Volvo has certainly ramped up its offerings lately, and this top-of-the-range XC60 shows them in their full panoply. In some ways it’s like the latest XC90 but more so. It has the same Scalable Product Architecture underneath and it has the same hybrid system. So it should be really top-rate, no?
As befits an imposing SUV it has all-wheel drive, although there’s a different power source each end. At the front there is a 2.0-litre petrol engine. You might think, as a hybrid, this might be a mild kind of thing to improve consumptions still further, but actually it’s both turbocharged and supercharged. With 314bhp, it gives a fair amount of heft through the front wheels.
Meanwhile at the rear there is an 86bhp electric motor powering the back wheels. The combined effect is to offer a 0-62mph time of 5.3sec, which is distinctly brisk. This is partly because the power set up is very similar to the XC90, yet the smaller model weighs about 200kg less. So performance is quite strong, and it feels pretty premium.
This in its turn is a feeling enhanced by the initial take-up being by the electric drive. You drift silently away as if in something like a Range Rover. The top-marque feeling is optimized in our Inscription Pro trim in the test vehicle, further bringing to mind a Range Rover’s attributes and luxuries. In terms of fit and finish, they’re definitely in the same area, and that says a lot about how far Volvo has come in the last few years.
But if you want to really explore that performance potential you do run into some choppy waters. If you’re pushing on then you’ll be basically using the petrol engine, and powering the front wheels alone, and the effect is to remind yourself that this is still a relatively heavy vehicle. The brakes grab a bit, while the steering lacks much communication, so you’ll find yourself edging away from pushing the edge of the envelope.
So you think, fine, this is a sensible hybrid, I’ll ease off and save the planet. The problem there is that 86bhp isn’t much of a power surge for a two-tonne car. So you end up giving it a bit more throttle, and after a while – and there is a gap – the petrol engine cuts back in with a flurry of self-important noise. Even in town you’ll romp through the electric power, meaning that as ever you end up watching the gauges if you’re in a zero-emission zone.
Actually, the vehicle seems at its most balanced when the battery is basically flat. Which is ironic, because then you’re doing about 24.8mpg instead of the claimed enormous number, and what’s the point of it anyway?
So it does work if you want to do local driving, at slower speeds, at which point you have to question why you have a turbocharged, supercharged petrol engine up front. And if you’re wanting to use the performance more you’ll soon notice how the electric current has disappeared.
Given the handling isn’t up to some of the competition, like a Jaguar F-Pace or Porsche Macan, you’re left wondering exactly this vehicle is for apart from some quite impressive virtue signaling.
Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Pro
Engine 4 cyls in line, 1969cc, supercharged and turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor
Power 314bhp at 5700rpm (petrol), 86bhp (electric)
Torque 295lb ft at 2200-4500rpm (petrol), 177lb ft (electric)
Gearbox 8-spd automatic
Kerb weight 2115kg; 0-62mph 5.3sec
Top speed 140mph
Economy 134.5mpg (combined)
CO2 and tax band 49g/km, 5%
Graham Scott is a writer for AutoCar.