If all cars are destined to be electric one day, then plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are a pit stop along this journey.
Plug-in hybrids are supposed to give us the best of what an electric vehicle (EV) and an internal combustion engine have to offer.
PHEVs have larger capacity batteries and more powerful electric motors than regular hybrid cars. They can be plugged-in to recharge (hence their name) and can travel longer on electric power alone.
And since PHEVs still have internal combustion engines, refuelling them is easy. They don’t need a charging point to keep going – visit a petrol kiosk and you’re sorted.
“Eco-friendly, efficient and convenient”. These traits apply to the Volvo S60 Recharge.
But they also do not tell the whole story.
VOLVO S60 RECHARGE: SWEDE EFFICIENCY
When Volvo launched the S60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid, it highlighted the car’s combined consumption figure of 2 litres per 100km, or 50km/L.
That is an eye-opening figure. And obviously, if you only utilised the 87hp electric motor, you wouldn’t burn a drop of petrol. Zero tailpipe emissions, then.
This all sounds great – until you get behind the wheel. That’s when you realise that all this talk about efficiency and eco-friendliness is a smokescreen created to obscure the car’s true nature.
For the Volvo S60 Recharge isn’t just a sports sedan. It’s also the most powerful and quickest model in the brand’s lineup.
As long as there’s enough juice in the battery, the car runs on pure electricity by default.
Don’t assume that the electric motor’s 87hp is inadequate either. The instantaneous 240Nm it produces makes this nearly 2-tonne sedan feel perky at city speeds.
And it isn’t long before you’re itching for more. Use the jewel-like roller on the centre console to select Power mode (one of the five available) and car displays its hairier character. This Volvo will not only surprise hot hatch drivers, but owners of conventional sporty saloons, too.
When Power mode is activated, the turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder engine immediately fires up, bringing 315hp and 400Nm to bear. Together with the electric motor, both systems deliver a combined 402hp and 640Nm.
Zero to 100km/h flashes by in 4.4 seconds, or 0.9 of a second quicker than the S60 T5, which can hardly be described as slow. On an unrestricted stretch of road, the Volvo S60 Recharge will top out at 250km/h.
It is hard, nay, impossible to resist exploiting this power. You’ll take every opportunity to launch the car from red lights and overtake meandering traffic.
The only thing that can calm you down, really, is the thought of your licence getting revoked and the hefty fine that goes along with it. That, and tight corners.
SWEEPS, NOT BENDS
For all its power, the Volvo S60 Recharge isn’t what you’d call a “corner-carver.” But it is not because it lacks grip. On the contrary, the S60 Recharge has plenty of it, thanks to its Electric All-Wheel-Drive (eAWD), which ensures optimal traction in various conditions.
It prefers long and wide sweepers to ever-tightening bends. And even if you can force it to do so, it doesn’t enjoy sudden directional changes.
Chalk that up to its 1989kg kerb weight, which is 252kg heftier than the S60 T5. After all, there’s a price to pay for having an additional electric drivetrain.
Thankfully, with so much instant torque, inertia isn’t a problem. But given the car’s rapid acceleration, I wanted beefier brakes to shed the speed equally rapidly.
The Volvo S60 Recharge’s ride quality is on the firm side, but still relatively good. What I had an issue with was a perceived lack of sound insulation.
I’m not sure if Volvo wanted the car to sound “sporty”, but the buzzing and “rortiness” from the petrol motor was more intrusive than expected. The fact that Volvo’s 4-cylinder engines do not sound nice doesn’t help.
However, all these bugbears pale in comparison to the fact that unless you are disciplined and consistent, the Volvo S60 Recharge is not going to be efficient.
Over four days of mostly exuberant driving, I averaged 9.1km per litre (11 litres/100km), not even a fifth of what the S60 Recharge is capable of.
I did a lot better in Pure (electric) mode, clocking 35km when the battery was full.
Volvo claims a pure electric range of between 20km and 40km, so this is impressive. However, achieving this requires access to a charging point to constantly keep the battery fully charged.
TEMPTING – AND NOT IN AN ECO-FRIENDLY WAY
Performance and efficiency aside, the Volvo S60 Recharge also has a long list of convincing safety features. But is this mix of abilities enough to sway buyers?
If you are considering the S60 Recharge, ensure that your driving style is disciplined, conservative and efficient. Now, carefully ponder whether you can resist the temptation of all that power under your right foot.
After all, the Volvo S60 Recharge is an imposter. It’s a rapid, high-performance saloon masquerading as a friend to the environment.
So, beware. Or be taken in by this sweet, Swede lie.
Volvo S60 Recharge T8 2.0 (A)
ENGINE 1969cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged and supercharged, hybrid
MAX POWER 315hp at 5700rpm
MAX TORQUE 400Nm at 2200-5400rpm
ELECTRIC MOTOR POWER 87hp at 7000rpm
ELECTRIC MOTOR TORQUE 240Nm at 3000rpm
TOTAL SYSTEM POWER 402hp
TOTAL SYSTEM TORQUE 640Nm
POWER TO WEIGHT 202.1hp per tonne
GEARBOX 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100KM/H 4.4 seconds
TOP SPEED 250km/h
CONSUMPTION 50km/L (combined)
PRICE INCL. COE $262,000 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
AGENT Wearnes Automotive