From £37,2058
Revised plug-in hybrid XC60 gets a bigger battery pack, brawnier motor and Volvo’s smart new Google-based UI system

What is it?

While Volvo is pushing its EV models hard as it moves towards full electrification, it is also pushing some very aggressive model cycles for the development of its plug-in hybrids. Less than a year after we first experienced the XC60 PHEV, the company has already given the electrical side of its powertrain some substantial upgrades, the same revisions set to be offered on the company’s other larger plug-ins.

The big change is the arrival of a new, longer-range battery featuring a third layer of cells. This has a capacity of 18.8kWh, an increase of more than 50% over the earlier PHEV’s 11.6kWh. This is enough to boost electric-only range in the XC60 T8 to 47 miles.

The electric motor that powers the rear axle has also been upgraded to make 143bhp – an increase of 56bhp. Working in conjunction with the less powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the T6, this now makes a total of 393bhp, while the brawnier T8 – which uses a turbocharged and supercharged version of the same engine making 305bhp – now has a system total of 448bhp. Making it the most powerful Volvo road car powertrain so far.

2 Volvo xc60 t8 phev 2021 first drive review hero side

What's it like?

The T8 powertrain is certainly impressively rapid when both combustion and electrical sides are working together. The XC60 launches hard and accelerates at a vigour that makes the fitment of Volvo’s corporate 112mph speed limiter seem like a cruel curtailment. There is little doubt an unconstrained T8 would be able to easily attain the 155mph that Volvo used to restrict its cars to.

Refinement is generally very good, although the petrol engine does become vocal under hard use. Choosing the pure electric ‘Pure’ mode trims the level of performance, but turns the powertrain almost entirely silent. Performance is more than adequate when running as an EV, although pressing too hard on the accelerator pedal will fire the combustion engine into life again. The one-pedal mode also works impressively well; as in the fully electric C40 Recharge, it allows the XC60 T8 to be brought to an almost imperceptible stop.

Not that selecting the new function is particularly easy. The new Google-based UI system looks good and copes well when asked to provide navigation and entertainment functions. But it has also been given control of lots of the car’s settings, with most of these buried in sub-menus.

Even switching between driving modes has become a three-stage process, first selecting ‘Settings’, then ‘Dynamics’ and only then being able to move between the Hybrid, Power, Pure, Off-Road and AED modes. The scroll controller previously used to move between these has been removed, making it impossible to change them without taking eyes from the road; in usability terms a definite retrograde step.

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Some other settings were buried even further, to the extent it seems unlikely that many owners will ever discover them. In addition to one-pedal operation, the T8 has a switchable creep function, as well as a sport mode for the air suspension and adaptive dampers that come with R-Design Pro spec. Selecting this created an impressively lashed-down driving experience, at the cost of the ride gaining a firm edge. The XC60 is never the most dynamic of companions, but the T8 handles tidily under moderately enthusiastic use.

7 Volvo xc60 t8 phev 2021 first drive review cabin

Should I buy one?

The XC60 remains a handsome, comfortable all-rounder, but the revised PHEVs all carry substantial price tags.

The cheapest will be the Inscription Expression T6, which lists at a substantial £53,075. The R-Design Pro T8 as driven here will cost £60,400 in the UK, and the range-topping Polestar Engineered T8 is £65,475. The same upgraded PHEV powertrain will also be fitted to the Volvo S60, Volvo V60, Volvo S90Volvo V90 and Volvo XC90.

3 Volvo xc60 t8 phev 2021 first drive review hero rear

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Mike Duff

Mike Duff
Title: Contributing editor

Mike has been writing about cars for more than 25 years, having defected from radio journalism to follow his passion. He has been a contributor to Autocar since 2004, and is a former editor of the Autocar website. 

Mike joined Autocar full-time in 2007, first as features editor before taking the reins at Being in charge of the video strategy at the time saw him create our long running “will it drift?” series. For which he apologies.

He specialises in adventurous drive stories, many in unlikely places. He once drove to Serbia to visit the Zastava factory, took a £1500 Mercedes W124 E-Class to Berlin to meet some of its taxi siblings and did Scotland’s North Coast 500 in a Porsche Boxster during a winter storm. He also seems to be a hypercar magnet, having driven such exotics as the Koenigsegg One:1, Lamborghini SCV12, Lotus Evija and Pagani Huayra R.

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michael knight 28 October 2021
As others have said, and it's not the first time: Autocar the 'From £' is meaningless! Put the price of the tested car up front, so we can see what it is you're driving /reviewing. When the tested car is near double the 'from' price, it just feels like the consumer is being mugged off.
MisterMR44 28 October 2021

I don't understand why Autocar insist on putting the 'From £XX,XXX' price on the titles of reviews when the vehicles featured - and the subsequent review content reflected - is usually always a highly specified press vehicle costing considerably more. It's something the regular readers get used to eventually... but I'd wager even they have never seen that practice as useful. I really wish they'd at least put the 'as tested' price there instead... or just get rid of it completely.

Aerial 28 October 2021

37k my arse!