A Victory & Reseda review of the 2021 Volvo XC 60 Recharge
The plug-in hybrid may seem like a compromise.
For one, you have a battery juicing up the electric motors of a vehicle and a gasoline-fueled engine sharing the propulsion duties. You add a plug-in port to get the battery topped off and enable the electric system to take priority of your vehicle before there’s no more juice to give.
At that point, the gasoline engine kicks in. It does so seamlessly, but that’s not the point. Now, your fuel tank begins to empty, and you have to calculate total range between two energy sources…
At that point, Michelle Visage will ask: “How’s your head, hon?”
So much thought was put into this effort to electrify our vehicles. For some motorists, we really don’t need the extra brain gymnastics to operate a motor vehicle. Yet, this is our reality.
Rather, this is Volvo’s new reality. A reality now called Recharge.
Recharge is moniker applied to all electrified Volvo models. Whether it is the battery-electric XC40 or the T8 powered SUVs and sedans, Recharge refers to an action that should be taken by its owners than a reflection of the necessary path Volvo put themselves in to.
Their quest to make sure that all of their lineup has some sort of electrification in this decade. That, on top of Volvo’s goal to go fully electric across the lineup by 2030.
So, is it just that? A T8 driveline in a smaller SUV?
One thing to note is that we cannot simply call it a T8. Although it will signify the difference between the plug-in hybrid system attached to the gasoline-fueled 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine than a full battery-electric driveline. That is why Volvo is applying the Recharge name to anything electrified in its lineup.
In the XC60, the T8 driveline offers up 400 combined horsepower, along with 472 pound-feet of torque. A single electric motor can be driven in concert with the turbocharged and supercharged engine, or let it run by itself with a full battery pack. This is also augmented by selecting the drive mode into Pure Electric. In this mode, you only get 19 miles of all-electric range.
In reality, this driveline is quiet and smooth. At least that is how it felt from behind the wheel. No matter what mode you are in, there is a peaceful and serene feeling when you have a full battery and fuel tank full of the Premium stuff in town or out on the highway.
The XC 60 Recharge is also quick. It does very well in managing traffic in passing and on-ramp maneuvers. Cruising is equally smooth, especially when you venture into utilizing the Pilot Assist function. This goes beyond adaptive cruise control, as it integrates that feature with a host of other driver assistance features all designed to keep you in the lane traffic.
The ride quality is pure luxury. My tester is also equipped with the air suspension system that can be adjusted when you need to load items in the rear cargo area. That is only when you are parked. While you can raise or lower the XC 60, the air suspension adds to the superb dampening found on all of the SUV’s four corners.
In terms of handling, it would be easy to label the response as “soft.” It is a tad soft, but very controlled. The steering and suspension responds quickly to hazards on the road and recovers just right. On-center feel for the steering is very good and will hold it’s own even without Pilot Assist. The turning radius is tight, and maneuverability is easy to manage.
Stopping power is pretty good. Even with the usual hybrid regenerative braking system, they modulate well, and pedal feel was just fine.
In terms of energy consumption…not just fuel consumption anymore! I have to admit that the opportunities to plug in were, well, missed. As crazy a time I had with the XC 60, I found myself enjoying the car with just a single charge up. My bad. However, I did average 26.0 MPG overall.
I could talk about how this XC 60 Recharge drives with as much enthusiast information as possible. But, who owns one with that kind of knowledge? You might, though…
The idea here is to enjoy the drive. You do so in Blond perforated leather seats, as in this tester. The front seats are supportive and offer power adjustments for seatback bolsters, thigh support, lumbar, rake, height, and recline. They also felt kind of firm, but you can settle in for longer drives over time.
Rear seat room is good for even taller folks like myself. One thing to be aware of is a “transmission hump” in-between the outboard seats. If you have an all-adult crew, might as well make it a foursome, including the driver.
Cargo space maxes out at 63.3 cubic feet with the rear seats down. The angled roofline does cut into the height. However, if you’re just going for a weekender somewhere – you’ll have plenty of room for luggage and a few other amenities you might want to bring along. For example, folding chairs.
The XC 60 is part of a current generation of Volvos that have changed the company’s fortunes. That begins with a fully digital instrument cluster, the Sensus infotainment screen, and that stubby Orrefors crystal gear changer. The driver’s atmosphere is clean with modern Scandinavian design and feel.
Giving the Sensus infotainment system life is the available Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System that came with my tester. You have the atmospheric settings that turn the XC 60 Recharge into a mobile concert hall or studio. I still love this audio system for the cleanliness of the sound reproduction from my music files off of my smartphone.
Which brings me to the exterior of the XC 60. Even if you notice the charging port door on the right front fender of this vehicle and the Recharge badges, there is really no difference between this T8 Inscription model than a T6 one. In all, this is an extremely handsome SUV. Something you can’t ignore, even if the parking lot of full of them.
Its size puts the XC 60 in an extremely competitive segment. Yet, it is distinctive as you expect from a Volvo. What continues to draw me to the XC 60 is the overall shape that starts from the blunt front end to the L-shaped taillights. The front door access is perfect.
As for pricing, my 2021 Volvo XC 60 Recharge T8 eAWD Inscription tester came with a sticker price of $71,340. Granted, it is equipped with every package and option available to this vehicle. You can go through and deselect the items you really don’t need, but – fair warning – that once you see what a function can do – you will add it to your XC 60.
The base price for the 2021 XC 60 Recharge lineup starts at $53,500. It comes in three trim levels, with the desirable Polestar Engineered model at the top. If you would rather pass on the Recharge T8 hybrid driveline, the XC 60 lineup starts as low as $41,700.
There is another way to have your Volvo. You can subscribe to your next XC 60 through Care by Volvo, starting at $700 a month. You get a pre-specified model that includes insurance, maintenance, and added protections for excessive wear and tires. You are limited to 1,250 miles per month of driving. If you are not satisfied, you can cancel your subscription anytime after five months.
The flip side is that you are limited to certain trims and driveline choices. Currently, the Recharge T8 is not available through care by Volvo as of publication of this article.
Why do I mention Care by Volvo? If one word comes up when describing this Swedish brand, it would be ”innovation.” Volvo will reach its centennial this decade and it continues to astound its fans and critics alike. The resilience of this company – even with the Chinese in their kitchen – shows in their commitment to deliver its current tenets along with an eye towards a fully electrified future.
The XC 60 added more context to these storylines at Volvo. It is perhaps my favorite current Volvo. Even more favorable than its bigger sibling – the one that won #VOTY16.
The reasons for this summation are simple: It is the right size for the kind of luxury SUV I am looking for. It drives luxuriously and offers plenty of performance overall.
Perhaps the question should be asked whether to get the XC 60 in the Recharge T8 version or just get either the T5 or T6. That is a very good question. If the electric range was more than 19 miles, it would be worth looking at. Some plug-in hybrids are gaining more range from the battery, which would put a damper on selecting the XC 60. However, if you just want a nice, luxurious, well-engineered, and extremely safe premium SUV – just get a Volvo XC 60. If you are able to, just subscribe to one. Or, you can lease it. Or, just simply buy it. You get the idea…
After all, one cannot compromise on what they want from their vehicle – even if it is a plug-in hybrid Volvo!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Volvo Cars North America
All photos by Randy Stern