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Volvo XC60 Recharge: A car for the Greta good

Volvo's XC60 Recharge combines petrol and electric power for the planet's sake, but it has a subversive streak, too.

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The Volvo has a petrol tank under the rear seat and a bank of lithium-ion batteries between the front ones, and the idea is to use the latter as much as possible. Plug the car into a charger and after three hours, you'll have enough juice for around 35km of guilt-free electric motoring.

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The Volvo has a petrol tank under the rear seat and a bank of lithium-ion batteries between the front ones, and the idea is to use the latter as much as possible. Plug the car into a charger and after three hours, you'll have enough juice for around 35km of guilt-free electric motoring.

Singapore

THIS is the car that has it all. The Volvo XC60 Recharge comes with two engines, one of which runs on electricity and the other on petrol, burning it with the help of both a supercharger and a turbocharger.

That jumble of technology means that if the XC60 Recharge were a person, you would be highly suspicious of its paternity, because even though it looks like a Volvo, it's sort of half a Tesla.

Who knows what naughtiness goes on at Volvo during those long, lonely Swedish nights, but the idea behind the XC60 Recharge, as with all plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), is to do the planet some good. The Tesla-like genes mean you can drive it without any tailpipe emissions.

The Volvo has a petrol tank under the rear seat and a bank of lithium-ion batteries between the front ones, and the idea is to use the latter as much as possible. Plug the car into a charger and after three hours, you'll have enough juice for around 35km of guilt-free electric motoring. If you need to go further, there's the petrol engine.

Juggling all this stuff is something you leave the car to do. It has a Pure mode to force it to stay on electric power, but it's easier to leave it in Hybrid mode, in which it leans heavily on the battery but sometimes wakes up the engine, usually when your right foot has a spasm.

After 40km, about a day's average motoring here, the trip computer showed that the XC60 had burned fuel at an average of 1.2 litres per 100km. Time to write your favourite pump attendant a Dear John letter, because the Volvo has a 70-litre tank, and at that rate you would only fill up three times a year.

Once the battery is depleted and you rely on petrol to keep going, the system's effectiveness deteriorates rapidly and the XC60 is pretty much as efficient (or inefficient) as a regular car, but you can still pootle about for 50km in total on around 2.8L/100km. The same elementary truth applies to other PHEVs - you save the most petrol by using the petrol engine as little as possible. While Greta Thunberg gets all the headlines, then, the XC60 Recharge is actually one of Sweden's more credible ambassadors for the planet. It may not be a full electric car, but it's enough of one to put a serious dent in your fossil fuel consumption.

In electric mode, it's even quite nice. The acceleration is smooth and the Volvo makes practically no noise, unlike a certain teenaged activist. That refinement works well with the interior, which is laudably spacious and lush with lovely materials. Essentially, electric drive helps make this premium car feel more premium.

All that plug-in hardware adds around 300kg to the car, so the 87 horsepower motor is only able to shove the Volvo around fairly gently. But when you're in a serious hurry, the Volvo summons the past and the future to the aid of the present, firing up its petrol engine to add 315hp to the mix.

There's enough combined grunt to launch the XC60 to 100km/h in just 5.3 seconds, and the first time you get the Volvo to let its hair down you'll remember why we all loved petrol power so much in the first place.

Mind you, the XC60's handling is strictly on the so-so side, with mushy steering response and fairly slack suspension damping, so the lurid acceleration is more for the occasional laugh than for true driving pleasure. But it's nice to know that an apparently teetotaling car has such a subversive side to its personality, like a schoolmarm who's secretly a party animal.

For all that, the Volvo's personality comes at a price, and it's a steep one. The Recharge version retails for S$290,000 with Certificate of Entitlement, which is a S$55,000 premium over the XC60 T6. Sure, it's a nicer, more powerful car than the petrol-only T6, but that's an awful lot of green to part with in order to be green.

Even if you're willing to spend good money for the sake of the Greta good, the XC60 Recharge really only works best if you have somewhere to, well, recharge.

The price includes a home charger with installation, so the Volvo is for anyone with their own porch, or who lives in a condo with a sensible, forward-thinking management committee (there are plenty in District Nowhere). Plug-in hybrids do work, but saving the planet, like charity, begins at home.


Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid

Engine 1,969cc, inline 4, twincharged
Power 315hp at 5,700rpm
Torque 400Nm at 2,200-5,400rpm
Gearbox 8-speed automatic
Electric Motor 87hp / 240Nm
Battery Lithium-ion / 11.6kWh
Charging time/type 3 hours / Type II AC
Electric Range 35km (estimated)
System Power / Torque 402hp / 640Nm
Top Speed 230km/h
0-100km/h 5.3 seconds
Fuel Efficiency 2.2L/100km
Agent Wearnes Automotive
Price S$290,000 with COE
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