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Swede dreams are made of this — the Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge

Swede dreams are made of this — the Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge
The XC60 Recharge T8 (Silver Dawn) is leather-free, with wool blend upholstery, patterned genuine wood decor inlay, a handcrafted crystal gearshift made exclusively for Volvo by Scandinavian premium manufacturer Orrefors, and a 2-inch driver display. (Photo: Supplied)

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles bridge the gap between a regular hybrid and an electric vehicle. They distribute energy more efficiently, making them more powerful and economical to run than a mild hybrid or internal combustion engine vehicle, but they cost more. Quite a bit more.

If you haven’t driven a hybrid car before, you might think (as I did) that it’s the best of both worlds. A marriage of convenience and practicality, part-petrol and part-electric; fuel-efficient and better for the environment and your health, but as powerful as internal combustion engine (ICE) equivalents.

The extent to which they use electricity (and how much fuel they require) depends on the type of hybrid, which is why the new generation of plug-in hybrids are designed for longer distances without the stresses of range anxiety that accompany drivers of purely electric vehicles (EVs).

The T8 twin motor combines the power of a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 107kW electric motor and an 18.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack, delivering power outputs of 340kW and 709Nm of torque. (Photo: Supplied)

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) have a bigger battery that can power the vehicle exclusively for a short distance before it becomes entirely dependent on fuel. They can be charged by an external power supply, operate in “EV-only” mode, and if fully charged, switch automatically to ICE power if more torque or range are needed.

Volvo XC60 T8 Rechargd

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have a bigger battery that can power the vehicle exclusively for a short distance before it becomes entirely dependent on fuel. (Photo:Volvo)

Then there are the mild hybrids: the “least electrified” of the hybrids, which cannot be charged by an external charger. They’re essentially an ICE vehicle, with a small battery to help during acceleration and to harness energy from deceleration and braking. 

PHEVs bridge the gap between a regular hybrid and an EV, which in the South African context — where fast-charging stations are still rare, especially along major routes — makes sense. They distribute energy more efficiently, making them more powerful and economical to run than a mild hybrid or ICE vehicle, but they cost more. Quite a bit more.

Is it worth paying about R300,000 more for the PHEV version of a car when the mild hybrid has comparable features? I wondered after driving Volvo’s new XC60 T8 Recharge — the latest derivative of the Swedish brand’s top-selling XC60.

The Plus model of the XC60 T8 Recharge costs R1,314,000; the Ultimate, which I drove, cost R1,388,000.

Contrast that with the mild hybrid XC60, which starts at R987,000 for the Essential model and climbs to R1,121,00.

Though the pricing is not comparable, ICE vehicles are falling out of fashion. In January this year, 60% of Europe’s premium midsize SUV sales were EVs and PHEVs. The same month, Volvo’s XC60 PHEV sold 45% more than competitor models, making it Europe’s top-selling PHEV

Volvo is also leading the market in SA’s NEV space: last year, the XC60 Recharge plug-in hybrid was the country’s most popular PHEV, followed closely by the XC90 Recharge plug-in hybrid.

In the EV segment, the XC40 Recharge was last year’s best-seller. It was also named the best New Energy Vehicle at the 2023 Old Mutual Insure South African Car of the Year competition.

The appeal is understandable: it’s a great car, seriously spacious, almost as quiet as an EV, less “gassy” and quite economical to run (for an SUV).

In and out

Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge

Google Maps is integrated in the XC60 Recharge, providing real-time traffic info and automatic rerouting. (Photo:Volvo)

The 2024 XC60 T8 Recharge is leather-free, with wool blend upholstery, patterned genuine wood decor inlay, a handcrafted crystal gearshift made exclusively for Volvo by Scandinavian premium manufacturer Orrefors,  2-inch driver display and a panoramic sunroof. There’s a 360° parking view, provided by four cameras and flank sensors so you have a clear view of objects and people around the car.

Google Maps is integrated in the XC60 Recharge, providing real-time traffic info and automatic rerouting, but I would prefer Waze any day. It’s a far superior navigation app.

Depending on the model, there’s a Harman Kardon sound system with 14 speakers, 12 channels and 600W output, or the luxe Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which allows you to “choose a room” between Studio, Individual Stage, Concert Hall and Jazz Club, has 15 speakers and a fresh-air subwoofer tailored to your Volvo’s cabin architecture, so you’ll experience surround-sound no matter where you are sitting.

It comes standard with a Google Infotainment System (helpful for finding fuel stations, selecting music, determining how much range you have, or even turning on the air-con), Intellisafe Assist (which includes City Safety with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection, as well as front and rear collision warning with full automatic brake), an Intelligent Driver Information System, Lane Keeping Aid (which alerts you to veering out of your lane), keyless entry and park assistance.

Volvo on Call is another standard feature, which gives you instant access to emergency and concierge services at the push of a button.

Then there’s the boot: so spacious you could send kids and pets to the naughty comfy corner in the back without falling foul of the authorities. 

The back seat folds individually into the load area floor so you can transport passengers and/or cargo without compromising either comfort or safety. That’ll add about 1,395l of load compartment space.

You can open the boot from the outside using the remote control or with buttons on the tailgate or the dashboard. The boot’s sensors are a great safety feature and can be programmed to open to a lower height, which is handy if you park in a garage with a low roof height. 

Another nifty feature is hands-free boot opening and closing, which is activated by waving your foot.

Ever had a massage while driving? The T8 Recharge does not only heat and ventilate your seat, but also offers four massage settings. It’s not quite the Swedish massage I might have hoped for, but it’s the next best thing to one, especially if you’ve been on the road for a while.

The T8 twin motor combines the power of a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 107kW electric motor and an 18.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack, delivering power outputs of 340kW and 709Nm of torque.

It’s also zippy, accelerating from zero to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, but it does need time to charge: five hours at least and you cannot charge it on a fast-charger. I gave that a skip, although customers are provided charging cables for a domestic power outlet and a home charging station.

It has a 71-litre fuel tank and a claimed 81km pure electric range, depending on your drive style and road conditions; I managed just 60 — (even though I’ve long shed my Joburg-driver ways), which is not very far before the engine switches over to petrol.

And it’s reasonably economical to run for an SUV, averaging fuel consumption of 7.6l/km on the open road.

The Recharge comes in Bright (featuring chrome detailing) and Dark (with gloss-black detailing) exterior design themes.

Is it worth it, judging by cost and the limited electric range? Only if it’s primarily used for city driving. 

Internationally, demand for EVs is reportedly starting to cool, with year-on-year sales falling short of the industry’s schedule for transitioning towards ICE. 

Europe and the UK have already committed to phasing out ICE sales by 2035, but brands like Volvo have taken the lead by committing to become a fully electric car company by 2030. By then, Volvo intends to sell only fully electric cars and phase out any car in its global portfolio with an ICE, including hybrids.

It’s not as if the public aren’t buying new electric vehicles, because the market is growing, fast: Naamsa figures show that last year, 7,693 new electric vehicles were sold in SA — up from 4,674 units in 2022. 

Still, while NEV sales comprise just 1.45% of the new vehicle market, there’s plenty of room for growth. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    I’m about 100,000km into EV and imho unless the vehicle is a family’s only vehicle : don’t waste time with hybrid. Go full EV.

  • John Patson says:

    Lots of company car fleets in France switched to plug in hybrids as there were tax advantages.
    Fuel consumption went up, not down, because the users of company cars could not be bothered to plug in and recharge, and on petrol only the fuel consumption is that of 20 years ago.
    Never under-estimate how lazy people are.

  • N B says:

    I’m sure the car in the picture is not the new T8? it seems like a older model Volvo?

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