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Volvo V60

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid: Eco, economy and diesel power

A 143mph 4-wheel drive electric estate car? Oh yes

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Review Volvo’s new V60 Plug-in Hybrid is the second vehicle of its type to go on sale in Blighty after the Toyota Prius Plug-in, which we drove and reviewed last year. The Volvo, however, has the potential to be of more interest to prospective e-car owners. Why? It can drive further and faster using just electricity than the Toyota, has a diesel rather than petrol engine, and has four-wheel drive.

Volvo V60

Handsome brute: Volvo’s V60

Those are all very promising developments in my book.

Flip up the bonnet of the V60 and you will find a 2.4-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel engine which produces 215bhp.

Poke around under the rear or in the boot and you’ll see clues that there is something moving at the back end too, namely a 200-cell 11.2kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 20kW (27 bhp) electric motor.

That’s actually the continuous power rating - ask it nicely and it can temporarily gird its loins to deliver 50kW (67bhp). More important than either figure is the amount of torque the electric motor produces: 200Nm (148lb-ft).

Volvo V60

A traditional Volvo snout. Note the radar box on the left

As in all Volvos, the diesel engine drives the front wheels but the electric motor powers the rear ones so you can drive along in either front-, rear- or four-wheel drive. Waft about in electric-only mode and you can get to a top speed of 78mph (125kph). Compare that to the Prius which will only hit 30mph (48kph) before the petrol engine fires up.

Of more importance is the battery-only range. That’s quoted by Volvo as 31 miles (50km) - double the best you’ll get out of the Prius and close to a third of the maximum range of a Nissan Leaf. I found Volvo’s e-range estimation to be reasonably accurate. Across a selection of battery run-down trips I got 22, 31, 28 and 33 miles (35km, 50km, 45km and 53km) before the car refused to stay in electric-only mode though the first journey was conducted at high speeds on the open road.

Volvo V60

In case you forget it’s a plug-in hybrid

Get behind the wheel and it takes a while to notice the driving mode selector with options for Pure (electric only), Hybrid and Power. Unlike Peugeot in its RXH, Volvo hasn’t made the drive selector a big declamatory affair. That’s a design choice I approved of: I know my car’s a hybrid, my passengers don't need to know.

The first setting is self-explanatory while the last also does what it says on the tin and delivers the maximum power from engine and electric motor to get the V60 from standstill to 60mph (96kph) in under six seconds and on to a top speed of 143mph (230kph).

In addition, there is the AWD button, which permanently engages the 4WD system, and a Save switch which ring-fences the plug-in charge so the driver can exploit the car’s maximum electric range later in the journey.

Volvo V60

Enormous exhausts

In Hybrid mode, the V60 drives like any other hybrid – plug-in or otherwise – and blends drive from the two sources to minimise fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. On the go, the battery is partly recharged by both the regenerative braking system and the 7kW generator/starter motor under the bonnet.

As with the plug-in Prius, I was impressed by how often the V60 was able to operate under electric-only drive despite the fact that the plug-in charge was showing as fully depleted. It’s the nature of the beast that plug-in hybrids are stronger hybrids than their non plug-in brethren.

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