We'd choose one of these over a pure petrol variant, purely based on fuel economy. Whether we'd jump ship to a full EV, at least here in South Africa, is a harder question to answer. But if you're driving the Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge, that's a question you won't have to answer for quite some time.
Volvo is trying to drag your attention away from other big names and the way the company is doing that is through electrification. The Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge is a stepping stone between the brand’s petrol cars and its burgeoning fully-electric lineup but it’s worth checking out. Provided, that is, you can afford the price tag.
And that’s because you’re going to pay for that second (electric) engine. It’ll make you pleased you spent the cash but when the so-called ‘mild hybrid’ version starts at R957,200, you’ll start questioning why the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) XC60 T8 starts at R1,284,000. The difference is between a small amount of electrical assistance (with no fully-electric driving at all) and an electric motor able to take control of the entire car. That’s worth the price of a decent second-hand hatchback, right?
What’s in the box?
Once upon a time, Volvo’s design language was 95% rectangular. Stereotypically so. The (Chinese-owned) Swedish company has since softened its lines but there’s still a hint of its roots in the XC60 T8’s design. And before you ask, all of the rest of the XC60 models feature the exact same design. It’s what’s under the hood, and the little badge at the back, that sets each model apart.
From outside, you’re greeted with clean lines flowing from front to back. There’s a hint of aggression to it, but just a hint. The whole concept feels like a family car that’s trying to be edgy, but not so much so that the kids steal it to go for joyrides on the weekend. But, in typical Volvo fashion, if that were to happen, said kids would be very well protected in the event of an accident. After the accident, however…
The sensible design carries on to the interior. The version we drove was packed with features, mostly to do with driver comfort (more of that in a bit). It’s eye-catching enough but not so much so that you’ll come across as a show-off. You’re far more likely to see an XC60 T8 picking kids up from school than racing other cars at the intersection. If you plan it right, though, it’ll also scare the pants off a performance car or two.
Box of tricks
That’s because the XC60 T8 Recharge is perfectly capable of running entirely on electric motors. What this means is instant torque from a standing start, though the 18.8kWh battery is only good for about 80km before you’ll top it up via the included cables. Regenerative braking is also an option but that means your brakes have an awful lot of work to do. It’s best to just charge it overnight. Connected to a wall, it’ll take seven (uninterrupted) hours or so to top up.
You don’t have to charge the T8 but that negates the point of it. When the electric motors are fully charged and working, your daily trips to the office and back will use only hints of petrol. Volvo claims about 1.6l per 100km. Our experience, according to the dashboard readout, was often more like 0.9l/100km. It seems that the engine only takes over at around 80km/h — it’s hard to tell, the Volvo is incredibly silent inside and the transition is seamless — so most town speeds are fully electric.
But we also ran the battery flat, just to see what would happen. Turns out, fuel economy isn’t nearly as good, sitting in the region of 11l/100km for the 2.0-litre 340kW engine, though cold startup will have you sweating bullets at the projected 18l/100km assessment. That’s very temporary, at least, but you also get a feel for what the engine can do when there’s no battery compensating for your gas-guzzling.
But you’re not buying a PHEV in order to not use the thing and the extra R300,000 and change you’ll pay for this over a mild hybrid works out to a massive saving in petrol. If you’re economical about your daily driving, a single full tank (70 litres) should last you close to 7,000km. But the option to go on longer trips without experiencing any range anxiety makes this an easier drive, mentally, than most pure EVs.
Internet in a box
The XC60’s interior, particularly the seats, is highly customisable though it can take some time to really get your placement perfect. Don’t do what we did and go for ‘good enough’. Adjusting a seat in traffic when you have no idea which of the little buttons and dials does what (and then switching over to the touchscreen centre console display for fine-tuning) is a terrible idea.
But very little about the rest of the experience is. The heads-up display is bright enough to be seen in any condition, though it isn’t enough to prevent us from using the display behind the steering wheel nearly constantly. That might change over time but Volvo only gave this one to us for a week.
The centre console’s operating system is based on Android. As such, it’s a breeze to use, though we’d have preferred a different file structure. The version here works. Icons are always a good idea but we’d have preferred more physical controls in addition to the various software options. We’re fond of tactile engagement. Sue us.
The XC60 T8’s camera system, though, was spot on. If we were to complain about anything, it would be that the extreme edges, right next to the vehicle, aren’t as visible as we’d like but we’d also be splitting hairs. It’s really not a problem anyone should care about. Ever. Besides, with features like anti-collision and blind-spot warnings, parking sensors, advanced climate control, and a very slick sunroof, we reckon Volvo’s done more than enough to offset any perceived negatives.
Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge verdict
Not on board with the EV trend? A plug-in hybrid like Volvo’s XC60 T8 Recharge might be what you need to convince you otherwise. Maybe not all the way there — there’s still the option to put your foot down and feel cylinders burning dead dinosaurs kick into action — but it’ll certainly save on your monthly fuel bill. Volvo’s effort packs in as many tech features as you could ask for from a car, plus the PHEV offers fuel economy that would make a scooter feel like a glutton for gasoline. Whether it’s worth spending more than R300,000 on the XC60 T8 over the mild hybrid version should be up to you and your bank but we’d have to come down on the full PHEV’s side on this one. It’s mostly silent, uses almost no fuel, and has the range of a traditional petrol vehicle. That’s a tough combination to beat. We’re not even sure that pure EVs are up to the task.