Friday, January 23, 2015

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid 2015 long-term test review

I am not a geography teacher, I do not have a golden retriever, but my new set of wheels is a Volvo estate. And to make Guardian-reading liberals feel happier than a week without an Ed Milliband disaster, it’s the saintly, V60 Plug-in Hybrid, in new, sporty R-Design spec.

Volvo claims the V60 is the world’s first plug-in diesel: in countries such as Japan and the USA, the hybrid can be seen as the fuel-sipping equivalent to the diesel. But unlike that petrol/electric formula, Volvo has mated two expensive drivetrain elements together, to create the utterly exorbitant V60 D6 AWD Geartronic R-Design Lux Nav. It costs £51,675 before options! However, thanks to its meagre 48g/km CO2 rating – the V60 aces much of the undemanding, 6.8-mile New European Drive Cycle in pure electric mode – Volvo’s plug-in qualifies for a £5000 subsidy from the UK government. It’s road-tax and congestion-charge exempt too.
I am not a geography teacher, I do not have a golden retriever, but my new set of wheels is a Volvo estate.

This car’s stand-out feature is its versatile drivetrain. A five-cylinder diesel spins the front wheels, with 212bhp peak power at 4000rpm and 325lb ft of torque at 1500rpm. Under the boot floor is an 11.2kW water-cooled battery pack and a single electric motor powering the rear wheels, with up to 69bhp and 148lb ft. The result is a smorgasbord of propulsion: electric rear-drive to get you motoring or maintain motorway cruising, front-drive five-pot if the batteries are depleted, or both in all-wheel drive maximum attack.

Volvo says ‘power’ mode is capable of 0-62mph in 6.1sec, the flipside is a preposterous 148.7mpg – blame the unfit NEDC test. We couldn’t even manage 48mpg over the first couple of tanks. A tight engine is not to blame: our ex-demo V60 arrived with 3559 miles on the clock. This V60 only gets its electric Ready Brek on weekdays, when I can hook it up to CAR’s chargepoints. Six hours on a 10amp charge gives a theoretical 31-mile electric range, though this V60 runs in ‘hybrid’ mode on my primarily motorway commute.

First impressions? The drivetrain is incredibly sophisticated: the diesel is smooth, and with the six-speed Geartronic automatic there’s no flaring of revs that once afflicted Lexus hybrids. The ride is a bit lumpy, steering response leisurely – I almost drove over my first roundabout, having not deployed sufficient lock – and you can feel how the extra 300kg weight impacts on dynamic sharpness.

The D6 R-Design Lux is the costliest V60, but this car manages a further £6475 on options. The £1900 Driver Support pack deploys a heap of automatic braking/seeing/steering aids you’d expect from safety-conscious Volvo: we’ll assess their interventions in due course. Then there’s the £675 Winter Illumination Pack, which includes heated seats and front windscreen, bending headlamp beam and some fancy interior lights. Heated seats not being standard on a £50k car?! Nor is keyless drive (£550), powered passenger seat (£400), front and rear park assist (£325), which seems like grand larceny.

Chuck in an £850 sunroof (the dark interior is crying out for a large glass panel), £350 rear privacy glass, £500 R-Design leather and £500 Sensus Connect, which hooks up the car for web-based services, and all hail the £58,150 Volvo! What’ll it be worth in 11 months? Will it ever crack 50mpg? And can we cross London on solely electric power? Stay tuned to find out…