I drove a Volvo V60 T6 a little while ago. I loved it. Now, I’ve driven some pretty mighty machines recently – an Aventador Ultimae, GT3 Touring, and not one but two 2.7 Carrera RSs. All of them were amazing. Nevertheless, when it comes to a real-world car that fits into a real-world life – my real-world life – the V60 T6 trumped the lot. I loved its space, interior comfort, quality, performance, ride, and, since its hybrid battery was enlarged to 18.8kWh, its electric range and overall fuel economy, too. Which begs an age-old question: having fallen so deeply for a traditional estate car, does its SUV equivalent add anything to the mix?
Just like the V60 T6, the Volvo XC60 T6 has also been treated to an updated hybrid powertrain. And since I last drove an XC60, it’s had Volvo’s latest Android-based infotainment system installed as well. The V60 I drove didn’t have that, but if you order one now it will. What are the highlights of the XC60’s technical updates? Well, the 2.0-litre petrol engine bit is the same. It still has 253hp, but the electric motor now maxes out at 145hp – it used to be 87hp. That’s what each party can individually bring to the table, although the total system output is limited to 350hp. Still, that’s not bad. It’s removed two tenths from the 0-62mph time – now 5.7 seconds.
You also get something for nothing, in a way. Because while the motor’s more powerful and the battery has a bigger capacity, the whole car is actually a few kilos lighter than the old version. I know, how often do you hear about things getting lighter? And, because the motor can do more work, the T6’s WLTP efficiency has increased. CO2 emissions are just 23 g/km and it’ll hit 282.1mpg. Okay, that’s in very limited and specific circumstances, but you can expect more like 40-50mpg in the real-world (at least that’s what I was getting), so don’t scoff.
Thanks to those official figures, including its 48.5-mile electric range, your BIK tax burden is down to just eight per cent. It was 15 per cent previously, and it’s 12 per cent if you opt for a BMW X3 30e, which is slower and does a third fewer battery miles. So the new XC60 T6 stacks up very well against its rivals, then. However, some of those figures are even better if you buy the V60 T6, including the price: the V60 T6 is around £6,000 less. Call that round one to the estate, then?
As you’re probably aware, we don’t tend to recommend Volvos if you want sparkling handling. They don’t sparkle, handling wise. Rather they glow dimly but consistently. Sure, you won’t be dashing out for a Sunday morning blatt, but the XC60’s intuitive steering makes it easy to guide through conurbations, as well as along byways and motorways. And while it rolls a bit, it’s not lopsided the whole time, either. When you push it hard it eventually gives in to understeer, but there’s nothing edgy or unnerving about it. It’s fine. Just not quite as tidy to drive as the V60.
There’s also more suspension noise in this than I remember from my time with the V60, but, as with that car, road noise isn’t intrusive and nor is wind noise. It’s there, but rather than inconsistent gusts, which are quite hard to tune out in your head, it’s steady and therefore fades into the background. This helps keep stress levels down on a long journey, and it’s not the only thing that does. In electric mode it's ever so peaceful. When the engine fires it sounds a bit four-pot and anodyne, but at the same time wholly inoffensive. Plus it has buckets of low-end torque, so not only does it feel quick when you hoof it, it builds speed very easily if you just tickle the throttle. Again, the V60 is quicker, though. That’s round two to the estate.
On the subject of stress levels, let’s talk about the seats. Oh, Volvo’s seats. They’re the best in the business. And don’t think I’m talking about multi-way, electrically adjustable thrones exclusive to the top-spec trim. This is an entry-level car. The driver’s seat has part-electric adjustment for height and lumbar, but it still feels wonderfully supportive after many, many miles. The rest of the driving position is perfect, too. The position of the armrest – the centre one and the one on the door – couldn’t be designed any better. I’m tall, and when I slide the seat back in some cars I run out of door armrest. Not here. And the pedal arrangement couldn’t be any better in relation to the seat and steering wheel. It’s all splendid in this regard, as it is in the V60. So let’s call that a draw.
In terms of ride, it settles nicely on motorways and generally feels comfortable, but I do recall that the V60 being superior. Neither car rides perfectly, it has to be said, yet this XC60 on 19-inch wheels is a touch more jarring over pointy-edged ruts and bucks more obviously from the rear over speed bumps. For some reason, I also think the drivetrain isn’t as smooth. I can’t remember the V60 jolting or doing anything out of the ordinary in either petrol or EV mode, or when switching between the two. The XC60 does a little jolt sometimes. Why, I don’t know. It’s meant to be made of the same stuff underneath. And the brake pedal is spongier, too, so it’s easier to press it too hard and get an odd look from your passengers. That’s another win for the estate.
And I am sorry Volvo and Google, but I’m not an overwhelmed fan of your new infotainment. Why do the icons have to be so tiny, including the ones for the heating controls. This makes it quite fiddly to change the temperature settings, and if you want to do more than that you have to open up a sub-menu. It's all a bit needlessly complex. Then there’s the icon for the swipe-down menu at the top of the screen. It’s a millimetre below the shroud, so it’s really hard to work – and I don’t think I’ve got overly podgy digits that are making the task any trickier. On the plus side, it has Google Maps, which is very good, and it’s definitely more responsive than the old Sensus system. I was going to moan about the lack of Apple CarPlay, too. But then I woke up one morning, turned the XC60 on and there it was, staring back at me. That's magic. Well, an over-the-air update, more precisely, so if you have an XC60 with an Android system you can add it to your car as well. It takes about an hour-and-a-half to install. Right then, bearing in mind the V60 has the same infotainment system now, I suppose we should call that a draw, too.
Is the XC60 more practical than a traditional estate car? No. The V60’s boot volume remains unchanged, whether you have a PHEV or not. That means you can cram 519 litres of stuff in there with the rear seats in place. No XC60 can match that, and if you go for the a hybrid then you get even less space at 468 litres. As someone who regularly brims the boot, I can tell you it’s noticeable shortfall. So that’s a clear and easy win for the estate, then.
There you have it. The V60 proved to me that hybrid power isn’t just another word for compromise these days – it’s a choice I’d actively choose. Meanwhile, the XC60 T6 confirmed that SUVs still aren’t necessarily better than a traditional wagon. Still, most people will choose to ignore that and buy an SUV anyway. And if that’s you, and you want a plug-in one, then despite the deficits the XC60 T6 is, actually, one of the better ones.
SPECIFICATION | Volvo XC60 T6 AWD Recharge Core
Engine: 1,969cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged, supercharged with electric motor
Transmission: 8-speed auto, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 350 (combined); 253 (petrol); 145 (electric)
Torque (lb ft): 258 @ 2,500-5,000rpm (petrol); 228 @ 0-3,280rpm (electric)
0-62mph: 5.7 secs
Top speed: 112mph
Weight: 2,156kg (running order)
MPG: 282.1 (EV range: 48.5 miles)
Price: £56,025 (as tested £57,960)
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