The Volvo XC60 has just won World Car of the Year. Are many of you surprised? I wouldn’t be – except for the fact that it feels like the new XC60 has been among us for quite a while now. Anyway, why am I not surprised? Well, the outgoing model has to be one of the best SUVs on the market. This car did exceptionally well for Volvo, which is why it took them so long to come up with a better alternative. And a better alternative is what we got. This car is sexy and suave. It’s tied the visual beauty of the new 90 Series together with a smaller shell. It still holds some of the rear angles of the outgoing model, but all in, this is a wonderful sight to behold.
Last week, I was given the keys of a Volvo XC60 with a twist. This one housed their T8 engine. Of course, I’d driven it before in an XC90, but if I’m being honest, I truly didn’t get a chance to benefit from the T8 hybrid technology in a way quite like in the XC60. You see, I found the brilliant shell of the XC90 to be a bit much for a hybrid set-up. Yep, you’ll get some electric miles out of it, but I can’t help argue that this T8 set-up is much better suited to the smaller shell of the XC60.
In the past I’ve written and said that if you opt for a hybrid vehicle, you must change your driving style to get any real benefit from a hybrid set-up. Therefore – you must take it easier in this car than you would in a normal ICE engine. Otherwise, you’ll not be getting bang for your buck. Because the battery takes up space and adds weight to the car, a smaller fuel tank is added when compared with a standard T6 petrol engine, or indeed a standard D4 diesel engine. It makes sense, because if they added a full-size tank, the driving dynamics of the T8 would be altered greatly, and the extra weight would further decrease fuel economy.
When I drove the T8 in the Volvo XC90, I was not happy with my return. However, in the XC60, I bet myself that I could achieve at least 600km out of the tank and the battery. In a conventional ICE vehicle, this would be an easy task (because of a larger tank), but trust me, if you drive this car in the right way, in the long run it will save you a fistful of dollars when it comes to coughing up cash for fuel. So, that’s what I did. I completely changed how I drove, and the results were better than I was hoping for.
So, I had the car for a week and during my first four days, the school run and city trips were the name of the game. Unfortunately, I don’t have an ESB charge point in my driveway, so I made it a daily chore to plug a three-pin charger through the window of my sitting room into the charge point of the car. These were cold days indeed, and this to me is one of the first impracticalities of a hybrid vehicle into the life of somebody who has no external charge point. It takes a bloody long time to give these vehicles a 100% charge. After about 3 hours you’d be lucky to get 20km of the 30km maximum that you can get from the T8. Now – if you have any sense and you buy one of these, you’d be wise to take full advantage of any grant that might be available for a charge point. But even on public charge points, charging one of these things in a hurry can be a bit of a drag. Once again though, if you have your own charge point, then most people opt for an overnight full charge.
Now, here’s the great news. I’ve driven many EVs and hybrid vehicles before, and it’s rare that you get anywhere near the promised distance in the odometer. I felt this particularly with the BMW 3 Series plug-in hybrid. In fact, I also recall the same frustration with the Volvo V60 Twin Engine diesel hybrid – where the odometer said I’d have 30km, but I’d be lucky to return 9km or 10km. In the Volvo XC60 T8, one of my 20km charges actually returned 18km in full electric mode. In my experience, this is excellent and really very impressive.
I did manage to get a full charge into the T8, and a couple of part-charges in some public charge-points. It was these charges that allowed me to complete over 660km in this car.
I’m sure there are many of you who are wondering what it’s like to stick your foot down in the 400hp Volvo XC60 T8? Well, I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell you. As I said, I was testing this car for fuel economy. I wanted to see how far I could push the tank. I didn’t drive this machine like a nun though. I stuck to the speed limits but made sure that I got to my speeds at a steady pace. Also, I reckon I could’ve got even more out of the tank had I not stuck to the 120km/h on the motorway and reduced my speed to 100km/h. However, I wanted to achieve a distance in as normal a manner as possible. As the saying goes, “softly, softly catchee monkey”. In other words, don’t drive this machine like it’s stolen. My other advice, and this should be words to drive by regardless of what you’re driving, the speed limit is your friend – especially in the cities. If you’re in too much of a hurry, then you won’t get a good fuel return from the XC60.
Nobody ever said that Volvo is known for its low prices, and unfortunately, anyone who wants to step into an entry level version of the T8 XC60 will be expected to pay at least €69,950 (according to the Volvo website). However, don’t forget that there are SEAI grants and VRT relief available. My test model comes in at €80,869 – once again, this price can be reduced with grant aid.
All in, I think this car is another gem from Volvo. These guys are on a real winning run at the moment, and I agree with their successes in both the World and European Car of the Year Awards.
Click here to read about the exterior, interior and drive in Michael Sheridan’s review of the Volvo XC60.