Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine engines, drive & performance

The Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine delivers on economy, but it also offers surprising performance thanks to its broad spread of power

The Volvo XC60 T8 has to cover many bases. We’ve already seen efficiency, quality and kit is on its list of attributes, but you can add comfort, speed and respectable handling to its talents. The car was designed as a plug-in from the outset, so there are very few compromises you have to make compared with a regular XC60 when running the T8 model.

Volvo XC60 T8 Twin Engine electric motor, 0-62mph and acceleration

There’s just one engine available in the T8, and it’s impressive. It’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. It makes 299bhp and drives the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while the electric motor produces 86bhp and drives the rear wheels. That means electric four-wheel-drive capability and a total of 385bhp.

That’s as much power as the latest hot hatchbacks, so even though the Volvo is a little heavier, performance is still rapid. It’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds and hit 140mph. Not bad for a family SUV.

However, with that electric motor supporting the petrol engine, there’s lots of easily accessible acceleration at any speed. It’s most noticeable off the line and at low speed, where the electric motor fills in for the petrol engine until it can deliver maximum performance. There’s a strong surge of acceleration on even half throttle, and as long as you keep it like this, refinement is good.

Ask for everything from the hybrid setup and the petrol engine starts to get more vocal, with a nasally drone. It’s not unbearable and is only a small price to pay given the performance on tap, but it occasionally is at odds with the rest of the car’s considered refinement. At motorway speeds it’s particularly quiet and comfortable, though.

In electric mode there’s enough low-down power to drive around town without troubling the petrol engine – and not at a snail’s pace either. The XC60 delivers decent acceleration from just its electric motor. This also means it’s very refined as the petrol engine is off and not making any noise.

Handling

Even on standard suspension, the XC60 rides with a relatively relaxed and composed feel. The higher ride height means more travel for the suspension, so unlike a low sports car that has less suspension travel to absorb bumps, the XC60 feels mostly plush and smooth over bad roads.

You can tell the wheels are sizeable, even on the basic 19-inch alloys on R-Design, because they bounce back with more energy if you hit a bad bump, but otherwise the T8 feels settled.

Go for £1,500 optional air suspension (or opt for one of the ‘Pro’ trims which get it as standard) and the suppleness is improved a step further. While the adjustable air setup still can’t control the big wheels as well as you might like over rough surfaces, for the majority of the time the suspension is even smoother in operation, which gives a nice relaxed feeling to the way the Volvo rides.

Due to a weight of 2,110kg – around 300kg heavier than a diesel automatic XC60 due to the battery and electric motor – the T8 doesn’t handle like it goes, but then most buyers looking for a car in this class will prefer the comfort this car serves up rather than extra agility.

There’s still plenty of grip, but through faster corners you do notice some body lean as the weight of the battery tests the suspension’s resolve.

The steering is quite light, too, so it's easy to apply too much steering lock too quickly, and while this might make the XC60 feel alert initially, it does lean and struggle to keep up after your initial input.

However, even judged against a regular diesel SUV, its agility is good and changes of direction are fairly positive. In truth, in most situations you won’t notice a handling penalty in this plug-in hybrid.

It’s worth mentioning the XC60 T8’s regenerative braking, too. While the power of the conventional brakes is fine (helped by the motor working in reverse to slow the car down and divert electricity back into the battery to recoup energy that would otherwise be wasted) the feel through the pedal is a little dead.

As the motor does all the braking when you lightly brush the brake pedal, it’s difficult to get a sense of just how much pressure to apply to slow you sufficiently, which means bringing the car to a halt smoothly can sometimes be a bit difficult unless you’re very gentle.