Volvo brings in a new range-topper for the V60 family, in the form of the plug-in hybrid T8 'Twin Engine'. With all-wheel drive, 390hp and CO2 emissions of just 39g/km, this seeks to be all things to all people - a super-fast, attractive wagon on the one hand, and a cheap-as-chips-to-run motor on the other. Can Volvo truly pull off this oh-so-fine balancing act?
In the Metal:
Externally and internally, there's precious little to differentiate the Volvo V60 T8 plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) from its R-Design stablemates. It has another 'fuel filler flap' on its front wing, for the Type 2 charging port, and there are some hybrid-related displays within, as part of the glorious modern Volvo interior which is enhanced here with the stunning R-Design seats. So, as far as we're concerned, a V60 T8 R-Design is our favourite-looking current estate car, only with an even-more-desirable model badge on its rear hatch.
Volvo has uprated the T8 drivetrain in its 90-series models with a bigger 11.8kWh battery pack, though the V60 makes do with the 10.4kWh item that went before. Not to worry; it'll still allow you to do up to 49km on electric power alone, which should make it ideal for company commuters who can charge it both at home and the office, day in, day out.
The peak power of 390hp is slightly down on the previously quoted 400hp of the T8s, but - again - this is not a problem, because the V60's front combustion engine/rear electric motor set-up means it has four-wheel drive to maximise its traction and offset its portly 1,990kg kerb weight. Thus, Volvo can claim a 0-100km/h time of less than five seconds, and the V60 T8 feels every bit capable of that. With both forms of propulsion pushing forward together, this Swedish wagon is indecently fast, and it even makes a pretty enticing noise as it goes about its business, the low-key grumble of the four-cylinder engine overlaid with a whine of supercharger noise under heavier acceleration.
Where R-Design Volvos have fallen down in recent years, however, is not regards their speed or mechanical refinement, but is instead on the basis of their inert handling and often-crunchy ride quality. Our test car was on 19-inch alloys and the firmer R-Design suspension, yet - while the ride was obviously firm - the damping control was pretty good, keeping vertical movements of the body to a minimum and allowing for smoother high-speed comportment, even if the car frequently felt unsettled at lower speeds on washboard surfaces. Tyre roar was minimised and the V60 T8 even came across as pretty well-sorted in the cornering department, with clean steering, lots of grip and minimal body lean to work around.
It's not the most thrilling estate to drive fast, though, and it still doesn't feel quite as sporty as its saloon brother, the S60 (which, incidentally, also gets this T8 drivetrain as its own, previously one-model range begins to expand), so instead revel in the way it can silently whirr around car parks and hiss through towns on its EV power, or the fact that - even driven reasonably swiftly - we managed to see around 80mpg (3.5 litres/100km) on a mixed test route of around 70km. You'll get more from it than this if you're not regularly thrashing its engine, or if you charge it and use its EV capabilities.
What you get for your Money:
While not cheap, the T8's on-paper eco-stats mean it will sit in the lowest possible tax band for anything with an internal combustion engine onboard and - if you can charge it regularly - then it will cost peanuts to run, compared to any premium rival estates that try and match the Volvo's power outputs/performance numbers. That an R-Design also brings in plenty of standard kit, such as the nine-inch Sensus touchscreen satnav, the 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, a powered tailgate, rear parking sensors, two-zone climate control, cruise control with a speed limiter and more, is only a bonus.
Pricey it may be, but the Volvo V60 T8 R-Design is a fabulous all-rounder. It blends the sporty side of its nature - what with its luscious body kit, big wheels and high drivetrain outputs - very nicely with its practical facets, like the commodious boot (you lose no luggage space in the PHEV V60, compared to the pure combustion models) and its super-low running costs, enabled by its hybrid drivetrain. At the moment, there are also no real direct, sporty PHEV rivals and - as Volvo continues to distance itself from diesel - the plug-in V60 is the eco-conscious buyer's best option in the Swedish manufacturer's range.