Volvo's best-selling XC60 now even better in 'smarter' PHEV form

SUV sceptic and confirmed 'Volvo man' David Roy gets to grips with the latest PHEV version of Volvo's best-selling and newly refreshed mid-sized contender, the XC60…

I AM, as they say, 'a Volvo man', thanks to a succession of 244s, 240s and 740s my uncle ran through the 1980s and early 1990s. For me, these big boxy Swedish barges set the bar for quiet, comfortable and unassumingly cool family motoring.

Innumerable long but pleasant holiday drives undertaken in these cars during my formative years have instilled in me such a deep scepticism of SUVs: to my mind, you simply do not need a giant pseudo-jeep to ferry your average five person family around for extended periods in comfort.

In the not so distant past, even those with a passion for procreation were already well catered for by a variety of funky people carriers and perfectly functional estates available in seven-seater spec - like Volvo's own and practically peerless P2 V70, which I still drive today. Now, these choices have been all but obliterated by the automotive arms race of the ongoing SUV wars.

Volvo's mid-sized SUV, the XC60, has been the Swedes' best-selling car since 2009. To be fair, the XC60 has always been one of the least-offensive offerings of the genre and it has long been competing healthily against the likes of other, mainly German mid-sized SUV options like the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC.

All of them are much more likely to be found aggressively hovering six inches from your rear bumper during the average motorway commute. If you need a five-seater SUV and ever want to be 'let out' at junctions by other drivers, the Volvo is the obvious, minimally obnoxious choice.

The current XC60 launched in 2017 and is based on the same platform as Volvo's larger flagship vehicle, the seven-seater XC90. Now, Volvo have launched a newly refreshed version of the XC60 offering drivers updated onboard technology, facelifted styling and a couple of new-and-improved PHEV powerplants.

The 2022 car has gained revised front grilles, new lower front bumpers and air intakes, and a re-designed lower rear bumper with hidden exhaust pipes – a design feature apparently included expressly to help prepare Volvo customers for the complete elimination of all exhausts on their cars by 2030.

Indeed, the refreshed XC60 finds the Swedes motoring further down the road towards total electrification with a hybrid-only range of engines, including three Recharge 'plug-in' hybrid powerplants, the 350hp T6 and the 455hp T8. The latter is Volvo's most powerful production engine ever and is also available in specially fettled form with range-topping Polestar Engineered cars.

For 2022, Recharge models combine a turbocharged and supercharged 2.0l petrol engine in three model-specific tunings with an 145hp/ 228lb ft electric motor driving the rear wheels from an 18.8kWh battery pack, which only takes up an extra 15l of the petrol/diesel-powered cars' 483l boot space.

Thus, Volvo claim these Recharge cars are now capable of WLTP combined cycle fuel economy figures of up to 256.5mpg, CO2 emissions as low as 26g/km and an electric-only range of up to 45 miles on a single charge. However, as the saying goes, 'your mileage may vary'.

For those resistant to manual re-charging, there are still four 'mild' hybrids on offer: a 197hp B4 diesel, a 250hp B5 petrol and a 300hp B6 petrol engine. All XC60s are now all-wheel drive, except for those ordered with a B5 petrol unit which is also available in front-wheel drive.

Volvo have declared the latest XC60 to be 'smarter' than the outgoing version, and there's certainly plenty of tech onboard as standard. The car now features an upgraded nine-inch touchscreen loaded with Volvo's latest Android Automotive-powered infotainment system featuring Google Maps navigation, which can be controlled hands-free via Google Assistant voice commands along with a range of key car functions like radio tuning and climate control.

Apple CarPlay connectivity is "coming soon" via an 'over-the-air' update, while wireless charging comes as standard across the XC60 range, along with four handy USB ports for maximum connectivity that should help put an end to squabbles over who gets to charge their phone/tablet on long family drives.

It's a Volvo, so naturally the updated XC60 also has some new and rather cool driver safety aids, like a nifty rear 'auto-brake' function which will literally stop you from pranging the car on invisible bollards/shopping trolleys/pedestrians while reversing. The optional Pilot Assist system is now also upgraded to help prevent collisions when travelling forwards too.

There are eight trim levels available across the range; Momentum, Momentum Pro, Inscription, Inscription Expression, Inscription Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro and the range-topping Polestar Engineered. All are available as Recharge PHEVs except the entry-level Momentum trims.

