As a car manufacturer you know that things are going well if you have to nearly double production of one of your models. Volvo must be feeling particularly pleased at the moment as they’ve done just that, increasing production of their V60 Plug-In hybrid by 90% to meet demand from eager customers.
It’s the hybrid-crazy Dutch and Belgians who are driving demand, along with significant interest in the Italian market, and now Volvo will produce 282 V60 hybrids a week (up from 150). That’s 7,600 this year and an estimate of 10,000 next year. Not bad at all for a car that retails at over £48,000 in the UK.
Will the V60 Plug-In be as successful in the UK? Having driven it I can see why it’s so popular and yes, I expect it will be a big hit here too, for a number of reasons.
Have you got a green conscience? If so you’ll like the low CO2 rating, measured at just 48g/km on official tests. That’s way below the 100g/km threshold for free road tax and makes it exempt from the congestion charge. It even qualifies for the government grant for electric cars that knocks £5,000 off the list price.
Are you a company car driver? You’ll love the BIK rating of just 8%. For a car that sells at £48,775 you could be paying less than £130 a month if you’re a 40% tax payer and half of that if you’re at 20%. Suddenly it makes a lot of sense, despite that high price tag.
Do you like fast cars? Then fear not, the V60 hybrid is more than up to the job. There’s enough performance on offer here to make other hybrid cars look rather inadequate. The recipe is simple – take a conventional diesel V60 and bolt on a 50kWh electric powertrain that drives the rear wheels. That gives you 215bhp and 325lb/ft from the diesel and 70bhp and 162lb/ft from the electric, but it’s the way those power sources can be used that’s the V60′s cleverest trick.
Your green conscience can be soothed by the ‘Pure’ button on the dash that gives you up to 31 miles running on silent and CO2 free electric power. It doesn’t just work at slow speeds either, you can easily run in electric mode on the motorway until the battery runs out and the diesel engine steps in.
Switch to the default Hybrid mode and the V60 is powered mainly by the diesel engine, with occasional bursts of electric power at low speed. Here the Volvo behaves like a conventional hybrid, swapping between modes as it sees fit.
Then, in Power mode, things get a lot more interesting. The two power sources work together to give you an extra kick in the back when you put your foot down. In a sprint to 60mph it’s quicker than the turbocharged T6 and it can do 143mph flat out. Not bad for an electric car!
The increase in performance is certainly noticeable and makes it easy to forget that you’re behind the wheel of almost 2 tons of Swedish metal. Well, at least until you have to brake into a sharp corner. The approach is definitely slow in and fast out but you get the benefit of instant torque from that electric motor as well as all four wheels providing traction.
Officially the V60 can cover 155mpg but the reality is going to be determined by how often you charge that battery and how much time you spend in Pure mode. You could, in theory, never use the diesel engine. Or you could run it as a conventional diesel and never charge the battery. Either way you’ll get the benefit of the low tax rating.
In every other respect you’re looking at a normal V60, a car we’ve enjoyed before in less eco-friendly V6 Polestar form. Comfortable, well built, safe, and with lots of toys on board. There is a drop in boot space and fuel tank size to accommodate the electric motor and batteries but passengers still enjoy plenty of space.
Apart from the near-silent hum of the electric motor there are few clues that you’re driving a hybrid V60 other than the three buttons on the console and the optional display on the dash. This gives a fascinating representation of where the power is coming from and helps you to understand how the V60 works in the three modes.
You’d have to really, really, really want an eco-friendly Volvo to shell out over £48,000 of your own money for the V60 Plug-In hybrid but as a company car it makes a lot of sense. The good news for private buyers is that if it is a hit on the company car market there will be a plentiful supply of 2-3 year old models arriving in the second hand market, and that’s where it’ll make most sense.
The Volvo V60 Plug-In hybrid is both very fast and very frugal. It’s an appealing package that gives you the benefits of an all-electric car without the range anxiety. The high price, even after than government grant, will undoubtedly put off most private buyers but if you’re lucky enough to have one in your sights as a company car than you really should give it a go. Just don’t forget to keep that battery topped up for maximum performance!
Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid Specifications
|Engine:||2,400cc 5-cylinder turbocharged diesel / 50kWh electric|
|Power:||215 / 70 bhp|
|Torque:||325 / 162 lb/ft|
|0-60 mph:||5.9 seconds|
|Top Speed:||143 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||48 g/km (Band A)|
|Official Economy:||115.2 mpg|
*Prices taken from Volvo website, May 2013