Volvo is making terrific cars, largely led by an extensive SUV range. Better still the brand isn’t short-changing itself when it comes to future mobility, with an array of plug-in hybrid options and the standalone electric brand Polestar. But the Swedes also know how to do a solid sedan, I recently spent a week in the flashship Volvo S60 T8 R-design.
What is it?
Wow a vehicle with a bonnet, passenger compartment and boot. You don’t see too many three box designs these days. Yes, this is a sedan and a very fine one indeed. The T8 manages to cram in AWD, a Twin-Engine Plug-in Hybrid engine, excellent fit and finish and enough tech to keep even the most fanatical German curious.
Plus, the latest generation of Volvo cars are the most attractive in the brands history. The once staid looks that made Toyota’s look like they were designed by a bloke with a mohawk are now long, long gone.
Behind the wheel
Let me quickly go over this whole plug-in hybrid (PHEV) thing, because many still struggle to get it.
It’s really not brain surgery.
To put it simply, on-board is a small battery that carries a charge that in this instance will take you around 45 electric only kilometres. That’s the bit when most people look at you like you have a massive mole on your nose.
The point is to get you from A to B on electricity alone, if your average commute is say 30 kilometres a day than your average fuel bill will be very low. But on the flip side there’s also a 60-litre fuel tank sitting there ready for those longer trips. All a PHEV is is basically a range extender, one you can charge overnight and do your best the next day on the scent of an electric rag.
A PHEV sits between a hybrid and an EV, but in some ways also acts as a hybrid. Via various modes you can elect to have it in fully electric mode, hybrid mode or even all out “Polestar” mode to solely bring in just the combustion engine. It’s a clever steppingstone to going all electric.
From behind the wheel this is a very swift European car, that’s also a tad green. It will shoot to 100km/h in a claimed 4.3 seconds. I didn’t exactly time that, but to be frank it didn’t feel that rapid. But with AWD, the right conditions and jumping on the brake and throttle then letting go may make that figure possible.
The cabin is such a comfortable place to be, plus it’s so very different from the other three big Euro’s. It has a fully digital instrument cluster, that includes mapping. A portrait pinch and swipe centre screen dominated the centre console and while easy and attractive to use, you’ll revert to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto ASAP.
The detailing on the Bowers and Wilkins speakers, blocky and horizonal dash and various metallic finishes on the air vents and other touch points is beautiful. While the interior on our test car featured an all charcoal cabin, the leather was supple enough to make you feel a tad spesh.
The S60 T8 can go like the clappers if you really want to, but it’s not the kind of car that is in one ear urging you on. At around two-tonne there’s a few short comings when pushed to the edge. Now while I don’t encourage irresponsible driving, let’s face it many enjoy a nice country dance sometimes. The Volvo will do more than enough to keep you happy, but I found myself feeling just a tad cautious of going into territory some competitors eat for breakfast.
Behind the latest generation bonnet sits a 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder. It drives the front end putting out a handy 246kW and 430Nm of torque. Then the electrified side of things sees a rear motor drive the back end with an additional 65kW and 240Nm. So there’s 311kW on offer here, that’s something you can tell anyone who will listen.
It doesn’t exactly sound like a 311kW sedan, in fact I really don’t know how to describe how it sounds. Perhaps it’s best to leave that to Henry our two and a half year-olds, it goes “Vrooooom”.
One of the first things I don’t do is look for an AM station in a car, but funnily enough the S60 doesn’t have an AM tuner via the 9.0-inch Sensus system anyway. You’ll need to stream whatever relic station you’re into.
Stayin’ Alive in a Volvo has always been a hallmark of the brand and still is. Its semi- autonomous Pilot Assist system is very good, there’s Autonomous Emergency Braking (font and rear) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane keep assist, blind-spot monitoring “Run-off Road” protection and mitigation, Cross Traffic Alert with auto brake a 360° Camera and auto park assist.
For further drive comfort there’s adaptive cruise control and head-up display.
The Volvo S60 T8 R-Design is priced from $85,990, which is ok when you stack it up against a loaded BMW 3 Series. Servicing is due every year or 15,000km. You can pay up front for a servicing program for an extra $1595 that will see you looked after until 45,000km or three years.
The claimed fuel economy is just 2.0L/100km but as with all PHEV’s you’d need to be in a very small group to achieve that. I averaged 8.2L/100km but remember this is a car that will near 700km of range once the electricity has drained.
Why would you buy one?
Because you just can’t face the prospect of owning a (cheaper) Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Great car with some big claims, if anyone can replicate the 4.1 seconds to 100km/h claim, I’ll cease writing about cars. But all in all, this is a fine motor car, with some interesting tech if you care to understand it. I think it’s probably a tad too lavishly priced and possibly has too many things going on that you don’t really need. I’d recommend also looking further down the S60 tree. It’s a 7.8 out of 10 from me.