THE past 12 months has seen extraordinary growth in the UK for Swedish car maker Volvo.
Impressive figures like 380,000 sales in the first six months of this year – the brand’s strongest first half ever – on the back of the best second half in the company’s history during 2020 tell their own story.
Fast-growing demand for Volvo’s electrified range was a big part of that success to the point that by the end of this year the manufacturer expects that more than a fifth of its UK sales will comprise Recharge models, which now include fully electric as well as plug-in hybrids.
Add the fact that the UK is now one of the top four global markets for Volvo, along with the USA, China and Sweden, and it’s no surprise the brand is riding the crest of a wave.
The plan is for electric cars to make up 50 per cent of the company’s global output by 2025, with the rest of production being hybrids.
Leading the way is the XC60 mid-size SUV, one of the most important models in Volvo history and the best-seller every year since 2009, newly revamped with a series of design and technology upgrades.
Styling changes see a new front grille and Volvo emblem, new front bumper and air intakes plus concealed tailpipes – highlighting the brand’s journey towards electrification – while fresh tech includes a rear auto-brake function which engages if a collision risk is detected during reversing, smartphone charging across the entire range and four USB ports.
Most interesting though is the ability to switch on the lights in your home or even prepare the oven for cooking on your way home in the car via voice command, or if it’s frosty outside you can heat up the car before you leave the house.
There’s also an industry-first Android-powered infotainment set-up giving easy access to Google services including Google maps, Google assistant for voice recognition and the Play Store for apps, all included for four years with software updates working in the background.
And if you need to carry laptops there’s even a hidden compartment under two of the rear seats to keep them out of sight.
The new XC60 line-up, which starts from £42,085, comprises three plug-in hybrids and four mild hybrids of which three are petrol and one a diesel, plus the choice of front wheel or four-wheel drive.
Our tested model on the Volvo media launch in Worcestershire was the Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 all-wheel drive variant in premium R-Design trim costing £54,975, though options including Bowers and Wilkins surround sound (£2,500), metallic paint (£685), 21-inch diamond cut black wheels (£1,500) and some seat, lighting and climate packs took the tab to £62,035.
There’s plenty of punch from the 2.0-litre petrol and electric powertrain – 0-62 in 5.9 seconds – with a top speed of a governed 112mph while returning an impressive Combined fuel figure of 100.9 to 113.0 miles per gallon.
Power, AWD and Off-Road settings alter the car’s driving responses and Hybrid is the default mode while an additional Hold setting will save the EV miles along with a Charge mode to boost the battery range.
As for handling and dynamics, the XC60 is both beautifully balanced and assured as well as being nimble around the country lanes we encountered during the driving exercise.
And for fully electric driving there’s now a more powerful battery that sees an increase in energy boosting the EV range from 32 to 48 miles.