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Driven: Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid. Image by Volvo.

Driven: Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid
Volvo's V60 PHEV shows promise, but needs work.


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Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid

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Good points: meaty performance, neat integration of electric drive, appealing looks inside and out.

Not so good: heavy, expensive, fuel economy considerably lower than quoted.

Key Facts

Model tested: Volvo V60 D6 AWD Geartronic SE Lux Nav PHEV
Price: 44,975 basic; car as tested 52,375 (both figures include 5,000 Government grant)
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged five-cylinder diesel with supplementary electric motor
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: five-door estate
CO2 emissions: 48g/km (Band A, 0 annually)
Combined economy: 155.2mpg
Top speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
Power: diesel 215hp at 4,000rpm, electric 68hp, system maximum 283hp
Torque: diesel 440Nm from 1,500- to 3,000rpm, electric 200Nm, system maximum 640Nm

Our view:

The Volvo V60 is one of the Swedish firm's most wide-ranging current line-ups. From a 120hp, 23,000 D2 diesel model right up to the all-singing, all-dancing Polestar limited edition, there should be a V60 to suit everyone. There's even a Cross Country version, for those who need a bit of extra ruggedness in their lives.

And there's a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) too, which is the car we're testing here. On the one hand, this is very of the minute - part-electric vehicles are all the rage, of course. But if you dig a little into the Volvo's technical specifications, you find quite a lot of this car is already out of date. And will be considerably more out of date by the time you've said its full name of Volvo V60 D6 All-Wheel Drive Geartronic SE Lux Nav Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle.

There's little wrong with the way the V60 PHEV looks either outside or in, although the cabin - which has been, for the past few years, acceptable - is immediately rendered old hat if you've seen the interior of the new XC90. Knowing that that sort of sumptuous, stunning cockpit is imminent for the rest of the Volvo range makes the familiar 'Floating Console' look of the V60 seem antiquated. Nonetheless, it's well made, the seats are naturally among the comfiest out there (it is a Volvo...), we like the classy TFT instrument cluster (but not the clunky digital bar gauges to either side of it) and the passenger cabin is roomy. The PHEV comes in high-end SE Lux Nav trim only, meaning leather, the six-speed Geartronic auto and satnav (displayed on quite a small screen in the top of the dash) are all standard fit.

However, there's very little to visually inform you that you're in the hybrid model, save for the four bespoke drivetrain control buttons on the fascia and some extra screens in the infotainment displays. And despite that trim level, cost options are still plentiful. With 7,400 of extra kit loaded into our demo car, even with the off-set of 5,000 from the Government in your pocket as thanks for owning an (part) electric car, a V60 in this spec would cost an astonishing 52,375. Maybe the free VED or eight per cent Benefit-in-Kind rate would soften that haymaker blow for a few buyers, although we somehow doubt it.

Anyway, moving outside, the V60 is not one of the boxy, angular wagons of Volvo's past but a lean, swoopy thing that looks particularly good in Power Blue on optional 18-inch wheels (775). The PHEV's signifiers are the extra charging 'filler flap' on the nearside front wing, very subtle badges at the base of the A-pillars and a thin 'Plug-in Hybrid' emblazoned strip of chrome on the boot lid. Oh, and the D6 badging. Of course, the sleek styling means carrying capacity is not going to match that of a Volvo 740 GLT, but the hybrid components don't impact on the boot too much so the V60 PHEV can still function as a family machine.

That aforementioned quartet of mode buttons determine which of the two engines on board the PHEV are in use: 'Save' maintains battery charge by using the V60's diesel engine; 'Power' links both motors together for heady total outputs of 283hp and 640Nm; 'Hybrid' ensures the car's on-board electrics shuffle between the two units as appropriate; and 'Pure' is the full-electric, zero-emissions running, in which the Volvo has a theoretical range of 31 miles up to speeds of 78mph. And all of these modes work brilliantly and intuitively. You quickly find yourself scrolling between them on a drive, to maximise your resources to their best. As a result, we saw a genuine 80mpg on a route of mixed country lane, A-road and town driving - yes, some way short of 155.2mpg, but not to be sniffed at for a car of this power.

And there's really nothing wrong with the V60 PHEV's motive urge. Fully lit with the diesel and electric motors delivering their all, acceleration is remarkably rapid. It makes a nice noise, too, thanks to the diesel unit being the 2.4-litre five-cylinder; although... yep, we're going to use that word again - old. This engine is being phased out for the newer, more refined and more parsimonious Drive-E four-pot diesels and while the 2.4 is charismatic, it's also starting to show its age. So is the six-speed Geartronic. Volvo has updated this to an eight-speed item on the Drive-E cars, but it can't be paired to the five-cylinder engine.

Still, there's a lot to like about the V60 PHEV's dynamic character. The ride is good at all times, despite the large alloy wheels. Wind and tyre noise are kept to a minimum, which means that when the Volvo is in Pure mode, it genuinely is near-silent on the move. Body roll is quelled, the all-wheel drive chassis (something that is finally a concomitant benefit of the 2.4, as the Drive-E units are uniformly mated to front-wheel drive on non-SPA-chassis Volvos) provides a lot of traction in varied conditions and the brakes are well modulated.

You'll stamp on them quite hard the first time you approach a junction, mind. The V60 PHEV weighs in excess of two tonnes (yes, that's right; two tonnes) and it needs some hauling down from speed. That weight might also explain the slightly more dismal motorway fuel returns. At 70mph, no matter which mode you've engaged while trying to eke out your kilowatts, the Volvo quickly drains its batteries, leaving the diesel doing the donkey work. And at that point, a 215hp five-cylinder turbodiesel hauling 2,048kg of four-wheel drive Swedish estate starts to struggle to breach 40mpg - little more than a quarter of the official combined figure. Yikes.

There's a big plus point to mention here and it is that the BMW 330e, Mercedes-Benz C 300 e and Audi A4 e-tron plug-in hybrid models... all don't exist as yet. We know they're on the way, but the Volvo has the jump on the German competition for once. Nevertheless, at the moment we can't recommend the V60 PHEV over a nicely specified, front-wheel drive Drive-E diesel model. The outgoing drivetrain, the Volvo's weight and its fearsome expense are too many cons for the pros of the slick hybridisation, nice interior and general air of refinement to overcome. But there's so much promise here for the next-generation V60 PHEV, which will have an SPA chassis, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and an eight-speed gearbox. All these should make it feel like a truly cutting edge hybrid. Until then, we'll stick with a normal V60, thanks.


BMW 330d Touring: the straightforward option. Much cheaper, much better to drive and nowhere near as heavy as the Volvo V60. Hard to think why you'd pick the Swedish PHEV over one of these supremely competent BMW estates.

Mercedes-Benz C 300 h Estate: starts at 37,965 and while it's only a mild hybrid (rather than a plug-in), the C-Class looks nicer, has a better cabin, is a lighter car and will probably match the Volvo's real-world economy returns.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV: despite being an SUV, the Outlander is similar in size to the V60 and the only comparable PHEV rival. Has bland looks and a cheap cabin, but a very clever drivetrain - and it's considerably cheaper than the Volvo.

Matt Robinson - 22 Aug 2015    - Volvo road tests
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2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.

2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.2015 Volvo V60 D6 Twin Engine. Image by Volvo.


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