HOW much of what you see today will you recall in a week or a month hence?
The Volvo S60 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid makes a good impression when you’re in it. It performs well, has good — and some less so — elements and makes the journey interesting enough that you don’t mind taking it out for a spin every so often.
But once out of sight, it slips out of mind. There’s a certain anonymity about it that is perhaps part of the Scandinavian design sensibility. Useful and relevant when you need it, but otherwise, quietly staying in the background when not required.
That is neither a good nor a bad trait. It’s just the way it is. Like IKEA.
The originally Swedish Volvo car company is now owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding of China. But the S60 T8 adds another dose of globalisation to the mix, with the test drive unit being made in the USA.
The clash of cultural identities — if any — is not evident in the car. The simple and efficient lines are still purposeful in intent. Maybe contoured a bit more to appeal to Chinese owners and American preferences, but still very much in the expected uncluttered vein of design evident in its roots and heritage.
The Thor hammer LED headlights framing the timeless Volvo badge and black R-Design grille, roll back along a shape that forms a pleasant silhouette for a brand that has long been lauded for its safety standards.
Today, this emphasis has been embellished with electrification, with the brand intent on reducing its carbon footprint by 40% by 2025, and to have EVs making up half its sales and the balance, hybrids.
The S60 T8 sets the tone of brand leadership, and is priced to correspond.
Rolling in at *$262,000 it’s $20K cheaper than the XC60 Recharge, also a plug-in hybrid model, and you know how everyone loves an SUV. That’s reinforced by the comparatively high price points of the XC90 models.
The rechargeable lithium-ion battery has an anticipated lifespan of 15 years, of which 5 will be under warranty. Changing a battery outside of warranty will set you back $6,000 per battery cell module. There are 6 battery modules holding 96 cells. You do the maths. Oh, and it takes about a week to change a module.
It takes about 3 hours to fully charge a battery. And you’ll have to wait it out. With a full charge you’ll get 45km in Pure Mode, using just electric power. Enough for city commutes, provided you are disciplined enough to keep charging the car.
Otherwise, you’ll likely be making use of the 60L tank and run along in Power Mode which uses both energy platforms.
Inside the S60 T8 test drive car, I am enveloped by darkness. Black is the dominant colour, and it’s everywhere, save for a few sparkly bits — the neat starter switch, the air-con vent knobs and the rolling drive control in the plastic-to-touch centre console.
You might want a lighter colour interior to offer some contrast and to save yourself from being cooked in the tropical heat.
You have a 9″ touch screen that’s vertically mounted, and provides a disconcerting, distorted view of vehicles around you when you’re parking. While all this touchy stuff looks nice, I prefer to have some functions as buttons. Last thing you want to do is to try and take aim at the air-con buttons on a screen while on the move.
The driver has the benefit of an orderly instrument cluster, harking back to the functional Scandinavian mindset, ensuring you have enough information to stay safe on your journey.
And while the panoramic glass roof would be ideal with cerulean skies, it’s a bit of a cloudy glass house in these parts.
The silent start of the S60 T8 is met by a powerful pull as you whip along.
0-100kmh in 4.4 seconds is ghostly fast, when you’ve got a maximum torque of 640Nm urging you along. That just makes those traffic light sprints wicked. With more road, you get to push it along and enjoy the balanced and composed handling. The 2L engine eventually kicks in but the soundproofing keeps it out of earshot.
The 8-speed automatic helps to deliver 100km on just 2L of fuel (but its VES banding is still B).
Like most cars of this era, connectivity is everything. And you’ve got the works, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, pumped through a Harman Kardon sound system.
But one annoying aspect of the car which has no fix — as yet — is the speed sensitive sound control. Meant to ensure you’re in sync with your surroundings, the volume of whatever you’re listening to drops off and rises according to your speed, only alerting you to the fact you’re more annoyed by it than anything else.
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