By Cars.com EditorsAugust 18, 2021
About the video
The 2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge is Volvo's plug-in hybrid version of the XC60. Does it hold up as a PHEV? Let’s run through the various categories and see where the XC60 Recharge passes and fails.
(upbeat music) Volvo has been in the news a lot lately for announcing that by the year 2030, it would be a fully electric brand.
And that is a pretty bold claim for a company that by my count has exactly one fully electric model and that's just hitting the market now. Traditionally, the plug-in vehicles that they have sold have been plug-in hybrids, like the Recharge version of the 2021, XC60 crossover behind me, designated by the T8 powertrain. Now, typically when we do review videos, we cover all sorts of things. This time around, I figured I would take you through the little pass, fail tests I give everything in my mind when I'm working on these things, to determine if a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid can do the job. Because traditionally, when a vehicle has been hybridized, they've had to force an electric motor and a battery pack in where it didn't originally belong. And this can take space out of the cabin or out of the cargo area and all that stuff. So let's run through the various categories and see where the XC60 Recharge passes and fails. The cabin test pass, fail? Why a cabin test? Well, historically when vehicles have been hybridized or plug-in hybridized the high voltage battery pack, would rob some space or could rob space from the backseat passengers, either moving the seat or taking some leg room or something like that. But here in the Recharge, the seating dimensions are exactly the same as in the gas only version of the XC60. It's just as comfortable and luxurious, we are big fans of the XC60, I'm not gonna go into great detail about that. That's not what this is about, this is about pass, fail for cabin. And in this case, it passes. The cargo test is an important one because hybrids and plug-in hybrids have to put their battery pack somewhere, and this is a prime place for it. Now there's something a little bit weird going on here, this floor doesn't sit quite right. And I don't really remember that from the non-hybrid version, but the specs say that the cargo volume is practically the same between this and the non plug-in version, just a half cubic foot less. So that's excellent. Now under the floor, it's slightly different because you do have the charging apparatus, the 120 volt version. And instead of a spare tire, you have the little compressor and the tire goo. So it's not great to not have a spare tire, but I'm actually gonna give Volvo a pass here because there are a lot of vehicles out there that are not plug-in hybrids that don't have the spare tire, and they have much less of an excuse than this one does. So pass, fail for cargo? The XC60 Recharge passes. Driving definitely matters and there are several tests in that realm as well. Electric acceleration is one of them. You want to have enough power to drive an electric only mode without triggering the gas engine, at least under normal conditions. Mainly this is a psychological thing because it doesn't really hurt if the engine runs for a minute or two, but it's the principle of it you know. In the XC60 Recharge, you activate electric driving by selecting the pure driving mode. Then you can accelerate as hard as you want, so as long as you don't click the switch at the bottom of the accelerator pedal travel, what used to be called the kick down switch. The power is modest because the goal with a plug-in hybrid isn't have a super powerful electric motor and a powerful gas engine. It's for the two to work together, to be powerful. If you're in a bind and you floor it and click that switch, the gas engine comes to life and you get full acceleration. But in normal driving, I found the electric mode adequate 95% of the time, but it bears noting parts.com is headquartered in the Flatlands. I was able to achieve highway speeds in the seventies, but if I had to pass, I definitely need the gas engine. If you have hills, I suspect you'd be relying on the gas engine more often. Electric acceleration test, it's borderline, but because of works where we tested and it's well executed, I'll say pass. Hybrid acceleration is also important and it has different aspects. First, you don't want sacrifices, and Volvo seems to know that. I could cite the system power versus the non-hybrid engine, but that doesn't really account for weight differences with a battery pack. What you really need to know is zero to 60 times. And according to Volvo, the T8 here is the quickest at five seconds to 60 miles per hour, over the T6 at 5.6 seconds and the all wheel drive T5 at 6.4 seconds. Then there's how the acceleration feels because hybrid powertrains traditionally have felt kind of herky jerky. And that's definitely a sacrifice in a luxury model, but Volvo has done a nice job with this one. It doesn't feel 100% conventional, but it uses the same transmission as the non-hybrid one, and it's pretty close. So hybrid acceleration test, pass. (upbeat music) That brings us to breaking, talk about herky jerky. Hybrid braking is often nonlinear and mushy feeling, and generally not what you want. Yet, we've put up with it for better mileage. Fortunately, the braking action in hybrids has been improving and it's actually been getting worse than non-hybrid, but don't get me started on that. Anyway, again, Volvo has done a nice job here. I didn't mistake the pedal for a conventional braking system, but some people might. Breaking tests pass, fail? It passes. How about the towing test? You know, some hybrid powertrains are just not rated to tow at all, but because the Recharge T8 powertrain uses a regular transmission and is rated to tow. This one can, now I know there's no hitch receiver here, but you know, sometimes you see local reporters out in front of a hospital because someone inside the hospital was in the news. And it's ridiculous. So maybe I'm being a little ridiculous too, but work with me. Truth be told, there are our SUV's out there that can tow more than the entire XC60 line can, but that's out of scope. For this particular test, the Recharge can tow 3,500 pounds, which is the same as the non recharge for the regular gas only versions, 3,500 pounds. So for this test pass fail for towing, the Recharge passes. Electric range is a test that doesn't really require real world testing because the EPA rates plug-in hybrids for how far they can go on electric power before the gas engine has to turn on and the recharge is rated 18 miles. In practice, 18 miles is pretty good. And if you drive 20 miles, that's still only two miles on gas, but I know shoppers and shoppers act on feelings more than logic and 18 miles doesn't feel like enough. I'm not sure 21 does either, which is what I achieved in real world testing, thanks in part to ideal weather. In winter, a cold battery and electric cabin heat mean that range is going to be shorter. Bearing in mind that all tests roll up into a final verdict, I'm gonna give the electric range test, a fail. Gas mileage is a crucial consideration, even if the vehicle has a long electric range and especially if it doesn't, and there's good news here. Once the electric charge is depleted the XC60 Recharge is rated 26 miles per gallon city, 28 highway and 27 combined. The XC60 T6 which is closest to the Recharger's performance is rated 23 miles per gallon combined. Even the most efficient T5 with front wheel drive is rated 25 miles per gallon combined. That's two miles per gallon lower, this means you could buy one of these Recharge T8 versions never plug it in, it's still get better mileage though that would be pointless and a waste. So gas mileage test, pass. The price test takes into account everything else. And honestly it influenced some of my thinking in my other grading. And I recommend you think the same way if you're shopping as well. Because there's a federal tax credit of over $5,400 for the Recharge, the price ends up being roughly $500 more than a comparable trim level of the T6 powertrain. That's the most powerful non hybrid again. You can still pay several thousand dollars less for a T5, but as we've covered, it will be less powerful and still less efficient than the T8. So, in the pricing test, $500 seems a small price to pay for everything this plug-in hybrid gives you so long as the tax credit remains available, so, it passes. Well, you probably won't be surprised after the results of all these smaller pass, fail tests. To hear that I believe the final verdict on the 2021 Volvo XC60 Recharge is, a pass. That it is a very good well-rounded plug-in hybrid. Overall, you have to think about what matters the most to you, when you make decisions on stuff like this. You might want more range maybe in exchange for some of that really brisk acceleration. I know I would, and pricing certainly comes into play. Overall, about five years of experience making plug-in hybrid SUV's seems to have paid off for Volvo in this vehicle. (upbeat music)
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