Think of a premium-badged mid-sized compact SUV and you probably think of something German - an Audi Q5 perhaps, or maybe a Mercedes GLC or BMW X3. We'd also suggest though, that you should be looking at the car we're going to test here, the enhanced version of Volvo's second generation XC60. It's a now a rejuvenated proposition with the option of both mild hybrid and Plug-in hybrid tech.
The first generation XC60 was the car that established Volvo in the minds of buyers in the mid-sized SUV segment. In nine years of production, it became the best selling car in its class in Europe, will nearly a million units sold annually, and accounted for 30% of Volvo's total global sales. Hence the crucial importance of this second generation which, along with the smaller XC40 model, is a key part of the Swedish marque's future SUV strategy. This MK2 model XC60, first launched in 2017, shares its platform with its larger XC90 stablemate but isn't quite such a revolution in terms of its design as that model was at launch. Nevertheless, there's ground-breaking safety tech and smart looks that'll eat into the sales of key rivals like Audi's Q5 and the Mercedes GLC. A subtle update in 2021 saw this car smartened up and embellished with extra media and safety technology. Plus diesel was banished and the PHEV variants got bigger batteries and a more powerful rear motor.
If you were to place entertaining driving dynamics as a priority for your premium-badged mid-sized SUV, then let's be honest, this Volvo probably wouldn't be the first model you'd turn to. But you shouldn't gauge from that an expectation that this XC60 will be a complete duffer when the road turns twisty. It's very far from that, this model described as 'confident and predictable', which is what we've found it to be and precisely what most likely buyers will want it to be. There's unruffled poise and exemplary refinement, plus you get supple standards of ride comfort from the multi-link rear suspension and top variants have the 'Active Four-C' adaptive damping and air suspension package we tried. A standard 'Drive Mode Settings' driving dynamics system allows you to tailor throttle response, steering feel and shift timings from the standard 8-speed auto gearbox to suit the way you want to drive. If you do decide to push on a bit, grip and traction are actually quite impressive aided by the standard AWD system, while cornering body roll is also decently well controlled. All the engines on offer are of a 2.0-litre, four cylinder configuration and come bolted to the same stiff, sophisticated 'SPA' chassis that also underpins Volvo's larger XC90 model. The brand has banished diesel power in recent times, hoping instead to convert customers to the merits of the kind of Plug-in Hybrid XC60 model we're trying here. There are two PHEV variants, badged 'T6' or 'T8', both considerably upgraded as part of this model's mid-term update. Battery size is up from 11.6 to 18.8kWh, facilitating an EV drive range up to around 50 miles; and rear electric motor output has been enhanced from 87 to 145hp. This motor supplements the output of the 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine that both these Recharge variants share and contributes to prodigious power outputs - 350hp for the T6 and 455hp for this T8. If you really don't want to plug your XC60 in, there's a B5 petrol version with a more conventional version of the 'Drive-E' 2.0-litre turbo engine, in this case embellished with 48V mild hybrid tech.
This lightly revised version of the second generation XC60 isn't visually very much different. Volvo has slightly tweaked the styling of the front new grille and the front bumpers and added fresh exterior colour and wheel options. As before, this mid-sized SUV shares the same Scalable Product Architecture platform as we've seen in most of Volvo's recent models, including its larger XC90 sibling. At the wheel, you sit lower than you would in an XC90 and the muscular-looking door creases and the extended 'Thor's Hammer' headlights give this model quite a sporty look. There's a longer bonnet than a rival Audi Q5 - and a longer roofline too. As you'd expect, there are plenty of cabin resemblances to the XC90, especially when it comes to the dashboard, seats and upholstery, plus an updated version of the same 12.3-inch digital dial display features. As before, there's a 9-inch centre screen but it's now very different, updated with the brand's latest Android-based connectivity tech. This intuitive, next-generation infotainment system offers customers unprecedented personalisation and unparalleled connectivity. This is further enhanced through the introduction of a Digital Services package, the centrepiece of which is access to Google apps and services, which offer hands-free help with Google Assistant, best-in-class navigation through Google Maps and a broad offer of native in-car apps via Google Play. In the back, two adults should be very comfortable thanks to a relatively lengthy wheelbase. And there's also a really unique touch - concealed storage compartments under the rear seat bases which are just the right size to store electronic devices, like a tablet, out of sight. Out back, there's a 483-litre boot (468-litre with the PHEV version), extendable to 1,410-litres (1,395-litres for the PHEV) once you fold the rear bench.
