Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid review – Green Estate Flicks Our Switch To ‘On’

Volvo build quality easily rivals Merc & BMW, individuality over German marques, luxurious interior, incredible safety tech, economical, diesel+electric motors together equals superb power and speed

Centre console looks good, but too many control & buttons, high price, no paddle shifters

Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid?

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With Volvo always pushing the boundaries in terms of how safe they can make their cars, it was only right they also push forward with the technology that goes into powering the model line-up – enter the 2013 V60 Plug-In Hybrid. Volvo are now also competing at the higher end of the market, against manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz and BMW, and their new Hybrid offers both luxury and power. We were sent the Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid to test and review for a week. Here are our thoughts…

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

While Volvo’s of old were known to be perfect for use a hearse, such were the square-edged rectangle-shaped estates, the V60 is modern and rather sleek, and while it still maintains a certain Swedish something in its looks, the boxy outline is very much gone.

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The V60 Plug-In Hybrid (also known as the D6 AWD) is exactly the shape and height as its non-hybrid brother, save for the charging point on the front left wing. It is not a small car, the V60, and in the flesh it is much wider than you’d expect. Physically, it looks solidly-built, and a tap with your knuckles on any given panel shows this to be the case, as you’ll hear the same sort of sound you would knocking on perhaps, a small tank. This is quite a reassuring thing.

Personally, I don’t think there’s a bad angle to V60. From the wide front, you’ve got a couple of classy-looking grilles and instead of an array of fussy light clusters – as can be the trend currently – there’s a set of traditional-type lenses, and a thin but effective sliver of LED’s where manufacturers normally house front fog lamps. The bonnet is high, and muscular too, cutting powerful stance with chunky, flared ridges.

Bonnet of the Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid

Down the sides, Volvo have somehow managed to keep the V60’s decent looks going, and while it’s not an interesting view of it, there’s still a definite air of it being a Volvo, instead of some nondescript Euro box. The gap between the tyre and wheel arch is surprisingly slim actually, and they’ve done a great job of giving the V60 a lower-slung stance than you’d expect from a car like this.

The rear has good-enough flair and style, and while there’s a bit going on with a variety of lines, it wholly suits this big estate. It is also unmistakably a Volvo from this angle, and while that sounds a bit daft, you could de-badge this car and people would still know its identity. Overall, I’d say the V60 has been designed to look sporty and modern, and Volvo have very much moved away from their old-school wagon design now. One more point. Heck, I’m just going to come out and say it; I think the V60 looks a little bit… cool.

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Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Volvo V60 HDR front seat, steering wheel and centre console

The V60 Plug-In Hybrid D6 AWD comes in just the one trim level, but it’s a high one – SE LUX. This means you get full-leather seating as standard. Both front and rear, they are deep, sumptuous and comfortable whilst supportive, and the leather has an expensive suppleness to it. You sink into the seats, rather than sit in them, feeling instantly relaxed from the moment you slide yourself into them. The exception is the middle rear seat, which has a harder back section, thanks to the large armrest. Heated rear seats are only a £200 option, and a must.

review rear seats of the V60

 

Volvo V60 D6  front seats

A big plus with having the plug-in hybrid system is that the interior can be pre-heated or cooled while you charge the car. Volvo have been innovative too, in having two forms of system to heat the car – one is a small heater powered by diesel, but of course this gives off fumes, so there’s another electric one – which works like an electric bar heater – so you can make your car toasty warm – or refreshingly cool as the air con is electric – even when it’s inside. Clever.

Volvo V60 centre console

In the front, there’s Volvo’s ‘floating’ centre console, which has a high-quality brushed aluminium front to it. While the design is lovely, I still maintain there are just too many button crammed onto it – a point I mention in our Volvo V40 T5 R-Design review. This is also something which is not in the driver’s interest should you want to find the control for say, the rear heated windscreen, while driving at motorway speeds in a downpour. You do get used to the layout eventually, but I still found myself physically having to look from some of the controls, even after a week with the V60.

Volvo V60 adaptive digital display.

The driver’s Adaptive Digital Display console layout is superb, and you’re able to choose from different screen modes depending on your mood or driving habit. So, there Hybrid which’ll show your electric and diesel usage, Elegance which is simple and stylish, while ECO shows you how economically you’re driving, but I hate the slightly drab light green colouring of this, and then Performance, which turns the whole lot a striking red, and brings up a large rev counter (which the others don’t have). This is definitely the coolest screen, and generally the one to have up.

Volvo V60 adaptive digital display

You are also able to scroll through different screens on the Adaptive Digital Display, which shows more information on fluid levels, service status, trip computer brightness settings and more. It’s uncomplicated to use, and very non-fussy.

