Sunday, 8 June 2014

REVIEW - Volvo V60 D6 AWD Hybrid

Ever since the government started assessing road tax on CO2 emissions, there has been a frantic battle to reduce this to avoid paying over the odds to run a car. And one of the best advances in this emission reduction is the development of hybrid technology. The technology is still a bit pricey, but it’s extremely impressive nonetheless. Volvo has put this technology into the V60 to create a large car with a small carbon footprint. And seeing as though I’m a big fan of the Swedish marque, I was keen to see what all the fuss is about. Is the technology worth the money, or is it just a political statement? I aim to find out…

Looks – 8/10

For such a sizeable vehicle the shape of the V60 is rather sleek. The lines are well proportioned and far removed from everyone’s preconception of what a Volvo should look like. There are a few noticeable differences on the hybrid model, from the extra fuel cap where it plugs in, to the strange-looking wheels. That’s because they capture heat from the brakes and put this back into the battery. That’s Formula 1 technology in a Volvo. Take that, haters. There are two large exhausts at the back, some rather smart daytime running lights at the front, a shark-fin aerial and a rather long, sleek bonnet that helps give the front end a rather imposing look. I must admit though, I’m a big fan of the R-Design styling when it comes to Volvos, and without that the styling always leaves me wanting a bit more. Personal taste- I know- but it appears I wouldn’t be alone there; Volvo has just announced an R-Design trim for next year.

On the inside there is only the slightest hint at the technology that lies underneath. This comes in the form of drive mode buttons- Pure, Hybrid and Power. And other than that it’s just an ordinary Volvo. Not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, because everything feels luxurious, and looks good. From the soft leather, to the plush steering wheel, everything looks like it came out of the very top drawer. In particular I like the digital dials, which can be changed to suit your mood; from Eco to Power. The media screen sits nicely positioned in the centre of the dash, and set back to help prevent the sun getting to it. The controls are very logically laid out, and I’ve always liked the heater controls in a Volvo. A little touch it may be, but it’s logical and every button does what you expect.

Handling/Performance – 9/10

The V60 D6 is a ‘proper’ hybrid. By that I mean it has a full-electric mode- that lasts longer than 30 yards. And that counts for a lot. The electric motor produces 70PS and 200Nm with a range of up to 31 miles. That comes from a 4-hour charge which isn’t bad at all, and I found this really useful for popping down to the shops and back. Then under the bonnet there’s Volvo’s peach of an engine; the 2.4-litre 5-cylinder D5 diesel. The power offered from this is 215PS and 400Nm, and that would be plenty on its own. So to drive, you have three modes. Pure is fully electric, and useful for a short journey. Hybrid mode utilises a mixture of battery and diesel, and adapts to give the best economy possible given the driving conditions. This is the mode to use most often, as it’s what the D6 was designed for. But then we come to the best of the lot; Power mode. This gives you all 285PS and 440Nm on tap, and that’s a lot. In fact, it’s enough to haul the 2-tonne Swede from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds, and on to a top speed of 143mph. And because the electric motor offers all of its torque, all of the time, the delivery of the power really is relentless. Who would have thought this is the way to save the planet.

During general driving the V60 is very comfortable indeed. I still maintain that for a long motorway drive nothing beats a big Volvo, and the V60 is no exception. The steering is nicely weighted, and the car more agile than you’d expect for a 2-tonne estate car. That being said, I could tell the extra weight of the electric motor was there; the car isn’t as balanced once you start on bumpier, twistier roads. It’s a rather strange sensation actually, but then again that’s not what this car is about at all. If I owned one of these I wouldn’t so much be throwing it around a country lane, but wafting silently through towns and villages using absolutely no fuel at all. So for that you couldn’t ask for more than what the V60 Hybrid offers you.

Economy – 10/10

Now this is probably the main reason you’d buy a hybrid, so it’s no surprise that the V60 gets a perfect score here. The figures themselves tell a story here; 48g/km CO2 emissions and on a combined cycle (i.e. hybrid mode) 155.2mpg. Now that puts the V60 Hybrid in VED band A; the best one to be in. Road tax is free in both first and subsequent years. The CO2 figure is also great news for company car drivers as it helps to keep the amount of money they hand over to the Revenue down. And I do believe that this mpg is achievable. My local shops are a mile away. Which means I could happily run to and from them in pure mode. And given that a four hour charge gets you 30 miles, it’s definitely cheaper than filling up with diesel. So that’s real-world economy then; you can’t argue with that.

Practicality – 10/10

There are many ways in which the V60 is a practical car. The spacious boot, generous cabin, electronic systems that make driving easier. Add the hybrid technology on to that and you end up with a very well-rounded package indeed. In the hybrid you do lose a bit of boot space- the floor is higher to accommodate the batteries and electric motor- but it’s still plenty big enough. I like the standard load cover to hide your shopping, and even better is the built-in dog guard on the back of the seats which is effortless to use. Options include the driver support pack, which includes blind spot monitoring, lane keeping assist and all the radar goodies. It’s expensive at £1,900 but really does make life easier on the road.

Fun – 7/10

There are many things I like about this car. The whole novelty of plugging the car in and then whizzing around using absolutely no fuel was fantastic. It didn’t wear off at all over my week with the car, and it was fun to see the confused looks of passers-by as I silently crept through the village. I enjoyed the brilliant sound system that comes in a Volvo, and how easy it is to hook up your iPod and have your favourite songs blaring out in no time. Where I felt room for improvement was the image. It’s all well and good being economical and saving the world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t look good doing it. I mentioned earlier that the R-Design pack was missed with the looks, well it also took away a bit of the fun. Being able to look at a fantastic car- that then did all of what the hybrid does- would never cease to put a smile on my face.

Concluding Remarks

So I have to admit the technology of the V60 Hybrid won me over. I enjoyed pure mode the most, because this encapsulates exactly what this car is capable of. Power mode was impressive, but k
ind of defeats the object of the car. I think the biggest surprise comes with the price. Because it isn’t cheap. For the standard car you’re talking £48,775. This reduced by £5,000 for the government’s contribution to you saving the world. Now I think that’s still a lot of money. And if you get giddy with the options list you could soon be looking at a starting price before government incentive of £54,375. Yikes! I do like it but there’s definitely better ways to spend that kind of money. The V60 Hybrid then; technology you wouldn’t believe… and a price tag to match.

Total Score - 44/50

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