Larry Printz | Tribune News Service
Being first doesn’t always mean much. Consider gas-electric hybrid automobiles. Toyota and Honda have been selling them for decades. But how serious were they, really? For 2023, there’s only one automaker selling cars that are purely mild hybrid, hybrid or electric in the United States, and it’s not from Japan.
Of course, you’d never guess Volvo, and certainly it even surprised me. This is a company that pioneered safety equipment, not electrified vehicles. Yet with Toyota’s years-long lead in hybrid technology, you have to wonder why the majority of the vehicles they sell aren’t hybrids, but all of Volvo’s are.
Now, Toyota competes in many more segments than Volvo, and at many different price points. But Toyota is among the biggest auto manufacturers in the world; Volvo is significantly smaller. So it’s easier for them to go all hybrid and electric. Of course, you can chalk some of that up to the competitiveness of Volvo’s corporate parent, Chinese automaker Geely Global.
Well, ain’t that something?
The Volvo XC60 Recharge is a plug-in hybrid powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with dual electric motors that provides 35 miles of pure electric driving range. You can activate a hold function that saves the electric power for when you’d prefer to use it. In that mode, it acts like any other hybrid. Or you can drive exclusively in EV mode. But here’s the neat trick: If there’s no place to plug it in, you can recharge the EV batteries using the gas engine. Sweet. But the system resets itself every time you turn off the car. It doesn’t even save your choices to your car’s memory button profile. OK, not so sweet.
But twist the starter knob and you’ll gain access to the XC60 Recharge’s 455 horsepower and 523 pound-feet pf torque, good enough for a 4.5-second 0-60 mph time. That’s not bad for a 4,700-plus pound midsize SUV. And its power delivery is every bit as refined as the rest of the vehicle.
The 2023 Volvo XC60 is impeccably tailored with a sober, refined, eloquent demeanor. It’s clean form benefits from a Scandinavian simplicity that’s contemporary yet elegant. It’s the adult in the garage. That’s especially true inside, where a large vertical touchscreen houses this vehicle’s controls with the exception of a smattering of audio buttons and steering wheel controls. While the system’s user interface isn’t initially intuitive, it soon proves easy to use within a day or two.
Ambiance is what we’ve come to expect from Volvo: modern Nordic restraint crafted from exquisite materials that instantly convey their quality, something you can see and feel. The seats are supportive yet soft enough to ensure your comfort. These are not the leather-skinned park benches found in German cars. The heated steering wheel and seats fire up with a blazing intensity one expects considering the vehicle’s home country. And the cabin proves fairly quiet, making the perfect concert hall for the Harman Kardon audio system. Of course, it’s filled with goodies, like built-in Google, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, ventilated seats, and a massive panoramic sunroof.
When it comes time to cart cargo you’ll find the XC60’s 37.8 cubic feet of cargo space will hold almost anything that Costco can throw at it. It has shopping bag hooks, a truly helpful feature that few automakers spend the extra 25¢ to provide. There’s also a small side nook with a cargo net to secure smaller items. Thoughtfully, our test vehicle’s height could be lowered by a pressing a button, which is handy when loading heavy items.
But none of it comes off as ostentatious. Less is more in a Volvo. One supposes that Mies van der Rohe would approve — especially when it came time to drive.
While not designed for true off-roading, the XC60 Recharge is perfect for the way most drivers want an SUV: as a surefire foul-weather conveyance. Being that it has all-wheel drive, grip is fairly good, although we did get the tail to scrub off some speed while cornering, no doubt a function of the rubber. Body lean is noticeable but well-mannered, and the steering provides a scintilla of feedback — a true rarity these days. Still the car instills confidence, steers with precision and has enough gusto to always ensure you have enough power, but not too much.
It’s not a rowdy school boy that some luxury SVs are, but it’s very enjoyable, no matter what you throw at it. It whispers its quiet confidence without shouting. And in an age where billionaires, technocrats, executives and the snot ball kid down the street all think you care about their opinion, that’s a rare thing indeed.
2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge
Base price: $57,200
Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with dual electric motors
Horsepower/Torque: 455/523 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy (combined): 28 mpg; 63 mpg-e
Observed fuel economy: 23.5 mpg
Length/Width/Height: 185.4/78.7/65.3 inches
Ground clearance: 8.5 inches
Cargo capacity: 37.8-68.7 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
(Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at [email protected])