Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine

Plug-in hybrid SUV blends muscular sprinting ability with electric-only potential

Given Volvo’s brilliantly executed (and duly over-hyped) statement about the (yes, inevitable) electrification of its future product line-up, the arrival in the UK of the XC60 T8 seems perfectly timed. With its petrol-electric plug-in powertrain, this range-topper exemplifies the brand’s compass heading over the coming decade. Up front, there’s a 314bhp combustion engine driving the front wheels. At the back is an 86bhp electric motor for powering the rear axle. The 2.0-litre petrol four-pot is both supercharged and turbocharged. The electric motor’s energy comes courtesy of a mains-chargeable 10.4kWh battery pack.

Although new to the XC60, this combination made its debut in the larger XC90. The system’s output and functionality are much the same here but the XC60 weighs about 200kg less than its seven-seat sibling, so gains are made in the T8’s already very brisk acceleration to 62mph. Official CO2 emissions and fuel economy, meanwhile, remain the same, at 49g/km and 134.5mpg. Volvo claims 28 miles of all-electric range and three-and-a-half hours to recharge from a domestic plug.

Sense of quality inside is among the best

In top-spec Inscription Pro trim, the T8 receives a level of fit and finish commensurate with its £57,950 asking price and its SUV peer group. The same goes for pace. Doubtless you’ll need the drive mode set to Power to equal Volvo’s 5.3sec-to-62mph claim, but even in Hybrid, the XC60 is in the segment’s top tier.

Having said that, extracting all (or most) of the performance is not necessarily in keeping with the car’s temperament. For a start, the predominately front-driven XC60 – although steadfastly competent in the handling department – is no Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Macan. Push on as you might aboard its rivals and the car’s somewhat brittle wheel control (alongside its inflated kerb weight and grabby brakes) tends to make the chassis feel like it’s under moderate duress rather than begging for it. You’ll also chow through the car’s modest battery life. Like a number of rival solutions, the T8 allows you to hold onto your zero-emission range for later use – typically, in the Pure drive mode that noiselessly spirits you about town.

XC60 T8 gathers pace quickly but its battery is short-lived

But the problem here is that because 86bhp is not a lot for shifting two tonnes, Volvo has not been able to banish the combustion engine completely – opting instead to keep it under a delayed, are-you-sure throttle response, so when it does cut in, it does so with all the smoothness of a father of the bride hitting the wedding dance floor.

In Hybrid, the transition is much sleeker, but there’s still a gentle lull as the four-pot kicks in. The fact that the XC60 is at its most consistent when the battery has all but run out – or you’re charging it from the engine – rather says it all. Of course, reach this point and the reasoning for buying a T8 starts going sideways: we averaged 24.8mpg with a flattened battery; Porsche claims 24.6mpg for a Macan Turbo on an urban cycle.

Being no less thirsty than the competition beyond its limited electric range presents a familiar weakness: the only way to really enjoy the car’s internal opulence and straight-line fervour as intended is to do so locally or between charge points. And while that hefty real-world compromise persists, any grandiose statement of intent regarding electrification can still be taken with a liberal pinch of salt.

NIC CACKETT

TESTER’S NOTE
The T8 is rated to tow up to 2100kg — respectable for a hybrid powertrain but 300kg less than a diesel V6 Jaguar F-Pace will pull. NC