Review: Volvo XC60 T8

XC60 T8 is claimed as a smarter way to have all the performance and mild fuel consumption, for South African followers of the Volvo brand. But is that really the case? We spent a week with the plug-in hybrid crossover, to see if it can deliver.

Volvo’s XC60 has always been the crossover for nice people. With its elegantly restrained design, enormously comfortable cabin architecture and sensible Swedish UX, XC60 is a luxury car obsessed with passenger comfort and safety – instead of making a statement.

The latest version of Volvo’s XC60, is also, ironically, very fast – without intending to be. Powered by a twin-charged 2-litre petrol engine, with turbo- and supercharging, the XC60 T8 boosts 340kW and 709Nm. Those are very potent engine outputs for a 2-litre engine and much of the potency must be credited to XC60 T8’s hybridisation, consisting of an 18.8 kWh battery pack and rear-axle electric motor.

The better way to drive ‘new energy?’

Plug-in hybrids remain a rarity in the local market, as the first wave of pure electric luxury vehicles arrive with nearly unattainable pricing. Volvo’s strategy with XC60 T8 is to provide the best luxury crossover driving and ownership experience, with a view to reduced fuel use, within the reality of a South African infrastructure context. And that context is Eskom power outages and limited public vehicle recharging support.

So does it work? The theory behind XC60 T8’s hybrid system is to make the battery pack work when it would be most inefficient for the petrol engine to do so. That’s at pull-away and in traffic, when a 2170kg vehicle’s inertia is a repeat burden on fuel consumption.

Volvo’s electric vehicle engineering experience shows with the harmonisation of the T8’s power- and drivetrain. You can select various modes biased towards efficiency or performance, but left to the default setting, this luxury crossover is remarkably light on fuel and capable of 81km of pure electric driving range.

XC60 T8 uses very little fuel – when charged

When operating the powertrain through a stop-start driving scenario, luxury crossovers are very heavy on fuel during an urban commute. Volvo claims a potential 1.8l/100km consumption, which sounds ridiculously light, but is attainable for as much as your XC60 T8’s battery has energy capacity.

If you remember to recharge at home each evening, the XC60 T8 is amazingly light on fuel. And regarding the issue of recharging, this is where Volvo’s plug-in hybrid concept has true merit in the South African context.

Few home charging stations are high capacity, but with the relatively small 18.8kWh battery pack, plugging into a conventional wall socket will net you a decent amount of hybridised energy available for that commute the following day.

Once the battery is exhausted, expect fuel consumption of about 7.6l/100km, which is still remarkably light for a vehicle of XC60 T8’s size and weight.

It is very fast, too

Beyond the astoundingly light fuel consumption and smooth low-speed experience in urban conditions, the XC60 T8 has paradoxically storming performance.

Volvo claims 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, and once traffic clears, or you must pass a sequence of slower trucks on the highway, the 709Nm torque peak compresses time and road space with incredible urgency. It’s the fastest Volvo’s I’ve ever driven, including my experience with the brand’s Polestar performance models.

Mentioning Ikea in relation to Volvo’s interior design is a discredit and misappropriation of Swedish cultural referencing. The XC60’s interior is an ode to subtle Swedish luxury, with quality touch surfaces and seats so comfortable, you’ll want to unbolt and repurpose them for your lounge.

Swedish UX design needs to introduction. The country has a strong history in industrial design and coding, which explains the slickness of Volvo’s infotainment system, device pairing, and app integration. My only point of discord with the XC60’s ergonomics was the lack of physical adjustment buttons or dials for the ventilation and climate control system.

How far can XC60 T8 go?

So how good a cruiser is the XC60 T8? With a fully charged battery pack, you could easily see 800km at sensible speeds in cruising conditions. And that’s an amazing range achievement for a large luxury vehicle which carries 70-litres of petrol.

If driven with economy-minded techniques, 1000km on a single tank of fuel is possible.

Despite rolling huge 21-inch wheels and relatively low-profile tyres, the XC60 T8 has terrific ride quality. An air-suspension system isolates the cabin from the worst road surface texture changes, ridgelines and that inevitable South African pothole rollover.

Is this the most sensible high-performance luxury SUV?

The only issue I had during my week testing the XC60 T8, was its vigilant impact intervention system. Volvo’s renowned for the comprehensive nature of its driver assistance and collision avoidance systems, but at times, they get confused. And my encounter was on a steep driveway.

I had easily rolled up it to park, without issue. But when I wanted to leave, by reversing at an angle back into the road, the XC60 T8 applied a massive brake intervention.

There was a comfortable margin of clearance under the vehicle’s breakover angle impact areas (the door rocker panels). Still, it kept thinking an impact with the road surface was unavoidable. This was impossible, as I had angled the Volvo up precisely the same route an hour before. That said, all the other standard safety intervention systems worked brilliantly and supported driving confidence in South Africa’s occasionally chaotic traffic.

Although it is steadily improving, recharging infrastructure in South Africa still doesn’t inspire adequate confidence for luxury car owners, to attempt long-distance journeys – without annoyance. And that’s exactly where a luxury plug-in hybrid, becomes the sensible alternative. Something Volvo’s XC60 T8 is an example of and perhaps the most viable ‘new-energy’ luxury vehicle you buy right now, in South Africa.

*Volvo’s XC60 T8 prices from R1 278 900.

Lance Branquinho


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