Hybrid technology looks set to stay – at least until the hydrogen fuel cell saves us all – with almost all major car manufacturers investing heavily in fuel efficient vehicles and battery powered motors. This can only be a good thing; better fuel efficiency means cheaper running costs, while electric motors significantly reduce exhaust emissions.
Annoyingly though, Hybrid cars – for all their worthiness – generally fail at the fun stuff. They cost very little to run, but don’t provide much in the way of driver experience. But Volvo thinks it's about to change that with the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid - catchily dubbed the Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid.
Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid: Tech
The V60 has two motors, a 212bhp D5 2.4-litre diesel at the front and a 69bhp electric motor mounted at the rear that can be plugged directly into the mains and charged just 4.5 hours.
How green you go is entirely up to you as there are three distinct drive modes. Pure offers all electric emission free driving with an impressive top speed of 74mph and a range of 32miles. If you have a short commute, or only take the car to the supermarket you’ll go days without needing diesel.
Switch to Hybrid and the car will use battery power for pootling about, but if you need more revs, or are running low on electricity, the diesel engine kicks in. The result is a low emissions – just 49g/km – car that can cover up to 620miles on a single tank. As with other hybrids the diesel motor and braking charge the battery to around 40%, or 12.5miles range.
Hit the Power button and leave your eco-conscience on the kerb. By combining the 215hp of the diesel engine, 70hp and full 600Nm of torque from the electric the V60 can manage 0-62mph in just 6.2seconds. Naturally this can’t be sustained for long, but it is fun.
Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid: Spec
- Engine: Automatic D5 2.4-litre diesel, 147lb ft electric
- Power (bhp): 215 diesel, 70 electric (215 + 70 combined)
- 0-62mph: 6.2sec
- Top speed: 142mph (74mph electric only)
- Fuel efficiency: 149mpg (optimum)
- CO2 emissions: 49g/km (Hybrid mode)
Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid: Performance
But how does it drive? T3 were granted exclusive access at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The V60 feels every inch the £47,000 luxury car. The cabin is spacious, comfortable and packed with tech. The large TFT dashboard displays battery charge, speed and the split between battery and diesel power while the drive buttons are mounted below the centre column.
Being a Volvo it’s overflowing with safety features; Cameras monitor the lines on the road and beep if you start to drift, warn you if you get too close to the car in front and even have blind spot monitors.
With the famous Goodwood hill climb stretching ahead we couldn’t resist trying the Power mode first, and the 280bhp didn’t disappoint, feeling anything but eco. Even the extra 300kg extra battery weight couldn’t slow us down.
Switching to Pure, the electric engine accelerates smoothly and silently and had more than enough nip for overtaking – a top speed of 74mph is good enough for most trips. Take it easy and you’ll enjoy 32miles of emission free low cost driving, but when you do need more power the diesel kicks in.
Driving without the sounds of the diesel engine feels great, and in Hybrid mode – the car’s default setting – it was surprisingly easy to keep the car running on battery alone. The indicator dial on the dash shows how close you are to needing the diesel engine, and, while the transition between the two wasn’t totally seamless, it didn’t detract from a decent driving experience.
Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid: Verdict
Even using electric the V60 doesn’t feel like an eco car. It has the power and acceleration to hold its own in busy traffic and the flexibility to plug in (driveway dependent) and top up on cheap fuel at the end of the day.
Official MPG figures are always a little skewed, and you’ll never get close to 149mpg on regular roads, but there’s no doubt that if you drive clever you’ll rarely need to fill the tank.
The V60 is every bit the luxury car and despite government grants beyond most budgets, but with exceptional energy savings, zero road tax, congestion charge and reduced fuel costs it should be a no-brainer for company car drivers who want power and their bosses who crave efficiency.
Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid availability: December 2012
Volvo V60 D6 Plug-in Hybrid price: £47,000 (£42,000 with government incentive)
Review by Chris Haslam