgate, the sporty rake to its glasshouse and, at the front, a prominent high-gloss black-and-chrome vertically-barred grille flanked by 'Thor's hammer' pattern LED lights.

Power comes in three forms — D4/D5, T5, and T8 Twin Engine. All use a four-cylinder engine with the D sipping diesel and the Ts drinking unleaded. The T8 differs from its stablemates because running alongside its petrol engine is an electric motor. Power outputs are: for the turbodiesel units, 190 and 235hp; the T5 petrol offers 250hp; while the T8 has 303hp (and 295lb ft of torque) plus a further 87hp/177lb ft from its electric motor. Performance-wise the diesels will hit the benchmark 62mph from standstill in, respectively, 8.4 and 7.2 seconds, the T5 takes 6.8 and the T8 cuts this down to just 5.5 seconds.

While all-electric cars are comparatively straightforward to build, petrol-electric hybrids, requiring as they do the seamless integration of an internal combustion engine and electric motor with rechargeable battery pack technology, are complicated. For instance, the petrol engine drives the XC60's front wheels and also acts as a generator for the plug-in battery pack-fed electric motor powering its rear wheels. Thankfully the end-user — that's ordinary folks like you and me — doesn't need to understand a bit of it. Climb behind the wheel and the T8 more or less runs itself.

Most of the time you'll be motoring in hybrid mode — all you need to do is brake and accelerate and the system blends the petrol and electric power as necessary to provide whatever degree of thrust your right foot has asked for. Pure mode, as its name suggests, will do its level best to use electric-only wherever possible.

Alternatively, a 'hold' mode prioritises recharging the battery pack as you drive while ringfencing the juice so you can use it at a later point in your journey — say, for hushed city cruising. When you're low on charge the petrol engine also performs a generator role to boost the battery pack. Regenerative braking recovers energy from the brakes (which is why hybrids are so well suited to city conditions) and uses it for powering auxiliary functions as well as recharging the battery.

So far, so easy. Press the engine start button (actually you twist the very tactile knurled Start knob to the right!), select Drive and the T8 moves off in pure electric mode in near silence (Buck Rogers-ish at first; infinitely satisfying every time after that). It will stay in pure-electric mode unless the battery pack is depleted or you want more urge.

With a plug-in there is none of the range anxiety that's part and parcel of electric-only systems where a flat battery means 'marooned' — in the hybrid T8 not only can you enjoy stress-free motoring without worrying about running out of power but you don't have to go easy on the electrical usage, so you can benefit from the heated seats and steering wheel, freely enjoy the powered backrest massage functions, and Winter or Summer have the climate control maxed out.

No worries, either, should you run out of battery charge — after about 25 miles you will anyway but then the petrol engine will automatically take over for the rest of your trip. And when you eventually do hook up to a charging point you don't have to wait forever — two and half hours using a fast charger or three and a half via a domestic three-pin socket.

In the T8 not only can
you enjoy stress-free
motoring without
worrying about running
out of power but you
don
t have to go easy on
the electrical usage,
so you can benefit from
the heated seats and
steering wheel, freely
enjoy the powered
backrest massage
functions, and Winter
or Summer have the
climate control maxed
out...”
As mentioned earlier, the XC60's front wheels are driven by a 1,969cc turbocharged and supercharged four-pot 303hp petrol engine while the rear axle receives its drive from a 87hp electric motor. Taken together that's the level of poke you'd expect from a muscular V8. The transmission is an eight-speed autobox and four-wheel drive is permanently on call.

Pace is impressive although most of the time you don't need to stamp the accelerator to set the T8 surging forward; quick exits at junctions and effortless overtaking on the motorway makes a lie of this SUV's two-tonne-plus weight because it feels effortless to drive at any speed. It helps, too, that the eight-speed automatic gearbox is a smooth shifter and that the switching between pure electric and hybrid modes is decidedly laid-back.

When in Rome… During our week testing the T8 we made sure we spent time running on pure electric power and, Yes, you can, as it says on the tin, plug-in overnight then go to work and back and, if keeping your commute under the 28-mile threshold, do it without using hardly a drop of unleaded. Reassuringly, the electric range readout proved accurate (unlike some other brand plug-ins and EVs) so you can cut it fine when maximising juice-use.

