Review: Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus PHEV, too good to be true [+Video]


Malaysians have shown a strong appetite for premium mid-sized SUVs with the Mercedes-Benz GLC being the strongest growth driver for the three-pointed star in Malaysia. BMW Malaysia and Audi Malaysia, on the other hand, have lagged behind Mercedes-Benz in the SUV game with their outdated and uncompetitive offerings. Don’t get me started on the Lexus NX’s overly optimistic price tag no thanks to its fully imported origins.

Where does that leave Volvo then? The Swedish premium carmaker has re-entered the game in January with its second-generation Volvo XC60 and is set to give its rivals a good run for its money. It’s jam-packed with features and reasonably priced at RM373k for a fully-imported top-spec T8 Inscription Plus model. Locally-assembled variants that will be available soon just makes the deal even more enticing.

Getting up close and personal with the car during its launch, I am all for the Volvo’s minimalistic design penned with clean and crisp body lines, but I am not a fan of the Russian Doll design that is evident when looking at it head-on. Surely the designers could’ve put in a little more effort to differentiate the 60-series from the 90-series other than its size. Fortunately, the rear end is not just a shrunken XC90 – sporting dual L-shaped tail lamps and a more angular tailgate. Top marks for that.

Having experienced Volvo’s new generation of cars based on the SPA platform (XC90, S90 & V90) and with its recent coronation as the 2018 World Car of the Year, expectations for the XC60, needless to say, were high. We took the fully imported Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus PHEV (CBU) as our travel buddy for the Chinese New Year holidays and here is what we learnt about the Swedish SUV.

QUICK FACTS

NameVolvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus CBU
Engine1,969cc; four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged
Transmission8-speed automatic
Max Power320 hp @ 5,700 rpm
Max Torque400 Nm @ 2,200 – 5,400 rpm
Electric Motor87 hp & 240 Nm
Combined Output407 hp & 640 Nm
0 – 100 km/h; Top Speed5.3 seconds; 230 km/h
Price (OTR without insurance)RM373,888

Top Notch Interior

The cabin while reminiscent of its larger sibling, the XC90, I’m more inclined towards the XC60 simply because it is slightly more pleasing to the eyes. Take the dashboard trim (CBU gets mesh metal, CKD gets wood inlay) for example, it now runs the full length of the dashboard held together by a single piece of aluminium. A little over the top for some, but to this author’s eyes, portrays a more outgoing personality as opposed to the 90-series models reserved nature.

Gone are the cluttered and uninspiring centre consoles of the previous-gen XC60s, now replaced by a sleek 9.0-inch Sensus Connect touchscreen infotainment system that is one of the most intuitive operating systems out there. How intuitive? It’s like an iPad for your car; all its functions are clearly spelt out with minimal sub-menus to navigate, perfect for on-the-go operations.

Other feel-good items like the Orrefors Crystal gear selector, diamond cut start/stop knob, Drive Mode selector and Volume knob, 12.3-inch TFT Adaptive Digital Display, Head-Up Display, 1,100W 15-speakers Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound Audio System as well as Panoramic Sunroof set the XC60 one class above its German rivals. Every touch, sight and even smell suggests that this cabin belongs way above its RM400k price bracket.

Driving a Two Tonne Machine Shouldn’t Be This Easy

Tipping the scale at 2,148 kg, it is only natural to expect to feel the weight of the XC60 through the steering wheel. But its electronically-assisted power steering was on the lighter end of the spectrum thus helping the driver to manoeuvre this SUV with great ease. Of course, the trade-off is that the XC60 does not switch directions as accurately nor as engagingly as a Beemer.

The XC60’s proportions were surprisingly manageable in the city thanks to its light steering wheel coupled with a 360-degree surround view camera. Its array of sensors will also beep frantically if you’re about to kiss a surrounding object, so you had to be on a really bad day to damage an XC60.

Its large reserve of torque also makes overtaking hilariously easy, entertaining at times. Indicators on, foot halfway through the floor and off you go. If you enter a bend with enthusiasm, the XC60 will display respectable road holding capabilities with body roll expected from a tall riding vehicle.

