There is something noble about a product which offers real-life solutions without much posturing.Volvo’s latest XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid does this very well. This discreetly designed mid-size SUV has plenty of cabin and luggage space, is safe and relatively economical to run, offers a reassuring drive and handling, as well as a raft of intuitive technology on-board to help navigate and communicate.
These qualities may not immediate excite the senses, yet sometimes a motor car of a certain size and class should be purely about providing these basic travel necessities and do this impressively. On loan earlier in the year (before the coronavirus lockdown) for a couple of weeks of intensive driving, in the rugged Lake District north of the UK, on various highway routes there and back and finally through London’s congestion, this Volvo is a thoroughly competent companion.
But first, a little explanation on the naming. Previously marketed as the XC60 T8 Twin Engine, this hybrid petrol-electric car now is officially sold under the “Recharge” banner. The marque is in the process electrifying its entire family with allchargeable Volvos with either fully electric or plug-in hybrid powertrainsnow called Recharge. It certainly makes for easier customer navigation.
The XC60 sits between the smaller XC40 (driven over Christmas 2019) and the bigger XC90 Volvo SUVs. And it has been a great seller for the Swedish marque since itsintroduction in 2008,accounting for something like 30% of total sales. The model I’m driving is based on the second-generation XC60, while this Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 variant is the newest member of the family.
The XC60 shares a modified platform used to build the XC90, so it benefits from the same suspension and engine range as the seven-seater larger sibling. The T8 is essentially a hybrid set-up combining a petrol engine with a plug-in electric motor and battery pack. This means the car can drive on electric mode alone for up to 33 miles. The set-up offers decent performance too – thanks to technology brought over from Volvo’s performance arm Polestar – with a maximum power output of 303bhp and zero to 62mph in 5.5 seconds.
Safety has always been paramount to Volvo cars and this XC60 offers an impressive menu to keep the driver alert and assisted and the passengers safe. The “City Safety” package recognises other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals, both in daylight and at night and alerts you to collision risks in everyday driving, automatically preventing or reducing the severity of an impact.
In terms of looks, the car follows the Volvo SUV visual theme – namely a flat grille and distinctive LED lights that follow the shape of the car at front and in rear. The Recharge T8 can be bought in either this sportier “R-Design Pro” style or the “Inscription Pro” trim level which has more of a Scandinavian design sensibility and includes ideas like driftwood interior inlays. Both sit on 19-inch alloy wheels.
This is a versatile five-seater and a genuinely comfortable car to travel in. The interior design is unfussy, clear and uncluttered in that very Swedish way. Front seats are generous in size and surprisingly comfortable on our extended road trip. Then, at the rear my nine-year-old niece and nephew are positioned high enough to see the world outside, so much so that my niece, who suffers from motion sickness, doesn’t complain during the entire week – and this despite the windy roads in the Lakes. There is an innovative approach to storage solutions here too, with lots of areas to hide away phones and keys and hold cups and snacks.
The XC60 is a car for a small family of explorers and so much of the design is centered around the outdoors. Luggage space in the boot is at 505-liters and increases substantially when the rear seats fold completely flat to allow room for larger items. Even without the lowered seats we manage to jam in so much – four cases, hiking gear, wellies and more. Our car comes with the optional handy powered tailgate too which lifts high and out of the way to leave a wide loading area. There is also a reversible mat – carpet on one side and plastic on the other – to help keep the area clean. The CX60 roof can fit racks for cycling, kayaking or skiing gear, which we don’t put to the test.
The infotainment system is easy to follow with its nine-inch central touch-screen interface combining drive functions, navigation, connected services and in-car entertainment applications such as Spotify. Then there is something Volvo calls “CleanZone”, a technology created by the Volvo Cars Nose team in Gothenburg, Sweden which ensures outside air is effectively filtered before entering the cabin, removing harmful pollutants increasingly common in urban areas. I’ve always been fascinated by the nose teams’ job in various car companies, which is essentially to sample various smells, plastic objects and so on, to determine if their odour is acceptable or too strong to incorporate into the car’s interior design.
Volvo is very serious with its sustainability program. The firm haspledged to reduce its lifecycle carbon footprint per vehicle by 40% between 2018 and 2024, aiming to cut carbon emissions from its global manufacturing, supply chain and logistics operations by 25%, while working towards becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040.The Swedish marque will launch a fully electric car every year, as it seeks to make all-electric cars 50% of global sales by 2025.Meanwhile this XC60Recharge carries the right spirit to navigate this exciting sustainable chapter for Volvo.