Obviously those who regularly drive short distances will reap the biggest mpg rewards but even those who range far and wide won't miss out, as our 33.2mpg test average confirms. Making the most of pure electric, particularly in townscapes can also, on longer journeys, help eke out the dual-source fuel consumption to 40+mpg.

Forget about that eye-wateringly expensive spa break in Peru to restore your inner peace; all you really need is a trip in a range-topping XC60 T8. The very spacious (in all directions) cabin is superbly dressed and upholstered and majors on charisma and luxury, exuding a de-stressing ambiance that's as good as anything you'll find in a Range Rover. Underscoring its über-relaxing feel-good factor is a marked absence of mechanical sound when running on electric power; even when active, the petrol engine is muted.

The soft Nappa leather seats you'd take out and use indoors if only you could — they're super-comfortable and supportive everywhere they should be; they're also every-which-way power-adjustable with adjustable backrest side bolstering for that bespoke fit and multi-direction lumbar support (both adjustable with a fingertip tap on the touchscreen) as well as extendable under-knee support. Two memory recall settings ensure neither front occupant wastes any time settling in for their next journey.

On top of that both driver and front passenger can savour three-stage seat heating or cooling, or even a multi-pattern and multi-intensity massage. The driver goes one better, with a three-stage heated steering wheel. He or she also benefits from a first-class driving position with fine views of the road ahead through the wide windscreen.

Easily assimilated, non-distracting essential information makes driving on today's busy roads as relaxing as can be — features like the digital and easily customisable instrument panel with a live mapping background and a superb head-up display showing your road speed, road signs, graphic navigational prompts, and phone and driver support info. Incidentally, a large road speed readout and posted speed limit are also shown in the digital speedo 'dial'.

There’s liberal space in
the 4.7-metre-long
XC60 for three in the rear
cabin combined,
impressively, with as
much comfort as is doled
out by the big-hearted
front seats; there’s
decent legroom and
headroom, and even
taller passengers will
have generous space
above their hair.
The powered
panoramic roof with
tilt-and-slide brings
a brightness that can be
appreciated all year
round...”
High marks too must go to the crisp nine-inch touchscreen tablet-style infotainment display at the heart of the crafted dash. Switchgear is noticeable by its absence — most everything is controlled via the high-def portrait-format nine-inch touchscreen or from the multifunction steering wheel. Touchscreen menus are logical; the good news is that your voice can replace much of the finger-tapping — Volvo's Sensus infotainment system understands more than 300 everyday phrases, from 'Set temperature 16 degrees' to 'Listen to Leonard Cohen'.

The inbuilt SatNav serves up pin-sharp 3D mapping with foolproof destination inputs (voice, fingertip or via your smartphone; you can even sync to your Outlook Calendar to get to your next destination). Guidance is timely and idiot-proof: no U-turns will be necessary.

Music heard through the 10-speaker 330-watt audio system will be fine for most although audiophiles could be tempted to upgrade to either the 600-watt Harman Kardon or the 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system.

A WiFi hotspot is on hand so all of your passengers can get online; installed web apps include Local Search, Spotify, Tunein, Weather, and Yelp. Naturally there's DAB radio and Bluetooth (with handsfree voice control) and MP3 player connectivity. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available for on-screen smartphone interfacing.

Along with plenty of large storage spaces, the kit-list is formidable. Much has been already mentioned in the relevant sections but there's also keyless entry, locking and start, all-round parking sensors and a parking camera with multi-view zoom and 360-degree coverage, dual-zone climate control with air-quality system and pollen filtering, electric park brake with auto hold, tinted and privacy glass, laminated side windows, multi-colour theatre cabin lighting, one-shot windows, heated and auto-dimming powerfolding door mirrors, frameless auto-dimmig rearview mirror, etc.

The XC60, not surprisingly, majors on safety kit intended to prevent or avoid an accident in the first place, such as autonomous emergency braking (including at junctions) that detects hazardous pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals; a system to reduce the chances of inadvertently being in the wrong place at the wrong time that can intervene and control steering and speed to guide the XC60 out of possible danger — for instance, drifting into the path of oncoming traffic or starting to change lanes when another vehicle is coming up fast in your blind spot.

