Volvo V60

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Volvo V60

Road Test

Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid driven

Driven November 2011

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No matter what the eco-ists say, there are cars out there like this Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid which mean we'll still be driving ‘normal' vehicles for plenty of years to come. Here is a proper family estate that's capable of 0-62mph in 6.9secs, yet emits only 49g/km of CO2 and achieves roughly 150mpg.

And forget all your worries about electric cars and their range. A brief lesson is in order. The V60 has two motors: a normal D5 2.4-litre diesel up front, plus a 69bhp electric motor mounted on the rear axle. Much like a normal hybrid. But you can also plug the V60's beefy battery pack into the mains, and, when fully charged, drive it solely on electric at up to 60mph for 30 miles.

This is where it's most impressive. Not only is it totally silent, but you can accelerate reasonably hard in electric mode without the diesel motor kicking in. There's a neat graph to the right of the dials, and provided you stay in the blue eco zone, you'll be able to run on electric only.

Of course, as your journey progresses and battery power wanes, the blue zone gets steadily smaller, and eventually disappears totally, forcing the diesel to kick in. It'll do so earlier if you've forced the auto gearbox to kick-down and made full use of the combined 272bhp and 472lb ft of torque, but the message here is that unlike most hybrids you can drive this V60 in your normal driving style without burning any hydrocarbons.

It's what happens when the diesel does wake up that's less impressive, because the D5 is simply not refined enough. It's never been the smoothest unit around, but here the contrast is magnified as silent electric gives way to rumbly diesel.

There are no visual clues that you're driving anything different apart from an extra fuel cap where you slot the mains charger (a full charge takes 4.5 hours on a standard UK plug), and inside there are three extra buttons on the dash to select which mode you want the car to be in - Pure, Hybrid or Power.

All of which leaves the not-so-tiny problem of the price. Volvo is reluctant to release a cost, which is sort of fair enough, given that the hybrid V60 doesn't go on sale until November 2012. The Swedes probably want to keep a close eye on how the Peugeot and Citroen hybrid diesels get on before committing themselves. Educated guesses are putting the figure at around £40,000, which is expensive, but then so are other eco cars. The Nissan Leaf is £30,990, and with a Leaf in the family you'll require a normal second car. The V60 is, at least, the only car you'll need.

Piers Ward

We like: Impressive power, amazing economy
We don't like: Rough diesel, smallish boot
The verdict: A very convincing eco car... so long as they price it right.
Performance: 0-62mph in 6.9secs, max 143mph, 150mpg
Tech: 2400cc, 4cyl, 4WD, 272bhp, 472lb ft, 1975kg, 49g/km CO2
Tick this on the options list: Portable satnav, £525
And avoid this: In-built satnav, £1,025

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