Autumn's here. And if, right now, you fancy snuggling under a warm blanket and basking in the amber glow of an open fire, go for your life. You've probably earned it. But what's the automotive equivalent of that warm and fuzzy feeling? Well, believe it or not, I'd recommend the driving seat of the current Volvo V60 T6.
There's something wonderful about the manufacturer's latest interiors. An eon ago, I plied my trade at a franchised dealer selling Rolls-Royces and Bentleys. The current crop of Sweden's finest are far more minimalist than those 'gentlemen's clubs' inside, certainly - but there's something about the V60's classy mix of materials which is reminiscent of those long-gone days.
When you get the spec and colour combo right, that is. Forget the pics - we're at the mercy of Volvo's press snaps for those - the car I drove featured two-tone Blonde Nappa leather, Driftwood veneers and drilled brushed aluminium speaker grilles, and every time I slotted behind the wheel the tension ebbed from my shoulders like steam leaving a sauna.
Part of the reason is, of course, Volvo's voluptuous seats. The virtue of these has been covered a million times before: suffice it to say, they cup you as beautifully as an Eames Lounge Chair. And it's not just the comfort on offer but also the space, because this is a genuinely useful estate car, front and back, with a predictably decent boot. Granted, the Sensus infotainment system, even after all these years, still has a few software wobbles - but let's hope the Android-based update that's just hit the V90 will make a better fist of things when it eventually arrives in the smaller wagon.
Typically praise for the V60 has entered a downhill phase at this point - the driving experience never being its strongest suit - and in the plug-in hybrid's case the overwhelming silence prompted by a twist of the chromed starter doesn't suggest the T6 is going to romp away with your affections on the dynamic front. But, boy, have current events conspired to highlight the upside of dual power sources - being able to plug in and gain around 20-odd miles of real-world range if for no other reason than to avoid a two-hour queue is jolly handy (although a BMW 330e Touring would probably eke out a few more miles between charges).
When you have petrol to spare, though, you'll need the 253hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine to lend the 87hp electric motor a considerable hand in reaching the V60's performance potential. Even then it's still a little lukewarm. Officially, the T6 will spit out a 0-62mph run in 5.4 seconds but, much like the more powerful S60 T8 Polestar we tested last year, the T6 doesn't feel as fast as those numbers suggest.
Partly that's thanks to the somewhat laboured nature of the otherwise (mostly) smooth eight-speed auto gearbox. Still, even with the hinderance, the V60's performance is generally up there with something like a Peugeot 508 PSE, and always feels - sorry for harking back to Rolls-Royces again - adequate. There's no boom or bolshiness to progress either, even if Volvo's four-pot is more monotonous than it is exciting. There is a bit of road noise but refinement elsewhere is fine, with good suppression of wind noise and fine brakes for a plug-in - you can really lean on them and find a welcome degree of progression and accuracy returned.
Adding a few more kilos of battery and motor have done nothing to burnish the T6's ability in the corners (we're up at 2,075kg in running order) but it's not a completely damp squib. It does enough to let you press on with confidence, digging in and finding grip, wet or dry, and controlling its body movements capably along undulating Welsh mountain roads. Indeed, it'll do that even with a chest of drawers in the boot, which, by the way, is not something you'd get in the 508. The additional mass and optional 19-inch alloys mean this isn't the best-riding V60 I've driven; there's a lumpiness around town and over ridges along A-roads that isn't there in lighter, smaller-wheeled versions. Yet for cruising along smooth motorways it's a tip-top exec wagon.
Of course when push comes to shove, the T6 isn't going to feature at the top of any thrill-seeker's list - it's too wilfully middle of the road for that. But that doesn't prevent it from being a car you relish being in. For one thing it undercuts the conceptually similar 508 by several thousand pounds. For another, when its correctly appointed and equipped with the superb Bowers & Wilkins stereo, it is a feel-good estate in the best tradition, with a vibe all of its own. And unlike the blanket and the roaring fire, the V60 T6 is a pleasure to be around no matter what the season.
SPECIFICATION | 2021 VOLVO V60 T6 RECHARGE AWD INSCRIPTION
Engine: 1,969cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged, supercharged with electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): (Petrol) 253@5,500rpm (Electric) 87hp@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): (Petrol) 258@3,000-4,000rpm/ (Electric) 240@0-3,000rpm
0-62mph: 5.4 secs
Top speed: 112mph
Weight: 2,075kg (lightest kerbweight with 75kg driver, full fluids and 90 per cent fuel)
MPG: 156.7 (21 mile EV range)
Price: £48,150 (as tested £52,125)
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