Volvo XC60 overview
Earlier this year, Volvo managed something rather unusual in an Irish market context - it outsold its German rivals. Now, not entirely - take the Mercedes, BMW and Audi ranges as a whole and they each still outsell Volvo in Ireland by a considerable margin. However, in the key battleground of the premium SUV market, Volvo currently reigns supreme. Its revised and updated XC60 still holds the high ground in this hugely competitive market, even against such strong and talented rivals as the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.
That's quite the coup, so it seems like a suitable time to check out the revised XC60, what with its bigger hybrid battery and increased electric-only range, and see how it stacks up.
The Volvo XC60 range
You can still buy a diesel XC60 if you really want to - the B4 mild-hybrid 2.0-litre engine is still available, but Volvo is firmly set on its road to electrification, and increasingly the XC60 has a hybrid-heavy line-up. That's reflected in sales, where the plug-in hybrid T6 and T8 models outsell the diesel at a rate of four to one.
Technically, the XC60 line-up kicks off with the T6 plug-in hybrid in Core specification, priced from €61,490. There's also a B4 mild-hybrid diesel in Core trim, which is priced at €61,890. Standard equipment for Core models includes an eight-speed automatic gearbox, speed-sensitive steering, hill start assist, hill descent control, keyless start, a multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, electric parking brake, LED headlights with active high-beam assist, a powered tailgate, folding and heated door mirrors, rear parking camera and front and rear parking sensors, rain sensing wipers, 18-inch alloy wheels, two-zone climate control with a 'CleanZone' Air Quality System, 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a nine-inch infotainment screen fitted with the new Google-based software and - of course - a plethora of safety equipment. You get emergency autonomous braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping aid, driver alert monitor, a phalanx of airbags including a driver's knee airbag, anti-whiplash front seats, road sign detection and a clever traction control system that can mitigate the effects of engine braking and can help to trim understeer in a corner.
Plus models start from €65,790 for the T6 plug-in hybrid or €67,390 for the diesel, and come with 19-inch alloy wheels, a handsfree tailgate, cabin mood lighting, four-zone climate control, a heated windscreen, a heated steering wheel, power adjustment for the driver's seat, heated rear seats and keyless entry.
Ultimate models start from €77,490 for the powerful 455hp T8 plug-in hybrid, which is only available in this spec or €78,890 for the diesel. Equipment includes adaptive dampers and air suspension, active headlights with a cleaning system, 20-inch alloys, a panoramic glass sunroof, a head-up display, Nappa leather trim, power adjustment for the passenger seat and a premium Hardon/Kardon stereo.
In addition, you can choose from two equipment packs for the Plus and Ultimate models. These are called Bright and Dark, and are no-cost options. Bright comes with lots of exterior chrome, while Dark deletes all that for black trim, and gives you tinted rear privacy glass (but it does delete the Nappa upholstery, rear heated seats and heated steering wheel).
If you're buying one or other of the T6 or T8 plug-in hybrids, you get some extra equipment as standard, including the panoramic glass roof, an upgraded stereo and switchable driving modes.
At the top of the range is the Polestar Engineered version, which comes with 21-inch alloys, sports seats, dark headlining, bright yellow seatbelts, upgraded brakes, extended wheelarches, a suspension strut brace and a crystal gear knob. All of which is only available for the T8 plug-in hybrid, and which costs €81,490.
In CO2 emissions terms, the diesel-engined versions are obviously the worst off, with between 159- and 162g/km depending on the model. The T6 plug-in has emissions as low as 22g/km, while the T8's emissions rise as high as 24g/km in big-wheel Polestar Engineered form.
Volvo Ireland currently has a 2.9 per cent APR interest offer in place for the XC60, which would give you monthly repayments of €645 on a three-year PCP plan with a €19,737 deposit. Keep an eye on the Volvo Ireland website for any new offers coming up.
The Volvo XC60 T6 interior
Volvo is justifiably famed for its excellent interiors, and the XC60 T6 doesn't let the side down - although that does come with a couple of caveats.
Quality levels are unquestionably very high, and the XC60's cabin does a much better job of looking and feeling 'premium' than that of the smaller XC40, in spite of the commonality of parts between the two models. The seats - good seats being a Volvo staple - are excellent, with extending cushions that properly support the backs of your legs. Lovely soft Nappa leather was fitted optionally to our test car. They're pillow-like on a long journey, but never so soft that you don't feel properly held-up in corners.
Space in the back seats is good, although any chance of getting an adult comfortable in the middle rear seat is stymied by the chunky transmission tunnel that houses the battery for the plug-in system. There are ISOFIX anchors in the outer two seats though, and our car had heated rear seats, which is helpful for those wintry school runs. Rear-seat passengers will also be happy that they get a brace of USB-C sockets, the same number as those in the front.
Up front, there's a lovely slice of 'driftwood' trim in which you can feel the grain of the wood, while the rest of the cabin is covered in either a nice leather, or high-quality plastics. The optional gear selector, a lump of Swedish crystal from the Orrefors company, is either slightly tacky or wonderfully tactile. Each to their own.
