Good: great looking, fantastic cabin, comfort, safety, good electric range
Not so good: pricey in this spec, does get thirsty on longer runs
Plugin hybrid cars can be very frustrating. Sometimes, you get a great one - Kia's Niro Plugin comes to mind, as does Toyota's Prius Plug-in or the Volkswagen Golf GTE. No matter how you use them, nor how much you forget/remember to plug them in to charge, they come out as frugal, pleasant to drive and very user-friendly.
Then there are the disappointing ones. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, or the BMW X5 xDrive40e, or the MINI Countryman Cooper S E ALL4, which seem to be exceptionally thirsty unless you religiously plug them in and charge them up every five minutes, and which should under no circumstances be taken anywhere near a motorway.
Finally, we have the ones in the middle. The ones that kind of do a decent job of mixing and matching performance, convenience and economy. Think of the BMW 330e, the Volkswagen Passat GTE and now this, the Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine.
Up front, behind the XC60's handsome face (Volvo's design department is seriously on point these days) there's a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, in the middle there's a stack of lithium-ion batteries (they actually live under the transmission hump) and at the back there's an electric motor. The figures produced by that combined 'Twin Engine' powertrain are impressive. It has 320hp for a start, which, if you switch the system over to the 'Power' mode, means you can rip off a 5.5-second 0-100km/h run, which is unseemly fast for anything with a hybrid badge on the boot. Volvo also quotes exceptional fuel economy, of no less than 134mpg, or 2.1 litres per 100km.
OK, so economy figures are hugely, deeply, madly variable and are far more about how you, personally, drive and where you drive than anything that the car is doing. So, if you are mostly driving around town and diligently charge up the electric half of the powertrain at every opportunity, you might just about get within shouting distance of that magic 134mpg figure. However, if you're doing longer journeys (and you really should because this car is crazy comfortable), then you're probably going to get more like the average fuel burn figure we recorded in our time with the XC60 - 8.1 litres per 100km, or around 34mpg.
Quite the difference, no? Of course, that's a snapshot, a specific few days when our driving was hugely varied (lots of time on motorways and main roads, not as much time in the plugin's natural habitat - the city centre) and fuel consumption was slightly skewed as a result. Still, the XC60's overall result is rather better than we ever managed with its bigger brother, the XC90 T8 (25mpg on a good day if you're lucky and your karma bank is in credit).
On other days, the XC60 can do much better, and either way you do get a VRT rebate of €2,500, an SEAI grant of €5,000 and the tax benefit of that low-low 49g/km CO2 figure no matter how you drive, so there's that. As ever, though, you do need to buy these cars with your eyes open, and understand how they work before you can get the best out of them. Just seeing the hybrid badge and assuming that you're immediately on a fast-track to the sunlit uplands of fuel savings is not the right way to do this.
Assuming you've kept your eyes well and truly open, and your mind sharp to the details, the XC60 T8 is just lovely. The XC60 was already one of the best-looking premiums SUVs around, giving the likes of the Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC a good run for their styling money. That hasn't changed, and neither has the interior, which is gorgeous. You get the big central touchscreen (which is still one of the most intuitive and simple-to-use of such systems) and the all-digital instrument pack, which looks handsome and is easy to read. This being a Volvo, you'd expect it to be comfortable and refined, and so it is. Roomy, too, with a useful 505-litre boot and enough space in the back seat to keep the warring siblings separated. It's all beautifully made as well, with a level of quality, fit and finish that should see Audi looking long and hard to its laurels.
It drives nicely, if not exceptionally. You'll notice the extra weight of the batteries in the slightly firmer ride quality and the XC60 never feels as agile nor as rewarding to drive as, say, the BMW X3, but it is pleasant, it is refined (aside from an occasional harsh growl from the engine) and it is safe - active city braking, Pilot Assist radar-guided cruise control, lane keeping steering, the works. You'd have to actively try to get yourself hurt in this car.
Should you buy one, though, or stick with diesel? As ever with these diesel-petrol-whatever arguments, it comes down to mileage. If you're a regular long-haul driver and spend your life crossing country, then a diesel XC60 is a better bet for you. The diesel XC is also slightly the sweeter to drive, especially if you avoid the too-stiff suspension setup of the R-Design model, and don't forget that it's significantly cheaper to buy than this T8 plugin. Still, if you live and mostly drive in town, and reckon you can keep the batteries topped up, then this is well worth a look.