On-the-road prices start at £42,485 for the Momentum with FWD B5 engine and shoot up to £65,475 for the all-singing, all-dancing luxury of the Polestar Engineered T8 Recharge.

I recently got to test out a Recharge T6 R-Design for an afternoon and, despite my reservations about all things SUV, I was pleasantly surprised by how we got along.

My particular car was a lovely looking machine in the new-for-2022 shade of dark metallic Platinum Grey, complemented nicely by the glossy black plastics of the R-Design trim, which features a very slightly more 'aggressively styled' front air dam and rear lower valence, plus optional 21" five-spoke two-tone alloys.

Inside, the XC60 really doesn't feel like a particularly 'big' car at all, with good all-round visibility from its airy cabin, which benefited from an extra dose of natural light courtesy of the touchpad operated glass roof included with my car's optional 'lounge pack': this also adds a premium Harmon Kardon sound system and enhanced allergy-fighting cabin air cleaner to the XC60s already well-appointed standard spec.

On the road, the XC60 offers a quiet, relaxing and confidence-inspiring driving experience. Despite being the 'sporty' model of the line-up, the R-Design version is still a nicely refined driver which doesn't sacrifice ride quality on an altar of firey performance.

My test car only had the outgoing model's 87hp electric motor, which generates 177 lb ft of torque and is powered by a smaller 11.6kWh battery pack, but it still had plenty of poke when needed to ensure that this two tonne-plus motor's moves match its sportier looks – and the switch between electric and petrol power is seamless.

Top speed is 'only' 112mph, but a respectable 0-62mph stat of 5.9 seconds ensures you won't be left standing at the lights any time soon: the full-strength 2022 model with the larger battery and more powerful electric motor will shave a further 0.2 seconds off that figure.

The XC60 Recharge R-Design was enjoyable to take for solo spin around the highways and by-ways of rural Worcestershire, with the car's steel-sprung suspension easily soaking up any bumps and uneven surfaces while the motors purred away quietly. The AWD (which is permanently selectable in case of treacherous conditions) means the car grips extremely well even in the wet, and there is just enough steering feel through the wheel to make you feel 'connected' to the road.

The Google Maps functionality ensured that any unexpected diversions or wrong turns were easily navigated. On a family holiday across Europe (when such endeavours are once again possible), this would no doubt prove an invaluable stress-buster. And, while taking in the golden wet and wilds of the autumnal English countryside, the XC60's heated seat and steering wheel and automatic wipers were also of great comfort.

'Comfort' is the word that springs to mind with the XC60, closely followed by 'quality'. There's plenty of room for five decent sized adults in the well-designed cabin, with the abundance of soft touch-surfaces and robust switchgear you would expect from a premium vehicle in this price bracket.

So, has the XC60 converted me to the way of the all-conquering SUV? Possibly, so long as there's a Volvo badge on the grille anyway. The latest incarnation of the XC60 Recharge is definitely a great car that will no doubt ensure that the XC60 stays at the top of the Swedes' sales charts in 2022.

However, it's also definitely made me want to spend some quality time with a nice new V90 Recharge estate. Old habits die hard and all that…


2022 Volvo XC60 Recharge T6 AWD R-Design

  • Price: From £54,975. As tested £60,335, with Lighting Pack (active bending headlights with adaptive shadow technology, headlight cleaning system) £825, Lounge Pack (Premium Sound by Harman Kardon with Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound, advanced interior air cleaner) £800, Climate Pack (heated rear seats (outer positions), heated steering wheel, heated windscreen) £550, Seat Pack (power driver seat with memory for seat and mirrors, power folding rear headrests) £1,000, 21-inch alloys with 255/40 tyres, £1,500, metallic paint £685
  • Engine and transmission: 2.0 litre four-cylinder petrol with 253hp/258lb ft and electric motor with 145hp/228lb ft (drivetrain total 340hp / 486lb ft), eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
  • Top speed: 112mph
  • WLTP combined fuel economy (min/max): 100.9mpg/256.5mpg
  • WLTP CO2 emissions (min/max): 64g/km / 25g/km
  • Emission level: Euro 6d
  • Benefit in Kind: 7 per cent
  • Euro NCAP Rating: 5 stars (2017)