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Long-term tests

Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine: long-term test review

Second report: miles under the belt give a better picture of our plug-in hybrid Volvo S60 T8’s economy

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

Even with its high asking price, the Volvo S60 T8 could prove to be a very cost-effective choice for some drivers. They’ll be getting an impressively handsome, comfortable and fast car for their money.

  • Mileage: 3,527
  • Economy: 45.2mpg

Our Bursting Blue Volvo S60 is now well bedded-in to life as an Auto Express fleet car, and a clearer picture has emerged around the crucial question of how much this plug-in hybrid actually costs to run.

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As you’ll no doubt be aware, the thorny issue of plug-in hybrid fuel economy hinges to a huge extent on the balance between petrol and electric running that your personal commitment to charging and type of driving allow you to achieve.

The car has an official electric range of 36 miles and we’re finding that you can get into the high twenties consistently before a full battery charge has elapsed. The way Volvo’s T8 plug-in hybrid system works, however, sees the petrol engine spring to life if you show anything approaching exuberance with the throttle pedal, even in the most electric-biased ‘Pure’ driving mode.

That means, although it can complete 36 miles of the official WLTP tests in pure EV mode, achieving genuine electric-only driving in the real world requires the patience of a saint and the right leg of an elderly mouse. Adopting this ultra-gentle approach could see owners who only ever do 25-mile round trips get close to the car’s official 122mpg combined cycle economy. In practice, we’ve been getting around 70mpg while the battery has life left in it, but around 25-30mpg when it runs out.

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This isn’t bad for a near-400bhp compact executive saloon and over our time with the S60 we’ve consistently averaged economy in the mid-forties, doing lots of short journeys with at least one trip of more than 60 miles every week and frequent home charging. A typical recent effort saw 316 miles between fills, covered at 47mpg, with 79.5kWh added to the battery in several top-ups.

Of course, 47mpg is nothing to write home about. You could reasonably expect to better it in one of the S60’s diesel rivals, but it’s possible for executives on a company car plan to access savings that look far less compact. Under the new company car tax regime that comes into force from 6 April, an S60 T8 Polestar Engineered in the same spec as ours will cost a 20 per cent taxpayer just over £1,500 a year in Benefit-In-Kind contributions (or £3,000 for a 40 per cent taxpayer). An equivalent S60 T5 petrol model costs more than £2,533 if you pay 20 per cent tax, and £5,200 for higher-rate earners. You can drive into the London Congestion charge zone for free, too.

Despite the £56,000 asking price, the costs associated with running an S60 T8 can stack up nicely for company car users doing lots of short trips with charging opportunities at either end. And when you put the financial aspect to one side, you’re left with a very rewarding car to get around in.

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Ironically, this flagship version of the S60 is probably at its best on the long cruises that deliver the worst efficiency. The ride stays unruffled and noise levels in the cabin keep me and my family feeling that way, too. From the wide, supportive seats with their wide range of adjustment, comfort is my favourite thing about the Volvo.

What you don’t get from this car is a driving experience that can match the expectations stirred up by the near-400bhp total power output and the 4.2-second 0-60mph time. The sluggish response to throttle inputs, while the electronics governing the motors and gearbox shunt drive around, takes the edge off things, as do the less-than-direct steering and the general sense of all that weight moving around under you. The T8 model is particularly heavy, so I don’t find it much fun.

Performance is exhilarating in the Polestar Engineered version once the 314bhp petrol engine and 87bhp electric motors are up and running, but it’s not available as promptly as you’d want in a truly sporty saloon.

Volvo S60 T8: first report

Will our new plug-in hybrid Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine junior exec make an electrifying start? 

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  • Mileage: 1,526
  • Economy: 53.0mpg

On the face of it, the plug-in hybrid car is an attractive compromise between the practicality and familiarity of internal combustion and the low costs and emissions of pure-electric power. However, there’s been a fair bit of controversy swirling around them, and that’s partly why we’ve made room on our fleet for Volvo’s handsome S60 T8. 

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This is a plug-in hybrid compact executive saloon, and this part of the market is where the tax advantages of a plug-in model make cars like the S60 T8 particularly compelling to business users. The controversy centres around the fact that the impressive official economy and emissions figures (they’re 122.8mpg and 42g/km for this car) hinge to a great extent on the way they are used. 

Some initial tests on our Volvo suggest that S60 T8 owners who rarely plug their cars in could be seeing less than 35mpg in the real world – about what you’d expect from a saloon car like this with a 314bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine and a 1,960kg kerbweight. And yet the car slots into the lowest Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company car tax band and is exempt from the London Congestion Charge. Of course, if it’s fully charged every morning and you drive 20 to 30 miles to work on electric power, then top up the batteries for the journey home, you could be running a car with zero exhaust emissions.

We fully intend to get to the bottom of the S60 T8’s merits and pitfalls as a plug-in hybrid over the course of our test. But we’ll also analyse its credentials as a challenger to the Germanic triumvirate of the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes C-Class and Audi A4. 

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We headed to the Scandinavian chic showroom of Volvo Cars West London in Chiswick, where sales executive Aaron Whelan-Robinson gave us the full handover for our R-Design Plus model in Bursting Blue paint with a Slate Grey leather interior. 

Our S60 comes with the Xenium Pack (panoramic sunroof, 360-degree surround-view parking camera and Park Assist Pilot automatic parking), the Intellisafe Pro Pack (auto dimming mirrors, adaptive cruise control and Intellisafe Surround safety aids) and the Convenience Pack (power folding rear seat backs and luggage hooks in the boot), which adds £3,700 to the car’s £49,805 list price.

Our S60 also features the dealer-fitted Polestar Performance Software Upgrade, which adds 15bhp in an extra sport-focused driving mode on the car’s menu, and the Smartphone Integration kit that brings Android Auto and Apple CarPlay online. Together with the metallic paint, these add a further £2,000, taking the total list price for our car over the £55,000 mark.

That’s a sizable sum, even for an all-wheel drive plug-in hybrid with 314bhp plus 86bhp of electrical assistance that can do 0-60mph in 4.4 seconds and (on the WLTP combined cycle) between 123mpg and 176mpg. 

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You can get a BMW 330e plug-in hybrid for nearly £10,000 less, which looks to be a big fly in the S60’s ointment – in fact, the BMW won a recent twin test against an S60 T8 – but our experience of the Volvo so far suggests it’ll have a very good go at justifying that premium. For a start, the shape is relentlessly stylish, with R-Design Plus trim adding a sensible level of sportiness and 18-inch double-spoke wheels that we already know serve up a silkier ride than the 19 or 20-inch options. The seats are wide and relaxing in the best Volvo tradition, while the general build quality inside seems strong on first impression. 

The S60 is highly convincing as a premium saloon car, and we’re looking forward to seeing if Volvo’s plug-in hybrid powertrain has the talent to back-up those sparkling numbers it posts on the spec sheet.

Model:Volvo S60 T8 Twin Engine AWD Polestar Engineered
On fleet since:November 2019
Price new:£56,105
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl petrol & e-motor, 399bhp
CO2/tax:42g/km/£455
Options:Metallic paint (£975), Xenium pack (£1,800), Intellisafe Pro (£1,625), Convenience pack (£300), Polestar Performance Software Optimisation (£745)
Insurance*:Group: 42 Quote: £377
Mileage/mpg:3,527/45.2mpg
Any problems?None so far

* Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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