Volvo has been producing PHEVs for quite some time. In fact, the first plug-in car I tested for Fleet News – back in 2016 – was a Volvo XC90 T8. Now, there’s a plug-in hybrid option on every Volvo model.
The T8 powertrain is ‘well established’ then. It uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged, while the electric motor helps boost power to a combined 390PS with 640Nm of torque.
It is, therefore, a quick company car. Acceleration from zero to 60mph is less than five seconds and the mid-range power surge makes light work of motorway slip roads and overtaking manoeuvres. Top speed is limited to 112mph, however, as part of Volvo's commitment to safety.
Since the T8 ‘twin engine’ was conceived, Volvo has made numerous updates to improve refinement and fuel consumption. Earlier cars with the same engine felt more raucous under acceleration and the transition from electric to petrol was noticeable.
Thankfully, none of these issues are present in our S60 T8.
The transmission is much more reactive, while the interaction between the engine and electric motor has been fine-tuned and is barely perceptible.
R Design comes well equipped
After 1,000 miles behind the wheel of our S60, it’s fair to say I’m becoming quite attached to it. While saloon cars are a bit less practical than SUVs and estates, there’s something satisfying about a sporty-looking compact executive and Volvo has got the proportions perfect on the new S60.
The driving position is low and, thanks to the high centre console, you feel cocooned inside the cabin with the steering wheel and pedals falling to hand (and foot) just as you’d like them.
Volvo is usually recognised for safety, but it’s also a brand that puts comfort high on the agenda. Our R Design sits on firmer springs, but it still offers a graceful ride.
Creature comforts are in abundance too. All plug-in hybrid models get electrically adjustable front seats that are also heated, dual-zone climate control with remote pre-conditioning, adaptive LED headlights that move as you steer and parking sensors with rear-view camera.
Our car has been optioned with a few extras to make the experience even more enjoyable. The £450 Winter Pack adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats and a heated front windscreen. All of which are welcome during the winter months.
While all S60s come with cruise control and an array of safety systems, the £1,600 Driver Assistance Pack adds Pilot Assist with adaptive cruise control, which can keep the car in its given lane and assist the driver in stop-start traffic. It also adds blind-spot monitoring that can intervene if it thinks you’re going to cross another vehicle’s path.
The Bowers and Wilkins Technology pack is probably the most extravagant option, at £2,500, but for someone that spends a lot of time in the car and likes their music, the 14-speaker 1,110-watt sound system is invaluable. It also includes smartphone integration via Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
Rounding off our S60’s specification is the £1,975 Lounge pack. The highlights are a panoramic sunroof and 360-degree camera system. An autonomous self-parking feature also features, but we’ve yet to try it.
When it comes to wheels, we stuck with the standard 18-inchers although the optional 19-inch units do give the car improved road presence at the risk of a firmer ride.
Volvo S60 T8 Recharge R Design joins our long-term test fleet
I’ve been patiently waiting for our new S60 to arrive for almost a year. You see, a global pandemic happened and it meant Volvo’s factories had to close. It then had a big backlog of orders to fulfil because, seemingly, everyone now wants a new Volvo.
Thankfully, things are slowly getting back to normal in the world of car production and Volvo’s ex-fleet boss and new head of sales Steve Beattie says lead times for plug-in models are down to around eight weeks.
So, let’s talk about this new S60. It’s the first Volvo to launch with no diesel option and, while that seemed to be an odd move when it came out around 18 months ago, now it makes perfect sense.
Volvo is moving away from the core-fleet user and towards middle management, where low benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax, high performance and luxury are the order of the day.
Nothing suits the bill better than a plug-in hybrid, that’s why we opted for Volvo’s T8 ‘Recharge’ model, rather than the mild-hybrid B5 version.
Emitting 38g/km of CO2 and with an official electric range of 36 miles, the S60 falls into the 10% BIK bracket. It uses a 2.0-litre petrol engine, which powers the front wheels and an electric motor that looks after the rears. The battery, meanwhile, is cleverly packed into the car’s floor so it doesn’t eat up boot space.
First impressions? Well, look at it. In bursting blue, it’s as gorgeous to drive as it is to behold and it's already averaging a diesel-like 50mpg.
Prices start at £45,175 for the R Design model, which means the S60 T8 is almost £4,000 more expensive than a BMW 330e M Sport.
The Volvo has a trick up its sleeve, however. It is substantially more powerful. Boasting a 390PS output, with all-wheel drive, the S60 sits in a league of its own in this segment.
We added a few extras – ok most of the extras – to this car, boosting the price to £53,605 – but more on that next time.