As we've been saying throughout this review, the main decision you've now to make in considering this evolved XC60 is whether or not to pay the premium Volvo wants for its Plug-in Hybrid tech. It's quite significant: at the time of our test in early 2024, the only remaining conventionally-engined variant, the B5 petrol mild hybrid, was priced from just under £48,000 and offered a saving of around £8,500 over the mainstream PHEV model, the T6 Plug-in hybrid AWD, which was priced from around £56,000 in base 'Core' form. With either powertrain, you're probably going to want to pay the £4,000 or so extra Volvo wants to upgrade your car to mid-range 'Plus' spec - at which point you get a choice of look; either 'Dark Theme' or, for around £1,800 more, 'Black Edition'. If you want the faster T8 Plug-in hybrid AWD model we're trying today, there's a big price jump because you're restricted to the top-spec 'Ultra' trim level we tried - which you can also have with the B5 engine should you wish. At the time of this test, the T8 was pricing from around £68,500 and (like an 'Ultra'-spec B5) was available with a choice of three similarly-priced styling packages - 'Dark Theme', 'Bright Themes' and (for a little more) 'Black Edition'. Safety-wise, this XC60 comes equipped with Volvo Cars' latest Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) sensor platform, a modern, scalable active safety system that consists of an array of radars, cameras and ultrasonic sensors. A recent addition is a rear auto-brake function that automatically engages if a collision risk is detected when reversing, dramatically cutting the chance of a parking scrape. Extra camera features are included if you avoid base trim, as is a degree of semi-autonomous drive tech, courtesy of the brand's Adaptive Cruise Control and 'Pilot Assist' features.
A mild hybrid XC60 B5 manages a combined cycle fuel figure of up to 35.3mpg and a CO2 return of up to 181g/km. To give you some class perspective, we'll tell you that the equivalent figures for a rival Audi Q5 45 TFSI are 33.6mpg and 191g/km. Surprisingly, Volvo chose to base the PHEV versions of this car around a version of this engine further embellished by supercharging, never usually a helpful thing for efficiency. In the T6 and T8 Recharge models though, it's aided by a 145hp rear electric motor powered by a now-larger 18.8kWh battery which, as we told you in our 'Driving' section, allows for an EAER-rated all-electric range of up to 51 miles for the T6 and up to 49.7 miles for the T8 variant we tried. Taking that into account delivers the usual difficult-to-replicate set of PHEV stats; up to 313.4mpg on the combined cycle with up to 22g/km of CO2 for the T6; and up to 282.1mpg and up to 23g/km of CO2 for this T8. Theoretically then, you could use an XC90 T6 or T8 every day without ever visiting a fuel station unless you needed to undertake a longer trip. That's assuming of course that you keep the lithium-ion battery fully charged. To compensate for the fact that the battery's larger, Volvo has upped charging speed from 3.7kW to 6.4kW, which has quickened things considerably. A 7-metre Type 2 charging cable's provided. A three-phase AC garage wallbox will be able to replenish the battery completely in around 3 hours; with a single-phase AC supply, you're looking at around 5 hours. Connecting up to a normal domestic three-pin 10amp supply will take about 7 hours. We should also mention that it's possible to replenish the battery of your PHEV XC60 on the move, via a 'Charge' option you'll find in the 'Battery Usage' section of the centre screen. This forces energy into the battery on the move, but strains the engine to do it, increasing fuel consumption. Honestly, we wouldn't bother using it unless you absolutely have to. As we told you in our 'Driving' section, the same menu gives you the option to 'Hold' the battery's charge for use later in your journey - say for town driving at the end of a long trip. Across the range, service intervals are every year or 18,000 miles. Three or five year pre-paid servicing packages are available to help you budget ahead. If you pay extra for the useful 'On Call with App' remote connectivity system, this Volvo can be programmed to autonomously realise when a service is due, then automatically book it for you at a dealership of your choice. Finally, we'll tell you that the warranty is the usual three year, 60,000 mile package.
For quite a number of buyers, this improved second generation XC60 will represent exactly the way a premium mid-sized SUV should look, should feel and should operate. And, like its larger XC90 stablemate, it delivers something refreshingly different to what's on offer from obvious rivals. So there's plenty to like. The brand's chosen four cylinder 2.0-litre 'Drive-E' engine formula offers everything you need and nothing you don't in this class of car. The added Android infotainment system is cutting-edge. The Recharge T6 and T8 variants still deliver the kind of power in a plug-in hybrid that rivals struggle to match. And the inclusion of a still segment-leading range of standard-setting safety features shows just what can be achieved in this regard by an SUV of this kind. And in summary? Well this car might not please magazine road testers, but we can't help feeling that it's been cleverly perfected for the actual priorities of its targeted market. This then, is the Swedish SUV. Evolved.