Most pow­er­ful XC60 is a plug-in hy­brid

South Shore Breaker - - SALTWIRE WHEELS - JUSTIN PRITCHARD WHEELS

The XC60 is an up­scale cross­over model from Swedish au­tomaker Volvo and , like other mod­els in the brand’s lineup, the most pow­er­ful vari­ant of this ma­chine is also its most fuel-ef­fi­cient, since it’s a plug-in hy­brid (PHEV).

I’ve been re­port­ing on nu­mer­ous Phev-pow­ered mod­els lately, as more choices are hitting the mar­ket and more shop­pers are in­ter­ested in them.

The con­cept be­hind a PHEV is sim­ple: it works the same way as a con­ven­tional hy­brid (a la Toy­ota Prius), us­ing gaso­line and elec­tric power for propul­sion. But, thanks to a much larger bat­tery, a PHEV can be plugged in to recharge, typ­i­cally in a few hours, or overnight, de­pend­ing on the ve­hi­cle and the charger in use.

With a full bat­tery, a PHEV is ca­pa­ble of sev­eral dozen kilo­me­tres of all-elec­tric driv­ing be­fore it has to use any fuel. Once that all-elec­tric range is used up, the ve­hi­cle switches to gas-hy­brid power, en­abling hun­dreds of kilo­me­tres of ad­di­tional range.

Most im­por­tantly, you never need to plug a PHEV in if it’s not con­ve­nient to do so. Since there’s also a gas en­gine, you’ve al­ways got a backup plan.

Charge when you can to save more fuel, but it’s never manda­tory. And, if you can plug in nightly, and/or at the of­fice, chances are, a PHEV like this one can put a very se­ri­ous dent in your fuel bills.

In sim­pler terms, driv­ing a PHEV is like hav­ing an elec­tric ve­hi­cle for shorter trips, and a hy­brid ve­hi­cle for longer ones. The switch be­tween the two is au­to­matic and in­vis­i­ble, and re­quires none of the driver’s at­ten­tion.

The XC60 T8 is pow­ered by a two-litre gaso­line four-cylin­der en­gine that runs both a su­per­charger and tur­bocharger. On its own, out­put is rated at about 315 horse­power. But in so-called T8 twin en­gine guise, my tester’s pow­er­plant added a large bat­tery and elec­tric mo­tor setup, which en­ables that gas-free driv­ing ca­pa­bil­ity and a boost in out­put to 400 horse­power. That’s backed by the bet­ter part of 500 lb.-ft. of torque.

The nut­shell? Tick the T8 pow­er­train op­tion on the or­der sheet and you’ve got the most po­tent XC60 avail­able, but also the most fuel ef­fi­cient.

With about 30 kilo­me­tres of ob­served elec­tric range per bat­tery charge (and your writer’s at-home charg­ing sta­tion), I han­dled all daily er­rands, vis­its, and run­ning around without burn­ing a drop of fuel. In my lo­cale, and for where and how I drive, this ma­chine would see me vis­it­ing the gas sta­tion a few times a year, in­stead of a few times a month.

Con­ve­nience is, af­ter all, one of sev­eral rea­sons to con­sider a PHEV.

The driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is an­other.

When zip­ping around town on elec­tric-only power, the XC60’S driv­e­line is smoother and more re­fined than any­thing I’ve ever driven that runs on gaso­line. With an elec­tric mo­tor pow­er­ing the ve­hi­cle, there’s no re­cip­ro­ca­tion, no me­chan­i­cal move­ment, no vi­bra­tion. There’s also no noise.

So, you get a smoother and qui­eter (that is, more lux­u­ri­ous) lux­ury cross­over ex­pe­ri­ence, and you save a whack load of fuel. Sounds win-win, yes?

Op­tion­ally-equipped adap­tive sus­pen­sion and ac­tive chas­sis con­trols via Volvo’s 4C Chas­sis Con­trol Sys­tem fur­thered the lux­ury ex­pe­ri­ence. No­tably, ex­pert fine-tuning of the sus­pen­sion in real time, and fan­tas­tic body mo­tion con­trol, en­able a ride that’s smoother, more of the time. And that’s on op­tional 21inch wheels, and on the bad­ly­crum­bling roads of Sud­bury, Ont.

