Volvo flew us out to sunny Palm Springs to test the relatively new C40 BEV. But the Gothenburg, Sweden-based company couldn’t help but give us a quick drive in the bigger XC60 Recharge plug-in hybrid while we waited. The mid-sized SUV got a nice upgrade this year to 35 miles of all-electric driving in its “Pure” mode. That puts it into our “if you can commute without using gas, it’s an EV” category, but that wasn’t the only improvement…
Volvo XC60 Recharge electric upgrade
The $55,000 2022 XC60 Recharge got a notable battery and EV powertrain upgrade over the previous models. Up from around 19 miles of all-EV range, the 35 miles in the 2022 version represents a commendable total. The average American commute is under 30 miles round trip.
The battery goes from 11.6 kWh (9.1 kWh usable) to 18.7 kWh (14.8 kWh usable). The bigger battery allows Volvo to qualify for the full $7500 US tax credit (vs. $5500 last year). As you might imagine, you can charge the battery overnight on a level 1 charger or in three to four hours using a level 2 charger. There isn’t a CCS combo DC fast charging option here.
The electric motor also lept from 87 hp to a significant 142 hp. That means in “Pure” electric-only mode, you can drive around quite well including highway speeds and beyond. I was able to easily keep up with traffic while climbing the steep grade to the scenic Coachella overlook on EV alone.
Instead of complicating things, Volvo uses a 313 hp T8 gas motor on the front wheels and puts the electric motor between the rear wheels. That theoretically means that if one powertrain breaks, the other can limp you home. The batteries live along the center of the vehicle where an axle would be in an AWD ICE vehicle so there isn’t much, if any, loss in space from the ICE version. There is a big honking ICE motor in the front, however, so there’s no frunk space to speak of.
Allow me a slight digression:
If I’m designing this car from scratch and it has to be a PHEV, I’d reverse the power output of the EV and ICE. Instead of 2/3rds of the power coming from ICE and 1/3rd of Electric, I’d do the opposite. Opt for a smaller, more efficient 150 hp ICE motor which would serve mostly as a backup generator. Then with the resources saved, double the horsepower in the EV powertrain along with a 50+ mile battery. That way, you not only get to drive around town twice as far in Pure mode, but you also get more EV power and the gas engine only kicks in on long highway drives where output is more sustained.
Volvo XC60 PHEV makes sense in the near term
There’s a school of thought that when the supply of batteries is constrained (which it currently is and in the near future looks to be), the best use of those limited batteries is putting them in as many cars as possible. Instead of one BEV getting 80kWh of battery, four cars could get 20kWh of battery, and theoretically, you’d have four cars commuting 40 miles a day on all-electric instead of one. Sure, all four cars would need to use gas on longer trips but those theoretically are few and far between. Overall, you get more EV miles with four PHEVs than one BEV and three ICE cars while batteries are constrained. In this scenario, you’d go from 25% of miles on one EV and three ICE cars to somewhere around 75% with four PHEVs. Just something to think about.
A look at Volvo XC60 Recharge Powertrain:
Google-based maps and entertainment
The XC60 Recharge also gains access to Volvo’s Google-based center stack OS, which excels in voice commands and mapping. Google also gives access to different music platforms like Youtube Music, Spotify, and more. You can also do CarPlay and Android Auto on top of that, and everything sounds amazing over the Bowers & Wilkins speaker system.
Using voice to communicate with the car is a game-changer for ease and safety, and with Google’s best in class voice recognition, the car is scary good at recognizing what you are saying, or what you are trying to say.
The 12-inch center screen however isn’t particularly big, so finding menu items can sometimes be distracting. Luckily most of what you’ll want to do can be done via voice or be seen on the behind-the-wheel screen or the nice heads-up display.
Still, Google’s maps are the gold standard, and having them splayed out across two screens makes following directions a breeze.
One pedal driving
Most EVs have some form of one pedal driving but the previous XC60 Recharge didn’t. This year the XC60 gets that in hybrid form. Double click into drive and you’ll be in “B” mode, and the regen is strong. For the record, I think this should be the default mode on EVs and I’ve voiced my frustration with other vehicles that do the double click into one pedal driving like the Chevy Bolt. At least give us the option of one pedal being default in settings?
As far as the braking power, it is impressive. Only using the rear wheels, it can come to a complete stop fairly quickly and powers up the batteries to do so. One added benefit of using regenerative brakes is that there is less wear and tear on the traditional resistance brakes. That means less brake dust and fewer brake pad replacements over the life of the car.
Color me impressed. This is a plug-in hybrid I’d recommend to anyone who wants to dip their toes into the electric world but is too afraid to leave gasoline behind for one reason or another. The car is solidly built, has an excellent EV-only range at 35 miles (more than the average American puts on their car every day), and is quite roomy and comfortable for a mid-sized SUV with two powertrains.
Would I buy this for myself?
I’m a decade into pure EV ownership and carrying around the internal combustion powertrain seems redundant at this point. But I’m likely an outlier. The reality is that many people aren’t ready to make the leap to a full EV and the Volvo XC60 Recharge is a great gateway drug on the way to pure EV bliss.
The Google-based infotainment is great, as are the interior space, styling, and driving dynamics including active chassis with self-adapting air suspension for all wheels. The 2022 XC60 Recharge is a comfortable, fun, and engaging drive.
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