As standard, the V60 Hybrid has a 7″ multimedia system, which features digital radio (DAB), satellite navigation and bluetooth along with voice activation. As well as the usual stuff above, it also controls almost every aspect of the car, from how heavily weighted you want the steering to be, to control aspects of the lights, alarm system, doors etc, and there’s also information on which driving mode does what (come to that later), tips on how to get the best economy out of your car and more.

Volvo V60 plugin hybrid centre screen modes

It’s so in-depth though this multimedia system, that it verges on being overwhelming, so many are the settings and screens which open more tabs and control settings. You do get familiar with the system, but it certainly takes a good few days to realise both what you can control or view on it, and also to get all the settings to how you want them.

Aside from all the electronic stuff, the V60 Hybrid’s interior is made up of a sea of high quality materials, all of which are put together very nicely, making the V60 Hybrid feel luxurious, and worth the cost. The singular thing I did not like were the cheap-looking interior lights and their ugly plasticky surrounds in the headlining. Also, I cannot fathom why Volvo are still using yellowy bulbs in them, when LED’s are the far better choice.

Finally, the boot area is of course large, and will swallow many thing with its maximum 1,126 litre capacity. There’s handy stuff too, such as a heavy-duty retractable net built into the back or the rear seats, which connects to the roof and acts as a partition to stop your dog or stowed equipment coming through. The Hybrid charging cable also has its own storage space, and the rear headrests drop at the press of a button (or automatically should you tick the £125 option), for better rear-window vision.

Volvo V60 D6 boot space

Volvo V60 D6 WD boot space with the seats folded down.

All said, the Volvo V60 D6 AWD interior comes across as being luxurious and comfortable, exceptionally well made and utterly modern, while still retaining its identity as a Volvo. The V60’s build quality and level of refinement easily competes with similar-sized cars from Mercedes-Benz and BMW, with the added benefit of having more character than its German rivals, I feel.

Engine and gearbox

With manufacturers now scrambling to bring at least one hybrid model to their range, Volvo have started out with the V60 Plug-In Hybrid. There are a couple of advantages of having plug-in hybrid. One is that you can use the electric system on full pure electric mode constantly, even at high speeds, and the other is the current PICG (plug-in car grant) the UK gov offer, which is a hefty 25%-off grant (up to £5,000) for any plug-in car bought. Sweet.

Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid review engine bay

The V60 D6 AWD engine is a 2.4 litre in-line 5-cylinder, 20-valve turbo-diesel, which normally produces 215 hp and 440 Nm (324 lb. ft) of torque in the D5 version. However, the D6 Hybrid has a whopping great electric motor producing an extra 70 hp (50 kW) and 200 Nm (147  lb ft) via a 400-volt lithium-ion battery pack. With both the engine and electric motor in action together, it makes the already-quick D5 version into an actually-rather-fast estate, with 285 hp and an (all-important) torque figure of 640 Nm (472 lb ft).

The 0 – 60 mph run is completed in a highly respectable 5.8 seconds too, which utterly trounces the equivalent Mercedes-Benz E300 BlueTec Hybrid (7.8 sec.) and is on an equal with the non-hybrid BMW 530d Touring.

As it’s plug-in, you’re looking at around 4.5 hours for a full charge from a (U.K.) household 240-volt socket with a 10-amp load capacity. A 16-amp charge-point will do it in 3.5 hours, while a 6-amp does the job in about 7.5 hours. Cost-wise, you’re currently (Nov. ’13) looking at approximately just £1.30 for a full charge (depending on your provider costs), which’ll get you up to 31 miles in Pure electric mode. Interestingly, as the issue with electric cars is the physical charging time, Volvo are already testing a system capable of recharging the batteries in just 1.5 hours.

Volvo V60 D6 electric plug in charging point.

Volvo only quote the combined fuel economy figure, which is 155 miles-per-gallon. This is when you use the V60 D6 AWD in Hybrid mode, with the engine cutting in only when you accelerate hard or when the battery is low. Certainly, I occasionally saw 120 mpg in this mode. However, when the engine runs constantly with the electric motor coming into play, I was getting around 50 mpg at 40 mph on average, and lower when traffic was flowing, but heavy.

The gearbox is Volvo’s 6-speed automatic Geartronic, which has a ‘manual’ mode, used by pushing the lever over to one side in Drive, and then up or down for your shifts.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

With a kerb weight between 1,955 and 2,044 kilograms (4,310 – 4,506 lbs) dependant on how you spec your car, the V60 D6 AWD is not exactly in the featherweight division. It’s also around 300 kg’s more than the Volvo D5. This is a lot, and it’d be fair of you to expect about as similar a performance on the road as Augustus Gloop in a chocolate river.

