December 14, 2011

Preview: Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

CelloMom can forget about a test drive in this one: There are just a handful of them for sale in 2012. Volvo plans to make 1000 of them for 2013, and 5000 in 2014 (!) of which 30% will remain in Sweden, and the rest doled out to other European countries. But the specs on this baby are enough to make you want to buy a ticket to Stockholm. Certainly enough to make your green-leaning heart beat wildly with desire.

Developed by Volvo and the Swedish energy provider Vattenfal, this is a hybrid with a twist: The five-cylinder 2.4L turbodiesel engine drives the front wheels at 215HP. The 70HP electric engine lives in the back: to be precise, between the rear wheels which it drives. Logical, no? The drawback is that the battery takes up the space where formerly the spare tire used to live. Check out the autoblog.nl gallery for nice cut-out images of the engine placement, as well as other photos, e.g. for the truly distracted among us, the dashboard backlight goes from blue to green to red as your fuel is depleted (no knowledge of Dutch required: these are pictures).

There are three buttons on the dashboard for choosing your driving mode: In the "Power" mode the turbodiesel engine gives that kick (from 0-100kph in 6.9 seconds, if you're into that kind of thing). One would have to be careful when carrying the cello, or eggs. In the "Pure" mode the electric engine does all the work (all 70HP of it); its range is up to 50km (30miles); charging it on a 230V outlet takes 7.5 hours at 6 Amps, or 3 hours at 16 Amps.

The "Hybrid" mode is the intermediate mode that gives the high fuel efficiency. CelloMom hopes you will not be taken in by the 124mpg number, since European fuel efficiency tests are wildly optimistic especially for the most frugal cars. For instance (see table below), the most frugal non-hybrid version of the V60 (which is also unavailable in the US) is the DRIVe with its 1.6L turbodiesel engine and a fuel economy quoted as 52mpg. In real life, as reported by real drivers, this model gets 39mpg, really not bad for a car of this size and weight.

Remembering that official European fuel economy numbers can be off by up to 40%, CelloMom's guess for the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid is that its real fuel use will be in the 65-80mpg range.

Is 80mpg for the hybrid versus 39mpg for the turbodiesel enough to justify the price difference? Well- no. At European gas price levels, which have been around $10/gal (give or take a few bucks) you would be saving about $18,000 if your drive the car for 150,000 miles. That only accounts for half the price difference. At least another €4,000 (US$ 5,200) is because the "Kinetic" trim quoted in the table is the least expensive option, whereas the "Pure Limited" trim is bound to have all the bells and whistles, and then some. After all, this is a "Limited" edition, aimed at business use. The rest of the price difference can probably be chalked up to the novelty coefficient.

CelloMom, who is not an early adapter, prefers to wait until the kinks have been ironed out, and the price has come down once the widget has been made available to the masses. You can passively hope that this car will eventually make its way to American shores, or you can start talking to your Volvo dealer now to let them know that you want this baby!


Volvo V60 Estate, Turbo-Diesel vs. Plug-in Hybrid

TurboDiesel Plug-in Hybrid
Type DRIVe "Kinetic" "Pure Limited"
Year 2012 2012-2013
Emissions rating EURO5 "A"  
MSRP € 36,695 ($49,150) € 64,695 ($84,100)
CelloMom Rating *
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 5.2 / 4.1 L/100km  
Avg. quoted 4.5L/100km (52mpg) 1.9L/100km (124mpg)
Avg. actual 39 mpg (Honest John) EST. 65-80 mpg

1.6L 4-cyl. turbo

2.4L 5-cyl. turbo
Power 115HP @ 3600rpm 215 HP (diesel)
70 HP (electric)
Gears 6-spd man 6-spd auto
Fuel Diesel Diesel
Length, mm(in) 4628mm (182.2in)  
Width, mm(in) 1865mm (73.4in)  
Height, mm(in) 1484mm (58.4)  
Weight, kg(lbs) 1537 kg (3389 lbs)  
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 430 L (15.2 cuft)  
Turning radius, m(ft) 11.5m (37.7ft)  
Top speed, kph(mph) 190 kph (118mph)  


  1. As far as hybrids go, I think this one is pretty sassy looking. Much better than a Prius and much better for a family. Looking forward to seeing these in the USA!

  2. Whoa, Agatha! yours is the fastest comment EVER: I hadn't even posted the table yet when it came in.
    I agree with you, this is one good-looking car, and it has plenty of space: the cello will fit in the back without being on the diagonal.


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