BMW 330e vs Volvo S60 T8: performance and handling
The Volvo is the outright faster car, but the rear-drive BMW is more satisfying from behind the wheel
The BMW falls short of the Volvo in terms of its performance. The 330e gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that, combined with a 111bhp electric motor, sends 245bhp to the rear wheels. Toggle the drive mode button to Sport and a subdued ‘XtraBoost’ icon appears that means you’re getting the full potential of the combined petrol and electric power sources, which ups the available shove to 288bhp and fires the 330e from 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds with a rorty rasp from the exhaust.
The Volvo S60 T8 has far beefier performance. Our test car came with the £745 Polestar Engineered pack, which ups power to 395bhp in total, although the electric range and efficiency aren't affected by this option, as the electric motor retains its 86bhp output.
Suffice to say, when you select the Polestar option using the rather chintzy rotary switch in front of the gear selector and mash the accelerator. The Volvo launches up the road with a brief scrabble of tyres and a muted growl, whistle and whoosh from the characterful engine. It has a delightful sense of being seriously naughty, but always in a polite way, even as it punches to 62mph from rest in 4.4 seconds.
Having said that, in real-world use the BMW never feels far behind the Volvo. It has a real edge to its power delivery and point-to-point pace that leaves you in no doubt of its sports-car potential, helped by the super-slick eight-speed automatic gearbox.
The BMW’s handling, similarly, has a real texture and depth of connection that’s lacking in the lighter steering of the Volvo. We’re not talking about a whisper of entertainment if you razz down a country road, here; the BMW’s poise and general sense of involvement is a tangible benefit over the lighter, less connected-feeling Volvo whether you’re muddling through Milton Keynes on a Tuesday afternoon or threading down a decent open road. If the four-wheel drive Volvo’s fluid yet stoic all-weather appropriateness is more to your taste, it’s worth knowing that the 330e will shortly be available with four-wheel drive, too.
Comfort is no issue in either car. Both our test cars rode on standard suspension, and while there’s a touch more wheel-bounce and thumping over potholes in the S60, both are admirably cosseting. Refinement in the two is so close as to be almost inseparable. Both managed 51dB in electric mode at 30mph, or 59dB with the petrol engine going. The Volvo kicks up a fraction more tyre noise, returning 70dB compared to the BMW’s 69dB a 70mph with the petrol engines fired up, but both make for exemplary long-distance transport.
In This Review
- 1VerdictAs company-car tax for plug-in hybrids drops, we put two of the sector's main contenders head to head
- 2Range, charging & fuel economyThere's little to choose between the pair in this area
- 3Running costs & warrantyHigh list prices are offset by rock-bottom running costs, especially for company-car drivers
- 4Performance & handling - currently readingThe Volvo is the outright faster car, but the rear-drive BMW is more satisfying from behind the wheel
- 5Space & practicalityAs four-door saloons, neither of these cars offers the height of practicality
- 6Safety & reliabilityReliability should be good, but some safety kit is optional on both cars
- 7Verdict & specificationsA better driving experience and lower purchase price hand victory to the BMW