Volvo paves way for electric power

VOLVO XC60: High values for safety and comfort.

It’s not something I normally do, take a vehicle out for a 45min evaluation. In the normal scheme of things, evaluation cars are made available for a minimum of three days.

However, I made an exception given the Volvo XC60 T8 was an extension of the two XC60 drives I had had over a fortnight. There’s only one thing better than getting a chance to evaluate a new car, and that’s having two or three experiences in much the same model.

This evaluation focuses on the entry-level, petrol-fuelled model, which I drove after a week with a high-spec diesel, that evaluation was published in these columns in January.

The T8 experience was something different again, for it is a petrol/electric plug-in hybrid and that short drive, mostly in pure, electric-only mode, was certainly an indication of how good Volvos will be when the company focuses on hybrid and electric technology after 2019.

I’d be lying if I said I preferred the hybrid over the fossil fuel power, but it will certainly appeal to those who want to do their bit for the environment, it is a sport utility vehicle that will do all that is asked of it in the normal manner befitting that concept.

All that aside, the T8’s petrol engine, which sits beside the electric motors, is much the same as that which powers the T5. Sure, there’s a major fundamental difference, hybrid technology aside, the T8 is supercharged and turbocharged, the T5 is sans supercharger.

Nevertheless, the latter is still rated with a 187kW and 350Nm power output and it is a real gem in terms of refinement. It is hushed and smooth in its delivery, the latter is no surprise, transmission is through an eight-speed automatic and the free flowing power delivery is remarkable, drive through the gearbox is seamless.

If you also take into account the areas of where power and torque are delivered – 5500rpm and 1500-4800rpm – modern turbocharging techniques account for decisive throttle response. All of that comes without dramatic use of fuel. Volvo rate the T5 with a 7.3-litre per 100km/h (39mpg) combined cycle average. That sits well with the 8.8l/100km (32mpg) figure during my time with the evaluation car. That, along with a 6l/100km (47mpg) instantaneous figure at 100km/h.

On the subject of figures, the T5 is also quite quick. It will lunge to 100km/h from a standstill in 6.8sec and will make a highway overtake in 4.5sec to make 120km/h from 80km/h.

As part of my routine drive route I took the T5 inland to the Rakaia Gorge incline. While the base-spec doesn’t get the 21in tyres of its stablemates, I was hugely impressed
with the quiet-riding nature of the 19in
Michelin rubber on the test car. Accuracy into a corner is direct, while feedback is well supplied to the driver.

The T5 is also well balanced, even without the fabulous air suspension of the D5 and T8, the secure feeling you get through the four-wheel-drive network provides the series with an involving handling sensation.

It must be said, however, the omissions on the T5 don’t mean it is much less of a vehicle, Volvo has long had a reputation for building specification into its models and the T5 doesn’t miss out on a lot. It is still the vastly capable, safe and well-optioned SUV that sits well in the luxury/prestige part of the market at $84,900. For interest’s sake the R-Design D5 and T8 both list at $94,900.

That being the case, I’d be tempted by the base petrol-powered model, it is a stunner in terms of sophistication and it looks after those on board with much luxury and comfort. Also, as a driver, you are very much part of the vehicle such is the way it involves you as part of the driving experience.

The XC60 as a series is the quintessential SUV, but it is also a range that delivers something quite special in each individual model. Each offers the buyer a lot of vehicle for the outlay.

In terms of what was my favourite, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I preferred the diesel D5 R-Design, but that’s not taking anything away from the base model car, nor the hybrid, all are spectacular.

The XC60 as a series is so good, in fact, I find it just a little saddening that in a few short years production of those fabulous Volvo internal combustion engines won’t be quite so prolific.

Price – Volvo XC60 T5, $84,900

Dimensions – Length, 4688mm; width, 1902mm; height, 1658mm

Configuration –  Four-cylinder, four-wheel-drive, 1969cc, 187kW, 350Nm, eight-speed automatic.

Performance –
0-100km/h, 6.8sec

Fuel usage – 7.3l/100km