The highest-performing version of the elegant 2019 Volvo XC60 R-Design is also it’s only hybrid-powered option.
Shoppers after thrilling performance, excellent fuel economy, and fully electric operation that can massively slash fuel bills will likely find the XC60 T8 to be a uniquely compelling, and forward-looking, take on the modern luxury performance crossover.
Thanks to numerous signature design elements, the XC60 is immediately recognizable, even at a distance. A distinctive lighting signature conveys a strong presence as the XC60 rolls down the road after dark, and the overall shape is athletic and poised. Quad-tipped exhaust outlets and subtle cosmetic tweaks nod to the high-performing nature of this partially electric performance flagship.
As a whole, the styling should easily satisfy those after upscale looks that fly under the radar. Numerous competitors are flashier-looking, though XC60 takes a tastefully restrained approach to its visuals – a limited use of chrome and a modest grille. Unique shapes and lines, not ornamentation, draws the most attention here.
On board, it’s the typical Volvo cabin. All current models sold by the Swedish automaker have their own slightly tweaked version of the same cockpit – with displays, switches, interfaces, and even the instrument cluster shared universally.
Like the body, the cabin is quietly upscale, nicely sculpted, and may remind avid travellers of the business centre in a high-end hotel: clean, formal, relaxing, and posh.
Hundreds of functions are relegated to the central touchscreen interface, and the cabin is pleasantly devoid of button-clutter. The result is a more straightforward appearance that puts the visual emphasis on curves and materials and shapes, not flashy add-ons.
Long held as the “safety” brand in the automotive space, Volvo has a history of building some of the safest vehicles on the road. The XC60 carries this tradition: In addition to high scores in industry crash-tests, it provides owners with numerous technological solutions for enhanced confidence and peace of mind.
For instance, the LED lighting system is potent and powerful – soaking the road ahead with clean white light that reaches far into nearby treelines and culverts. These headlights would be bright enough to change the mind of a driver who tends to avoid after-dark travel.
The around-view parking camera system displays a 360-degree view of the driver’s surroundings on the central screen, with exceptionally good graphics for a clear assessment of possible hazards.
A full arsenal of outward-looking safety features, including a semi-autonomous lane-keeping aid and collision mitigation support, are also on board. Volvo’s Pilot Assist system combines semi-autonomous functionalities with adaptive cruise control. Each safety system is largely predictable and dependable in operation, easy to toggle on and off to the driver’s taste, and clearly communicated via an on-screen graphic, for easy reference. During the majority of its use during my 2,000-kilometre, highway-intensive test drive, the Pilot Assist system rarely missed a beat or did anything abrupt.
Though all crossovers of a similar size to the XC60 are similarly practical in terms of space and functionality, a few extra touches help the XC60 to stand apart here.
For instance, the power tailgate opens quickly to reveal a flat and wide cargo hold, with a small amount of additional under-floor storage. At the tap of a button on a control pad located at the rear edge of said cargo area, the power-folding second-row seats drop down in mere seconds, opening up room for larger items.
Elsewhere, at-hand storage for smaller items is about average for the segment – some will wish for a bigger (deeper) centre console bin, or a larger centre console storage nook.
As it tends to go with crossovers of this size, most couples and smaller families will find plenty of room and flexibility – enhanced by some high-tech touches – for whatever task is at hand. Though it’s a plug-in hybrid, the XC60 T8 offers the same amount of cargo space as non-hybrid models, thanks to its clever battery placement.
I noted no issues with entry or exit, nor space at any given seat, for average-sized adults. For said adults, headroom is adequate or better at each seat, even with the sunroof. Note that the R-Design model includes a sport seat design. It’s supportive and comfortable, but thicker bolstering pads may complicate entry and exit for some occupants.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Much of the XC60 T8’s driving experience is user-friendly, though the initial learning curve to various systems and functions may take first-time drivers a little practice to sort out.
For instance, the central command touchscreen interface is slick, easily operated and provides quick access to all functions – though novices may need a week’s practice before its use becomes second nature. Ditto the safety systems. Once learned, they’re absolutely intuitive – easy to activate, deactivate, customize, or switch on the fly. Spend some quality time with the owner’s manual first, though: first-time users should understand what the systems do, their limitations, and what to expect, before trying them in the wild.
Further user-friendliness comes from a fully autonomous self-parking system, and an on-screen infographic that elegantly and clearly keeps drivers apprised of the currently selected drive mode, and the goings-on of the hybrid propulsion system.
As expected, given this XC60 variant’s somewhat lofty price-tag, equipment and feature content levels are high – and most modern must-haves are included. My tester featured a clear and vivid head-up display, power memory seating with power-folding rear-seat headrests, and full multimedia connectivity.
Clever and unusual feature touches really help set the XC60 apart. For instance, high-pressure headlight washers and a spray-bar wiper system help ensure optimal visibility at all times. The latter applies washer fluid directly to the wiper blade, and only on the upward stroke. It’s a clever design touch that improves wiper performance, while eliminating washer fluid waste.
A control console in the cargo area allows users to raise or lower the XC60’s rear air suspension on the fly – adjusting the cargo floor height to ease the loading and unloading of gear or passengers.
A final note for audiophiles looking to treat themselves: the optional Bowers & Wilkins stereo system is a must-have, if it’s within your means. At nearly $4,000, it’s a pricey add-on, but it’s also the best in-car stereo system this reviewer has ever heard (and there have been many). Playback is vivid, crystal clear, and ultra-immersive.
