Plug and play Volvo

Road test: Volvo V60 D6 AWD plug-in hybrid

There are various electric and hybrid solutions on the market and Volvo has plumped for the plug-in variety of diesel-electric hybrid, now available in its extremely competent V60.  We’ve covered a couple of different engine options in the past so know the car quite well.  The question, then: is it any good?

We need to look at it from two angles.  First, is it a sensible, practical solution?  Second, does it take anything away from the otherwise pleasing V60?

Styling changes for 2014

Styling-wise, the tweaks are subtle for the 2014 model year.  Minor, pleasing changes to the nose cone include repositioning of the day running lights and lower air intake.  At the rear, the twin tail pipes are now integral to the rear valance.  The 17” wheels include additional vanes to aid aerodynamics and the tyres are low-resistance (Michelin on our press car).

Unlike ‘regular’ hybrids, this Volvo must be plugged in to the mains to charge.  It will charge a little from the engine and through regenerative braking but otherwise, you’ll have what you put in via a mains socket.  From flat to full, this takes about four hours.

Under electric power alone (selecting Pure mode) the range quoted on full charge is ‘up to 31 miles’.  At something like £1.30 for a complete charge, this makes sense when you compare with the cost and range of a gallon of fuel (although purchase price and usage pattern play key parts in the total financial equation).  The vehicle is supplied with a cable for connection to standard 13A domestic socket but there is a 16A cable option available (requiring dedicated socket).

Some have likened the process to charging one’s mobile ‘phone each evening but it isn’t quite the same.  Should my ‘phone go flat, I can always charge it in the car en route somewhere; clearly this isn’t the case with the car…

Your plan B is the excellent 2.4 litre twin-turbocharged, five cylinder diesel, powering the front wheels.  If you have charged the batteries, this adds the 70hp electrical motor, developing 200 Nm of torque, through the rear wheels.

With the two power sources, there is Pure mode (electric alone), Hybrid (the default mode, switching between) and Power (using everything together).

What’s the range like?

The 30-mile range was chosen, apparently, because it will allow most commutes to be undertaken without the need for diesel consumption.  I took the car across South Manchester on a 24-mile return journey during the morning rush hour to simulate an ordinary urban commute.  Selecting Pure mode to utilise battery charge alone and driving gently through the stop-start traffic, I watched the range fall in threes from the max 30 at full charge (rather than the quoted 31).

Unwilling to compromise on personal comfort, I wasn’t prepared to abandon use of climate control or switch-off Chris Evans’ cheery banter.  It was light enough not to require headlamps (although the day running lights were illuminated) and the rain had stopped, so no need for wipers or heated window operation.

By the time I’d reached my destination, 12 miles away, I had a range of nine miles to make those 12 miles home.  The return run was similarly busy and the range continued to be consumed faster than real miles travelled.  Finally, with five miles left to reach home, the diesel engine came to life and whisked me back to my door.  19 miles in total from the battery.

Interestingly, I repeated this journey in full hybrid mode and the results were similar.  Most of the run was conducted on battery power alone because the speeds were low, so again, full diesel use was required before concluding the 24-mile round trip.

The switch between power sources is subtle

The driving experience itself is extremely civilised.  There’s no mistaking the extra weight, but the driving dynamics are still good.  In hybrid mode, the switch between power sources is subtle and the Geartronic auto ‘box works very well.  Switch to Power mode, using both electricity and diesel and the combined torque offers a satisfying shove.  Ordinarily, the D6 plug-in hybrid is 0.2 of a second slower to 62 mph (7.9 over 7.7) than the equivalent D5 diesel model.  However, in Power mode, the time is reduced to an impressive 6.1 seconds.

The other point of note with this model is the reduced load space – the boot floor is significantly raised to accommodate the batteries.  The fuel tank capacity is 22.5 litres smaller (45 litres here) than the comparable non-hybrid models, too.

Do the numbers add-up?

Low emissions, good overall mpg plus more-than-ample power make this an interesting and very useable choice.  At about £14,000 over the standard (and very good) D5, you could also buy a city car and fuel it for years on the difference and real-world range less than two-thirds of what’s in the brochure.  Lifestyle choice: yes.  Financially astute choice: no.

Volvo V60 D6 AWD plug-in hybrid, from £49,275.

Power: 215 PS @ 4,000 rpm (plus 70 PS from motor), torque: 440 Nm (plus 200 Nm from motor), emissions: 48 g/km CO2 (band A), 0-62 mph: 7.9 secs (6.1 secs in combined).

Motor Writer rating: ●●●○○

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