Drivers who hate the boredom of long motorway runs will find a new best friend in Volvo's Pilot Assist — not quite a fully fledged autopilot, it combines adaptive cruise control with active steering to reduce motorway driver fatigue. Other practical safety items include things like a full suite or airbags (including driver's knee), a heated windscreen and heated wipers, active 'bending' LED headlights, and tyre pressure monitoring.

There's liberal space in the 4.7-metre-long XC60 for three in the rear cabin combined, impressively, with as much comfort as is doled out by the big-hearted front seats; there's decent legroom and headroom so even taller passengers will have generous space above their hair. The powered panoramic roof with tilt-and-slide lets in a brightness that can be appreciated all year round. Nice touches include air vents in the B-pillar, usable door bins, and a shallow tray with shake-proof siamesed cupholders built into the wide drop-down centre armrest.

One of our regular road-
testers suffers from a bad
back but it does give
her a keener appreciation
of a car
s ride quality.
The T8
s soft air
suspension delivers
a comfortable ride even
over patched and
potholed blacktop —
and not even a twinge of
back pain!
Further contributing to
the XC60
s comfort-
oriented ride are the
fabulous seats that are,
without a doubt, some of
the very best you can
get in any car at
any price...”
Sixty in 5.2 seconds (0-62mph in 5.5) is not hanging about; not in anybody's book. But while the acceleration is surprisingly quick (the surprise will be on the faces of other drivers), given the T8's 2,660kg weight — the battery pack accounts for 200+kg — it feels nicely 'planted' and handles far better than you might assume courtesy of its four-wheel drive, adaptive dampers and electronic air-suspension.

Above all, the T8 is oh-so-relaxing to drive; parking is hassle free thanks to sensors and a camera showing 360-degree views as well as an automated 'parking jockey' to carry out both parallel and 90-degree parking for you. Another much appreciated feature that you'll find yourself using all the time is the auto-switching LED headlights whose main beams light up so much more of the road at night without dazzling other road users — a real boon on unfamiliar roads.

However, if you're thinking of playing tag with more intensely sports-oriented but harder-riding SUVs then you're missing the point of what this hybrid XC60 is all about — a silky stress-free driving experience. It's no shrinking violet, though: it's not scared of getting its feet wet, and can wade through 400mm deep water; plus its 216mm of ground clearance lets it tackle rougher terrain, where its all-wheel drive and Hill Descent Control systems will be much appreciated.

One of our regular road-testers suffers from a bad back but it does give her a keener appreciation of a car's ride quality. The T8's 'soft' air suspension delivers a comfortable ride even over patched and potholed blacktop — and not even a twinge of back pain! Contributing further to the XC60's comfort-oriented ride are the fabulous seats that are, without a doubt, some of the very best you can get in any car at any price.

All hybrids enforce a compromise on you; a trade-off for housing their battery pack. And it's the boot that usually takes the hit. Happily the XC60 retains its load-lugging SUV versatility and practicality with a 468-litre boot (load to the roof and you'll squeeze in 598 litres). A dedicated underfloor cubby keeps the charging cables safe as well as providing useful overspill storage.

Accessing the boot couldn't be easier thanks to a fast-action powered tailgate that opens and closes handsfree. Should you need to carry some cargo, just pull the in-boot levers to power-drop the rear seatbacks — they fold perfectly flat to create a seamless and level-floored 1,395-litre loadbay. For more serious load-lugging the T8 will tow a braked 1,200kg.

For us the most honest recommendation of a test car is our reluctance to give it back. In the case of the XC60 T8, as we handed over the keys we were 'missing it already'. And why wouldn't we? This 'green' SUV is a most appealing all-rounder and a convincing example of how good plug-in hybrids can be. One day all cars will be as good as this. So why wait? ~ MotorBar
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Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine Inscription Pro | £59,770
Maximum speed: 140mph | 0-62mph: 5.5 seconds | Test Average: 33.2mpg
Power: 303hp+87hp | Torque: 295+177lb ft | CO2: 52g/km

.