The centre console gets a long slide-back cover, which is also finished with that gorgeous driftwood veneer. Under that are two cupholders and a wireless phone charging pad. In front of the gear selector is another storage tray, with a 12-volt power socket, but it's rather too shallow to be of much use. Much better is the decent storage area under the front armrest, which also houses USB-C sockets. There's a well-sized glovebox, too.
The disappointments creep in when you start playing with the Google-based infotainment system. It's clever, in that Google Maps is integrated into the system, so once you've signed in with your Google ID, you get all your usual favourites and previous searches. Having streaming options such as Spotify built-in is also useful, but our car's integral SIM card refused to connect to the internet, so we had to use the round-the-houses technique of tethering our mobile phone to allow the maps to work.
Also, if you have an Apple iPhone, while it will connect and you'll be able to play your music and podcasts etc, the connection isn't as useful as that of an Android-based phone. As we've mentioned before, the Google-based software also looks rather sparse and unexciting - that's maybe a small issue, but if you climb into a rival Mercedes or BMW, you're met with a much more expensive-looking infotainment system, and one that works better with an Apple phone to boot.
The menu options are also a little fiddly when you go looking for them, and doing things such as changing the driving mode (which allows you to switch between Hybrid, Pure - which is electric only - and a Save or Charge mode for the battery) really ought to be easier. To be honest, we preferred Volvo's old home-grown 'Sensus' operating system.
The 12.3-inch digital instrument panel does help to lift things a bit, with clear graphics and a useful map display front and centre. The optional Harmon/Kardon stereo is a must-have, too - it creates a wonderfully rich sound.
The T6 version suffers slightly in terms of boot space, losing 15 litres to the diesel model in terms of total volume - hardly a deal breaker. The rear seats split 60:40 and fold, and they do fold pretty much entirely flat. Plus, there's a useful 12-volt socket in the boot, and the rear luggage blind has a convenient 'pop-up' function whereby you can slide it upwards a little without retracting it fully. There's a roomy compartment at the side of the boot, with a net, which is handy for stashing charging cables, too.
The Volvo XC60 T6 driving experience
The first and most critical question for any plug-in hybrid is, can it do its official electric-only driving range? And the answer is, happily, yes it can. Volvo has expanded the T6's battery energy capacity to 18.8kWh (14.4kWh of which is useable) so from a full charge you can travel for a quoted 77km on electric power. And we did.
Well, almost - we got 70km out of a full battery, which is pretty impressive, and if we'd been a bit more careful, or stuck to urban roads, we'd almost certainly have gotten to the official figure, and maybe even a bit further. That's impressive, but more impressive still is that around 50km should be reliably doable even if you're doing dual-carriageway commutes, with the air conditioning and heated seats going. Really, for most people most of the time, this is functionally an electric car, as long as you can charge it up at home - and preferably at work, too.
As ever, running with a depleted battery means you're looking at some fairly chunky fuel consumption figures, but these need to be put in context. For a start, this is a heavy, four-wheel-drive SUV with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, so the fact that it averaged 7.2 litres per 100km across a week that included a couple of lengthy motorway runs isn't bad at all. Put it this way, that's the same figure that we averaged from a 1.0-litre Volkswagen Taigo over the same routes, and that's with minimal charging up of the Volvo's battery.
The XC60 T6 is also quick - very quick. OK, so it doesn't have the sledgehammer hit of the T8 version, but with both electric and petrol motors turning and burning, it's seriously rapid, with 100km/h coming up in a Golf GTI-like 5.7 seconds from rest. It still feels reasonably brisk in electric-only mode, thanks to the 309Nm of torque you get from the electric motor working on its own.
That motor drives the rear wheels, so that helps to save a bit of weight and mechanical complication, and quite apart from the usual feelings of safety that you get from a Volvo, the T6 does feel impressively stable and sure-footed when the rain starts chucking it down.
It's also surprisingly good fun to drive. OK, so it's not quite as sharp as a BMW X3 in a corner, but the Volvo's steering is pleasingly meaty and responsive, and in spite of the 2.1-tonne kerb weight, the XC60 T6 can be flung around with confidence and even a touch of fun. Unlike a lot of PHEV rivals, it also has really good brakes, with a rock-solid pedal and excellent response. It's not overtly sporting, but you can have more fun in the XC60 T6 than you might expect.
Even the ride quality is good - firm, certainly, but never harsh and certainly never uncomfortable. All-round, we'd say that the XC60 is really well set-up.
Our verdict on the Volvo XC60 T6
Frankly, we can see why Irish buyers have put the XC60 top of their shopping list. It combines impressive electric performance and range, with a surprisingly talented chassis, an excellent interior and plenty of space. It's handsome, too. Upgrade the fiddly Google software, and we'd be unstinting in our praise.
What do the rest of the team think?
I too can understand why buyers are flocking to Volvo showrooms to buy XC60s; this is a classy car. My test vehicle was the T8 featuring air suspension and adaptive damping, helping its cause in the ride and handling stakes, but away from that, it's a joy to drive and travel in. Just don't look at the hefty performance figures and expect it to be particularly engaging to drive. Nonetheless, the high-quality cabin and handsome looks are highpoints for sure, and it's incredibly smooth and quiet at a cruise as well.
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor