Piers Ward06 September 2011

Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid driven

TG tests Volvo's first ever diesel-electric hybrid drivetrain. Impressive figures, but is it any good?

There aren't many car makers in the world aiming for lots of zeroes, but Volvo is. It wants no one injured or killed in a Volvo by 2020, and it's also aiming for zero emissions from its cars.

The former might well be possible, barring any idiots parking in rivers, but the latter could prove more tricky. Still, the Swedes are having a go, with the launch next year of their first plug-in hybrid in the V60.

The bare figures are impressive, if not quite full of noughts. Emissions drop to 49g/km, and the average fuel economy is a whopping 150mpg. In a car the size of the V60 estate, that is some going. Especially when you consider it's got a D5 diesel engine under the bonnet, so the combined power figure from the diesel and electric power plants is 272bhp and 472lb ft. As such, the V60 is good for 0-62mph in 6.9 seconds.

Because it's a plug in hybrid, you haven't got any range anxiety. There's a normal diesel engine up front, then an electric motor and battery mounted under the boot floor. Welcome, then, to a four-wheel drive Volvo. Or rear-wheel drive when it's running on electric only.

This electric only aspect of it is the most impressive. It can do up to 60mph running on just the battery, and that will last for 30 miles. In other words, beyond most people's daily commutes. And when you drive it, you're never left wanting more power. The electric motor has got plenty of juice, and the diesel won't kick in unless you really thrash it.

There's also a hybrid setting, which is when both the diesel and the electric run in an Eco setting, and there's also a power mode, which is when you've got full access to all that 272bhp from both powerplants. It's bloody quick.

It's not perfect though. For starters, the D5 diesel engine is too rough. In a normal Volvo it sounds crude, but when you've been running on electric only and the D5 suddenly kicks in, the contrast couldn't be greater. Volvo's new four cylinder engines, not due until 2013, can't come soon enough.

And there's also the small matter of price. Volvo won't give any clue as to how much it might cost when it goes on sale in November 2012, but educated guesses are putting it around £40,000. In other words, around 45,000 miles worth of fuel over a normal D5. At least we've discovered where all those zeroes Volvo is aiming for are coming from.

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