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However, you’d be entirely – and unexpectedly – wrong. While the chassis is the same as the other V60’s, Volvo haven’t simply added all the hybrid system to the D6 AWD, and then gone out for a snowball fight. No, they’ve modified the suspension and bushes to take the extra weight, while still giving the same driving experience as the other V60 models.

That’s what Volvo say, but what’s like on the road? Well, really very nice actually. At slower speeds, it copes excellently with pitted and potholed roads, soaking up the bumps and taking poor surfaces in its stride, all the while keeping any passenger at a good comfort level. Should you want to do a spot of distance travelling at higher speeds, you’ll find the V50 D6 AWD utterly comfortable, as it soaks up rubbishy motorway routes with ease.

Yes yes, of course it’ll be like that normally, but what about when it comes to whipping its flanks and sending it hurtling down some twisting country lane? Surely then you’ll find it’ll fail to impress? Again, no. The Volvo D6 AWD belies its weight, and while you do slightly sense you’re controlling a hefty car, there’s very little to show for that, as Volvo have done excellently with the set-up of the all-round independent suspension. Throw it into a corner with gusto, and it’ll sail round it with minimal drama, the body roll being tight, and the steering weighted decently. There’s less feel through the ‘wheel than I’d have liked, but considering this is a big estate, I would certainly be happy enough should I buy one.

Higher motorway cruising shows low road and wind noise in the cabin – a drag co-efficient figure of just 0.29 helping on that side of things, as well as with fuel economy. On a note about the interior noise level, Volvo have got a good point about the interior acoustic level, in regards to running the V60 in Pure electric mode. Martin Spång from Volvo Car Group’s Sound laboratory states “The combustion engine sound is instinctively connected to our perception of driving a car. It works as an acoustic mat that blankets other sounds. When that mat is lifted off, you suddenly become aware of a number of other sounds.” Like, as they mention, diesel splashing about in the tank, plus any road noise, and electronics whirring and ticking.

For the V60 Plug-In Hybrid, Volvo used a giant insulated acoustic lab so they could hear even a pin drop (possibly literally too), and then went about making the hybrid as quiet as possible when only the electric motor is being used, even down to using a rolling road with different surfaces on to replicate reality. Finding out stuff like makes you realise just how far Volvo go to ensure quality on their cars.

There are three driving modes on the D6 AWD, all of which are available at the push of a button. There’s Pure mode – or electric-only -, then Hybrid which uses both the diesel and electric powerplants, and then Power mode which powers the car using both the diesel and electric motors at the same time, putting out the maximum power available.

Driving the Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid

A couple more buttons give the option of a Save mode, which saves the charged-up battery for whenever you want to use Pure mode only, and there’s also an AWD (all-wheel-drive) function, which uses the electric motor to power the rear wheels. This only works up to 75 mph though, but will kick back in once you go below that again. Still, that’s good enough for a rain-drenched motorway, or a snowy mountain road to a ski resort. Other than running it in AWD on the road, I haven’t physically tested it on the slippery stuff, and I’ll update this review should I get the chance to do so.

So, it’s quiet and well-poised for a big car, but what about the speed? If you’re idling along gently, and suddenly get the urge to give the V60’s accelerator a hefty push, you’ll firstly want to press the Power button to release the mighty 640 Nm of torque. This done, the D6 AWD instantly becomes lively, and the pace quickens without pressing the go pedal down any further.

Volvo V60 D6 AWD steering wheel

Push the throttle hard, and the V60 Hybrid rewards greatly by surging forward on a huge wave of torque. As the speed climbs, your grin will spread, and to add to the enjoyment, the 5-cylinder diesel sounds great, giving off a muscular growl. The D6 is a powerful beast, and with 0 – 60 mph done in 5.8 seconds, you’ll be embarrassing hot hatches away from the lights. For instance, the Peugeot 208 GTi I tested weighed around 800 kilo’s less than the Volvo, and was still around a second slower to sixty. That’s admirable.

The acceleration isn’t brutal though, and won’t sling you back in your seat. The V60 D6 accelerates like a big luxury saloon and it’s more like the aforementioned wave – powerful, yet it feels unhurried.

With acceleration from 70 mph upwards also being impressive, the D6 AWD will reach triple figures without even breaking a sweat. Should you see ‘D6 AWD’ and ‘Plug In Hybrid’ on the rear of a Volvo, do not try to outpace it unless you’re driving something respectable, for it will make you red-faced and rather frustrated as it disappears towards the horizon.

Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid on a country road

Trouble is, the V60 D6’s speed and noise is addictive, and each time the road opens up you want to be off. But that’s not a very economical way of driving, is it now. The Volvo V60 D6 AWD constantly dangles the carrot of power in front of you, but you know if you do go for it, your economy will drop like a stone in water. And so, with each journey an inner struggle between sense and sheer speed takes place. Damn you Volvo!

Another point, I can see you thinking “This Volvo weighs two tonnes. It’s just ridiculously overweight” –  however, both the Merc E 300 BlueTec Hybrid and the BMW 530d Touring weigh about the same as the Volvo. Plus, Volvo have packed in a hybrid system and all that safety kit and still keep to a similar load, so it’s easily acceptable in its luxury-estate category.

As is usual with Volvo now, the list of both driving and safety tech on the V60 D6 is high. Drive-wise, to keep you from crashing it (as easily) there’s Dynamic Stability and Traction Control (DSTC), Corner Traction Control and Engine Drag Control, which prevents the wheels from locking during engine braking on slippery surfaces. Safety technology includes City SafetyPedestrian SafetyLane Keeping AidDriver Alert ControlCollision WarningBlind Spot Information (BLIS) and and the utterly brilliant Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC).

Price

The Volvo V60 D6 AWD is not an inexpensive car. For the range-topping diesel D5 V60 R-Design Lux-Nav version, you’re talking £38,000. The leap to the D6 AWD is significant, starting at a sizeable £49,275 (Nov. ’13). That’s before you add options. Tick a couple few boxes though – Driver Support: £1,900, Winter pack: £350, Power Blue Paint: £625, Park-Assist Camera: £375 – and you’ve now climbed up to over £52,500! That’s not an insignificant sum, when choosing an estate car.

However, currently the UK government are offering the aforementioned PICG (plug-in car grant), which is gives a nice 25%-off grant (up to £5,000) for any plug-in car bought, taking the base price back down to around £44,000. While it is a high price, as standard the D6 AWD Hybrid is generously equipped, and the hybrid system is quite obviously not a cheap one.

So, what can you get in way of rivals for the same money? Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTec Hybrid AMG Sport is a snip over £44,000 (minus options), or a (non-hybrid) BMW 530d M Sport Touring for around £45,500, again minus any options.

Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid verdict & score

Rear three quarter view of the Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid

In making this car, Volvo have rather set my taste-buds going for the V60 D6 AWD. It’s big and roomy while luxurious, quiet and fast. Not just quick, it’s actually fast.  The fact it can do these hot-hatch-embarrassing speeds, while still return good mpg and laugh off bad road and weather conditions thanks to the all-wheel-drive, oh, plus be one of the safest cars on the road, means it is an extremely attractive package overall.

The price is high for this Volvo, and you’ll have to be ‘doing okay’ to afford one. Should you be in the market for an economical estate of this value though, it is absolutely worth testing the V60 D6 AWD Plug-in Hybrid against its rivals, as I think you’ll find it rather appealing. For the same price, it certainly matches the BMW and Mercedes-Benz in terms of build and material quality and equipment levels. If you’re a badge-snob, then put aside your snobbiness and go test the Volvo V60 D6 AWD – it’s way more individual!

Do you own this car? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  7.5
Interior  8.5
Engine  9
Hybrid system  8.5
Gearbox (auto)  8
Price  7
Drive & ride  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 Volvo V60 D6 AWD Plug-In Hybrid
Spec includes  Cruise control, dual climate control, heated front seats, bending lights, adaptive cruise control, USB & aux-in sockets, full leather seats, City Safety technology,   See specs for more
Options you should spec  Driver Support: £1,900
The Competition  Mercedes-Benz E 300 BlueTec Hybrid AMG Sport, BMW 530d M Sport Touring (non-hybrid)
Price  (Nov. ’13) Approx. £49,000 but £43,000 with PICG (plug-in car grant)
Engine  2.4 litre, 20-valve, 5-cylinder turbo-diesel + 50 kWh electric motor
Power, Torque, CO2  215 hp and 440 Nm (324 lb. ft) of torque, + 70 hp (50 kW) and 200 Nm (147  lb ft) electric motor | CO2: 48 g/km (auto)
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive + AWD on demand | 6-speed Geartronic
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: Not listed | 0 – 60 mph: 5.8 seconds | 5-star Euro NCAP rating
Fuel economy (UK mpg)  Combined: 149 mpg
Weight (kerb)  1,955 kilograms (4,310 lbs)
Websites  Volvo UK, Volvo USA, Volvo Worldwide

Check out our other Volvo car reviews:

Volvo V40 T5 R-Design Lux Nav review

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies

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