The Air Suspension tries its best to hide the car’s weight around the bends, but it also becomes obvious that the XC60 was set up to prioritise filtering road undulations. Not quite AMG-levels of athleticism, but good enough to put a smile on your face for your weekend drives while being ahead of the pack. However, CKD versions of the XC60 all come with a standard spring and shocks set up, just like its other rivals in its class. Whether is it a deal-breaker or not, that is for you to decide.

No, it is not a High-Performance SUV

Despite its on-paper figures of 407 hp and 640 Nm of torque from its 2.0-litre Twin Engine plug-in hybrid system, you won’t beat a Mercedes-AMG GLC 43 to the quarter mile despite commanding more ponies and twisting force than the German.

The Swedes had done a fantastic job to hide its ridiculous torque figures, delivering propulsion in a very family-friendly manner. Off the line, the XC60 sets off with just its electric motor, using all 240 Nm of torque from 0 rpm to drive the rear wheels. Its eerily silent pure electric commute is something everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime.

Once the electric motor runs out of breath, the 2.0-litre TwinCharged (turbocharged and supercharged) four-cylinder engine kicks in to deliver the remaining 320 hp and 400 Nm of torque to drive the front wheels. The petrol engine comes in seamlessly with minimal torque dip and vibration, blink and you’ll miss it.

The eight-speed automatic transmission was also tuned to perfectly highlight the characteristics of the XC60 – smooth and docile. Volvo has done it in such a way that the average person can handle 407 hp and 640 Nm with ease as the power comes in gradually and predictably, making city driving a serene affair.

Remember to Charge the Batteries

Sandwiched between the drivetrain is a 10.4 kWh battery pack that juices the electric motor. Plug it into a conventional 3-pin socket, and it will take around 4 hours for a full charge. Volvo claims the XC60 can cover up to 45 km of pure electric range with a fully charged battery pack, but realistically you are looking at 30-odd km in an urban setting, factoring in driving habits and road conditions.

I made a mistake for not letting the battery charge overnight and left home with a flat battery. Not only fuel consumption took a downward spiral, it also made the journey somewhat uncomfortable. The engine was constantly shutting off when I came to a complete stop only to restart the moment I set off because the battery pack did not have enough juice to get the car moving.

There is a Charge Mode function that uses the combustion engine as a generator to juice up the battery pack, but in my opinion, that just defeats the purpose of driving one of these PHEVs. Like any other PHEVs, the XC60 is best enjoyed when routinely plugged into a power source.

Charge it up

Safety First… In Class

You know Volvo is serious about its safety business when its Intellisafe preventive safety systems are standard across the board, yes even the entry-level T5 model. It bundles City Safety Pre-Collision Braking, Lane Keeping Aid, Blind Spot Information System, six airbags and many more which we, fortunately, did not sample.

Its long list of advanced drivers assists systems are nowhere to be found on any of its closest competitors. Six airbags and ESC? That’s the best its competition can manage. While Intellisafe is not an accident-free charm, it does greatly reduce the likelihood of an accident by warning the driver and if necessary, brings the car to a stop automatically when it detects an imminent collision. Of course, it does not mean you can be silly and let the car do all the braking, it is, after all, a driver assist system.

T8 variants are equipped with Volvo’s Pilot Assist that bundles Adaptive Cruise Control and Steer Assist to give the XC60 semi-autonomous driving capabilities up to 130 km/h. Never have I travelled on the North-South Highway (NSE) with such ease and comfort, if this is the future, sign me up.

Although it can’t be stressed enough that the system can only operate proficiently on well-marked roads. It does catch you off-guard as you’re cruising down the highway and the system ever so slightly goes out of lane due to faded road markings.

Will I Buy it?

The Volvo XC60 blows all its rivals out of the water offering high-levels of equipment, best-in-class safety features and being the only plug-in hybrid powered car in its segment. Based on that alone, Volvo’s latest offering would be the most sensible choice if I am in the market for a mid-sized SUV –  with minimalistic and handsome designs being the icing on the cake.


IMAGE GALLERY

Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus CBU


Adrian Chia

Adrian Chia

He believes that the perfect remedy to Monday blues is a mixture of 4 wheels, clear roads and a pinch of twisty tarmac. A hot hatch is the icing on the cake.
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