Two power sources propel the XC60 T8 down the road: The first is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine that’s both turbocharged and supercharged; the second is an electric motor, powered by a 10.4 kWh lithium-ion battery.
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Combined output is 400 horsepower, and the better part of 500 lb-ft of torque. The XC60, therefore, boogies something fierce when called upon.
Driven gently, XC60 prefers to cruise along on electric power. Here, the powertrain is imperceptible – no sound, no vibration, no power curve. It’s just an instant forward surge, noiseless and smooth, as electricity does the work of moving you along. Fully charged via a plug or charging station, Volvo estimates an all-electric driving range of 27 kilometres, though I regularly achieved 32 km, even while blasting the air conditioner in the scorching summer heat.
In hybrid mode, with both propulsion systems working together, that noiseless electric torque joins forces with a generally quiet gasoline engine to meet moderate throttle inputs, immediately, with a strong and creamy forward lurch. Drivers are likely to be charmed by the disconnect between the immediacy and urgency of the acceleration, and the minimal noise emitted during its creation.
Stand on the rightmost pedal, and the XC60 gets up and goes with urgency to spare. Here, the electric drive system fills in the low spots of the gas engine’s power curve for a moment, until the turbocharger and supercharger come online. Passing and merging power are beyond what most drivers will need, but it’s a guilt-free splurge, given the fuel mileage.
Still, it’s far from the most exciting 400 horsepower you’ve ever experienced. The driveline is liquid-smooth at full throttle – exactly what the luxury shopper likes, but some enthusiasts will wish for a little more drama. Further, the full-throttle sound effects are unremarkable. Go-fast crossovers available elsewhere tend to have exhaust notes that make sports-car fans reach for a bib. In the XC60, it’s mostly just a muted hum, sometimes punctuated by a whiff of supercharger whine.
It’s a discreet 400 horsepower, not a shouty, snarling 400 horsepower – in line with its understated styling.
Equipped with the 4-Corner Air Suspension and Four-C Active Chassis system ($2,350), my tester pulled off a rare feat: an excellent ride on the dangerously crumbling roads of Sudbury, Ontario – and that’s despite rolling on a set of optional 21-inch wheels. Though the suspension calibrations vary depending on the selected drive mode, the system generally turns big bumps into smaller ones, and makes smaller ones all but undetectable.
As an added bonus, advanced body motion control means that the XC60 usually stays flat and stable, even after whacking wince-inducing dips and potholes. Translation? The ride is consistently good, rarely busy, and typically keeps the jostling of occupants to bare-minimum levels.
Put another way, it rides like something with a flubbery, sponge-cake suspension, but without the feel of a flubbery sponge-cake.
Those opting for the 21-inch wheels, but who live in a locale with poorlymaintained roads, should consider the optional air suspension package a must-have.
Driving Feel: 9/10
The XC60’s driving feel is, perhaps, most impressive on the highway. Here, well-calibrated autonomous driving aids are complemented by comfortable seats, a comfortable and quiet ride, and a heavy but not labour-intensive steering feel. The result is an excellent long-haul touring machine.
There is one gripe here, however: Despite the excellent ride quality on paved roads, the XC60’s ride quality can be degraded considerably by certain surfaces commonly encountered in an off-road setting. Specifically, washboard-covered trails, and those covered in heavy gravel, can cause more noise and harshness to be transmitted into the cabin than some will expect.
Fuel Economy: 10/10
In my custody, the XC60 showed fuel consumption similar to a mid-size sedan (in situations where it’s burning fuel at all). For where and how I drive, owning an XC60 T8 would see me using gasoline almost exclusively on out-of-town trips. With an observed electric range of 32 kilometres (and a Level 2 fast-charger installed at home), the vast majority of my daily around-town driving can be handled without the need to burn any gasoline.
Given its official 27 kilometres of all-electric driving range (and hundreds of kilometres of additional range in gas-hybrid mode), the XC60 is remarkably easy on fuel. Depending on where and how you drive, this machine might even allow you to visit the gas station just a few times a year, instead of a few times a month.
With pricing from $72,550 (and an as-tested price of over $85,000 with included options), the XC60 T8 represents a strong value – to the right shopper. Those who can capitalize on the T8 powertrain’s capabilities to dramatically reduce fuel usage will find the highest return on their investment, and especially if understated styling and a uniquely luxurious driving experience are priorities.
Numerous lower-cost XC60 variants exist for those not interested in electrification.
With Volvo’s “T8 Twin Engine” powerplant beneath the skin, the efforts of its gasoline engine and electric motor culminate in a unique – and improved – luxury sport utility experience that will find plenty of favour with the right shopper.
|2019 Volvo XC60 T8 R-Design|
|Engine Displacement: 2.0L gas engine, 65 kW electric motor|
|Engine Cylinders: I4|
|Peak Horsepower: 400 hp @ 7,000 rpm (combined)|
|Peak Torque: 472 lb-ft @ 2,200–5,400 rpm|
|Fuel Economy: 9.5/8.5/9.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space: 731 / 1,792 L seats down|
|2019 Volvo XC60 T8 R-Design|
|Base Price $72,550|
|A/C Tax $100|
|Destination Fee $2,015|
|Price as Tested $91,090|
|Optional Equipment $16,425 – Vision Package $1,800; Climate Package $1,250; Convenience Package $1,900; Metallic Paint $900; Tailored Dashboard $1,500; Head Up Display $1,500; 4-Corner Air Suspension w/ active chassis $2,350; Bowers & Wilkins Premium Stereo $3,750; 21-inch wheels $1,475|