Drivers take in the com­fort­able and of­ten noise­less ride from a typ­i­cal Volvo cabin

— that is, one that’s taste­fully un­der­stated, de­void of any but­ton-clut­ter, and one where the vis­ual fo­cus is on the ma­te­ri­als and shapes and crafts­man­ship, not the gadgets.

Am­ple seat­ing space will ac­com­mo­date four av­er­age-sized adults without is­sue, though the sporty front seats (fit­ted via the tester’s R-de­sign) pack­age have larger bol­sters which may com­pli­cate en­try and exit for some oc­cu­pants.

Rear seats flip and fold via mo­tor­ized ac­tion at the touch of a but­ton, adding con­ve­nience. The cargo hold isn’t the seg­ment’s largest, but it is wide and square to the edges, which helps make bet­ter use of the avail­able space. The power tail­gate adds con­ve­nience, and once opened, an ad­di­tional but­ton press low­ers the XC60’S body down on its wheels, help­ing make load­ing and un­load­ing of gear and pets eas­ier.

In­ter­est­ingly, XC60’S hy­brid bat­tery pack is mounted within the same space typ­i­cally used by the rear drive­shaft — that is, nar­row and up­right, in the cen­tre of the ve­hi­cle. The drive­shaft is re­quired for the me­chan­i­cal AWD sys­tem fit­ted to non­hy­brid XC60 vari­ants, but the Phev-pow­ered T8 ver­sion has rear wheels that are elec­tri­cally driven, so a drive­shaft is not re­quired.

This means that clever de­sign en­ables PHEV power, full AWD func­tion­al­ity, and no re­duc­tion in cargo ca­pac­ity. (Many other hy­brids have a bat­tery be­neath the cargo hold or trunk, re­duc­ing its size).

Shop­pers will find noth­ing less than the mar­ket’s lat­est and great­est in safety equip­ment and au­ton­o­mous driv­ing func­tion­al­ity. The XC60 can stop it­self from be­ing in­volved in certain types of ac­ci­dents, self-steer to mag­ne­tize it­self to the cen­tre of its lane, and more. Head­light per­for­mance is ex­em­plary, thanks to po­tent LED lights that soak the road ahead with pure white il­lu­mi­na­tion.

Over­all, the driv­ing feel will ap­peal most strongly to the laid­back driver con­cerned pri­mary with fuel ef­fi­ciency, not fire­power. Sim­ply, the T8 en­gine, while po­tent, does its best work when driven gen­tly. Here, it’s easy on fuel (when it’s us­ing fuel at all), rel­a­tively quiet, and im­pres­sively punchy, given how quiet it is. Opened up, power out­put borders on ex­ces­sive, and throt­tle re­sponse is ab­so­lutely im­me­di­ate, thanks to the elec­tric mo­tor torque.

Still, it’s not the most ex­cit­ing 400 horse­power on the scene — and the full-throt­tle sound is lit­tle more than a dull hum. Get past this, and you get near-v8 pave­ment con­sump­tion with near four-cylin­der fuel con­sump­tion.

As a high­way cruiser, XC60 feels heavy and dense, locked-on but not la­bor-in­ten­sive in the steer­ing de­part­ment, and re­lax­ing over­all. It’s a ma­chine that will nicely serve a driver who likes to relax and so­cial­ize on the open road.

Gripes in­cluded a lack of much mean­ing­ful steer­ing feel, a spongy-at-times feel to the brakes (de­spite strong per­for­mance) and a cen­tral com­mand in­ter­face that’s slick and mod­ern, but may re­quire sev­eral days of prac­tice to sort out.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the lux­ury cross­over seg­ment and con­sid­er­ing a switch to elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, I’d highly rec­om­mend a test drive of this model, if it’s within your means. Without compromise, the T8 PHEV pow­er­plant gives XC60 drivers a bet­ter, faster, and even more lux­u­ri­ous cross­over ex­pe­ri­ence — all with the like­li­hood of a big drop in on­go­ing fuel costs.

Pric­ing for the XC60 starts at $46,800, with T8-pow­ered mod­els avail­able from the low 70s.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

2019 Volvo XC60 T8 R-de­sign

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