Volvo V60 Hybrid juggles the fuel figures

THE fair city of Perth can boast many famous sons and daughters who’ve made their way in the world. I’ve every reason to believe that one of them, Iain Howat, is an honest chap but I suspect he had his fingers crossed metaphorically when he spoke to me just down the road from his home town of Auchterarder about Volvo’s revolutionary new hybrid, the V60 D6.

The Volvo V60 is the world's first diesel plug-in hybrid

Iain is now well up the pecking order as head of product at the company’s UK operations and he’s clearly enthusiastic about the car, which is described as Volvo’s most technologically advanced and fastest model. The marketing blurb says it is three cars in one – electric, diesel and all-wheel-drive – and at the push of a button the driver can decide which they want it to be at any particular time.

It’s the world’s first diesel plug-in hybrid and, certainly, its performance figures make remarkable reading. Power output is 280bhp, giving a top speed of 143mph, leaping from a standing start to 62mph in just a tad over six seconds and with CO2 of just 48 g/km.

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The most astonishing figure of all, though, is the one for fuel consumption: 155 mpg. It was that figure in particular that Iain had to explain as the “official” one based on an “official” set of testing standards. The problem with this and other hybrids is how you come up with consumption figures. This car has a range of 31 miles on electric power alone before the diesel engine kicks in and you start using fuel.

So if all you ever do is less than 31 miles at a time between plugged-in recharges, then technically you should be able to survive without consuming any fuel at all, which makes it impossible to come up with an mpg figure. The same applies to the CO2 level of 48 g/km. To some extent then, most of these figures are academic, which is why Iain admitted that the economics or the performance figures wouldn’t apply to everyone.

The technology is clever. The engine is a standard Volvo 2.4-litre turbodiesel coupled to a 70bhp electric motor at the back powering the rear wheels. The battery pack is under the rear loadspace and can be recharged from a standard three-pin domestic socket in around four hours. It is also recharged when on the move during deceleration. The driver controls the power source from three dashboard buttons.

“Pure” means the electric motor does all the work until it runs out of juice and the range of 31 miles varies according to the terrain, driving style and the temperature, with fewer miles the colder it is. “Hybrid” is the standard setting combining diesel and electric to give a range of up to 560 miles from a fuel tank of only 45 litres instead of the standard 70. “Power” maximises performance by bringing in the combined 280bhp to return stunning acceleration through all four wheels. Another button, “Save for Later” makes the car stay in diesel mode to keep enough battery power for use further into the journey, such as in an urban green zone. It is indeed clever technology with some nice touches including a pre-conditioning facility to pre-heat the passenger compartment during the recharging process so that it’s more comfortable on a cold morning. It has all the standard Volvo safety features along with a vast array of options, including the latest pedestrian and cyclist detection system.

The V60 Hybrid will appeal to owners who do mainly short journeys but occasionally have to go a bit further and want to have the reassurance that they don’t have to rely on electric power. The initial run of 1,000 cars sold out before they reached the showrooms and Volvo is confident that while this car is not cheap, even with the £5,000 government grant, with no direct market competitors they will easily sell around 150 in the UK this year.

It’s certainly not going to be Volvo’s biggest seller by any means, but it is by far one of its most significant.

VITAL STATS

CAR Volvo V60 D6 AWD Hybrid

PRICE £43,775 (after £5000 Government grant)

CO2 EMISSIONS 48g/km

PERFORMANCE Max speed 143mph. 0-62 mph 6.1 secs

FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined) 155mpg