Have you ever driven a car before that you really liked, but just couldn’t fully “get”? That happened to me this week with the Volvo V60 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid. I really liked it, but I just didn’t “get” it.
What do I mean that I didn’t “get” it? Well, it’s simple really. This is a car with a 2.4 litre diesel engine and a plug-in battery that on paper will give you up to 50km on a full charge. What I didn’t “get”, was the fact that the Volvo V60 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid returned a fuel economy that I’d expect from a normal V60 – which drives better, but doesn’t have the same amount of poke.
In fairness, the Volvo V60 seems like an experiment car from Volvo that shows their abilities in mixing hybrid technology with a diesel engine. In terms of power, the results are very impressive, but between the weight of the battery and the raucous noises from the heavy diesel engine – things just don’t sit right.
We all know by now that batteries in EVs and hybrids are very heavy items. It’s incredible how heavy it made the V60 feel, especially on corners. This car on straights though… well that’s a different story. The Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid offers a massive amount of horses. With the D6 2.4 litre diesel engine you are fed as much as 220 bhp – which on its own is very nice, but add that to the 68 bhp from the electric motor and things can get very fast. This family estate is quicker than a Volkswagen Golf GTI (0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds) and on a straight it offers 0-100km/h in 6.0 seconds – which is not too shabby in any man’s books.
Driving the V60 Twin Engine in electric mode is a lovely experience. The battery can be handy too, especially when driving through cities. There’s something nice about reading the dial that says that your instant fuel economy is 0.0 l/100km. Volvo tells us that on a full charge this car can offer 50km. To be completely honest, I think I may have received at most 15-20km in pure mode – and I was trying really hard.
The other problem is that charging for that 50km takes a long time. Here’s how my week went. I picked up the car in South Dublin with a distance of 20km left in the battery. I took it on my 13km journey back to base on the Northside of the city. I ran out of battery after 9km – although that 9km was bliss. When back at base, I took the three-point pin from my test car and plugged it in for two hours while I was in the office. I came back out only to find that this charge only gave me 20km on the clock. I drove it and very quickly found that my battery was diminished after maybe 8km.
I then went to my local charge point in Drumcondra to give it a full charge. Nope, a non-electric vehicle was parked in the space. So I drove home on the loud diesel engine and charged from the house for three hours – once again, my “on-the-clock” return was 20km.
The following day, I tried my local charge point twice – on both occasions there were non-EVs parked there. The next day, I made my way to Donegal, where I managed to give the car a full charge – this took 6 hours. The clock read 50km, but after driving it 10km it read 20km, and then within another 5km it read 5km.
So, the battery is not great and potential owners will have to try a lot harder than me to get the full benefit from the car.
I covered 900km during my week with this car and in mostly hybrid mode I managed to return an overall fuel economy of 5.9l/100km, which is very good when you consider that this is a family wagon. However, this is nowhere near the on-paper return of 1.8l/100km that Volvo reckons it can return.
My test vehicle comes with a premium price too. It costs above €65,000. The V60 Twin Engine is a nice car, but if it was me I’d probably opt for the V60 D4 manual which has an on-paper fuel economy of 4.0l/100km or even the D4 Geartronic that has an on-paper return of 4.4l/100km (both of these cars cost more than €20,000 less!). Going for one of these means that you won’t spend your life charging the machine and getting frustrated at the lack of respect for public charge points – as well as the very long time it takes to charge at home.
The battery’s weight and size throws up other issues too. The weight of the vehicle can be felt through the steering wheel, and I found it to be wide on corners. The large battery also takes up a lot of space in the boot and instead of getting proper Volvo Estate space, you get room that would compete with a Ford Focus.
If the truth be known, and despite the stories above, I really like the V60 Twin Engine. Driving in electric mode feels great, but sadly it just doesn’t return what it should in terms of economy and practicality. I think Volvo knows this, because they appear to be leaving diesel hybrids behind them and are focusing more on petrol hybrids – as can be found in the XC90.