Published March 26, 2012
By Huw Evans
Volvo V60 Plug-in Diesel Hybrid.
While British consumers are eagerly awaiting Volvo’s limited-production V60 Plug-in Diesel Hybrid wagon, in a few years Americans will also get a plug-in gas-electric crossover.
The idea of a diesel hybrid, Volvo recently told us, is not in consideration for America given the market share these vehicles have, but in the UK, the V60 was voted by one green car Web site as its “most exciting green car.”
Actually with 30-percent of the vote, the V60 received double the votes of the next favored Chevy Volt/Vauxhall Ampera which got a second-place finish of 11 percent ahead of the Citroen DS5 and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.
So what’s so special about the V60? The all-wheel-drive wagon costs more, but delivers more as well.
The V60 uses a 215 horsepower 2.4-liter D5 four-cylinder diesel engine, teamed with a six-speed transaxle powering the front wheels, plus a 70-horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels. It can operate in three different modes: pure electric, hybrid and diesel engine only.
The V60 is able travel 32 miles on electric power alone before the diesel engine kicks in similar to the Ampera or Volt (EPA rated at 35 miles range). As for hybrid mode – default upon startup – the electric motor and diesel engine aim to provide the ideal balance of acceleration, fuel economy and low emissions.
In diesel mode, the V60 is said to be capable of accelerating from 0-62 mph in 6.2 seconds, while an “on demand” all-wheel drive system – besides transmitting power to the tires that need it the most depending on road conditions – also enables the electric motor to recharge the battery in AWD mode.
On paper, it sounds like the V60 PIH has a lot going for it; a solution for those that want the carrying capacity of a wagon in a car with decent performance. At the same time it stands to minimize fuel consumption and emissions, without the compromises associated with most hybrids and pure electric cars (namely adequate highway fuel consumption and limited range).
Although the V60 Plug-In Hybrid is a European proposition only, with just 1,000 cars slated to be produced before the end of the year, Volvo says it plans to ramp up production in 2013-14.
And, the good news – or consolation, depending on your preferences – is the U.S. will be getting its own derivative, the X60 Plug-In Hybrid.
In an effort to cater to North American tastes, this machine, which was previewed as a concept at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, is a crossover rather than pure station wagon.
It sports a 280-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct injected gasoline engine in lieu of the 2.4 diesel and Volvo says it will deliver around 35 miles range in pure electric mode, and will sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.8 seconds. This will make it one of the best performing PIHVs on the market.
Fuel economy ratings are pitched at 105 miles per gallon equivalent and 50 mpg once the battery is exhausted. Unlike the European version, the XC60 – which is destined for China besides North America – sports an eight-speed automatic transaxle.
But alas, when we will get it is in question. Volvo has not confirmed an introduction date, but estimates place an official launch next year at the earliest; likely as a 2014 model.
Given that, these days, Volvo has a much lower profile stateside than it does in countries like the UK (as well as a smaller product portfolio), it’ll be interesting to see if the XC60 Plug-In Hybrid proves to be as anticipated as its Euro market counterpart, especially once pricing is announced. In the UK, the V60 PIH is expected to retail for around £50,000 ($79,100).