Volvo hopes to do something rather special with its V60 hybrid. Looking to be the most fuel efficient car launched in 2013, this diesel powered hybrid is quite unlike anything we have driven before.
The electric motor combined with a diesel engine, which is a world first, makes for an impressive amount of torque in virtually any gear. As such the V60 feels sportier than most other Volvos. In fact, this hybrid will get you from 0-60 in 6.1 seconds yet is still able to offer around 60mpg. Quite an achievement.
Delivering all that performance is a 2.4-litre five-cylinder diesel, along with a 50kw electric motor. Without geeking too much on specs, the car is able to deliver 487lb/ft of torque between 1,500 and 3,000 rpm. In real world terms this means the car pulls nicely from traffic lights and at low city speeds, but settles really well on the motorway.
The clever hybrid drivetrain is controllable via three buttons on the central console. You can opt for full electric mode, hybrid mode or a "power" mode. Driving the V60 in purely electric mode gives you around a 30-mile range in city driving after a full charge. Charging the car takes around 7.5 hours on a 6A socket.
The hybrid mode is what will deliver the most in terms of economy. Volvo's hybrid technology tended to let the car use electric power right up until the last minute. Kick your foot down and the diesel will give you a boost, but the car will for the most part cruise on electric. Even when the engine does start up the car is incredibly quiet and there is no noticeable change in throttle response or ride quality.
Power mode is what delivers all the performance. The V60 boasts 285hp and can keep going all the way up to 143 mph. Its sporty looks and low rev range acceleration and torque make us wonder how much fun potential Golf GTI buyers with families to cart about might have. We really weren't expecting a hybrid car, let alone a Volvo, to give such a kick in first and second gear.
Interior build quality is different from a lot of the luxury saloon competition. While some potential Prius buyers may be considering the V60 hybrid, this is a car much closer to a BMW or Audi in refinement. It also looks different to what German rivals have to offer, with a clever floating centre console and a nifty LCD speedo. There are touches of wood and Swedish design flair throughout the interior, making it more distinctive than most similar luxury cars.
We love the way the satnav screen displays power flow and battery information while you drive and how the central dials can change colour depending on what driving mode you are in. Volvo really does have its in-car technology nailed and the inclusion of the likes of Spotify in cars such as the V60 is just the icing on the cake.
This being a Volvo, safety is predictably paramount. Everything from automatic braking to pedestrian recognition can be optioned on to the car. There is even the ability to use a smartphone app to locate the vehicle within car parks. The V60 hybrid also just grabbed the highest score ever in Euro NCAP for an electric car. So this is something you will feel happy carting kids about in.
Ri,ght now Volvo is asking £48,775 for the plug-in hybrid. The government offers a £5,000 plug-in subsidy which brings the car down to £43,775 in cost. On top of this, it's road tax and congestion charge exempt, so you will save plenty more cash during its lifetime. Throw in the money saved on fuel and really, the plug-in hybrid starts to look cheaper than a conventional V60.
Okay so the price is a touch high, but this is a properly luxury car. The interior detailing, performance and looks can easily match other executive cars in this price bracket. The difference here is that not only are you ticking the environmentally friendly box, but the car is also delivering safety and technology that few competitors offer. If you have the money and are in the market for a luxury family car, we seriously suggest having a look.