There was ample hand-wringing when Volvo announced the death of their iconic station wagon in North America. While enthusiasts mourned the death of a cult classic, Volvo also announced a plug-in hybrid version of their V60 wagon, powered by a diesel engine and a hybrid drivetrain. Naturally, this vehicle was not destined for sale in North America.
The non-available V60 plug-in constituted the ultimate slap in the face for the Volvo faithful. Here was the newest generation of Volvo wagon (as opposed to the warmed over XC70 offered recently) with an environmental bent and the Euro-cachet of a diesel engine – but where was it? As Jamie Kitman of Automobile magazine rightfully pointed out, their core buyer is “green” but refusing to import such a vehicle may not be “lunacy”, because the Swedes have something more suited for American tastes – the same hybrid goodness, packaged as a gasoline-powered crossover.
Rather than the V60 diesel-hybrid, North Americans are being treated to a plug-in hybrid based on the XC60. Set to be unveiled at the North American International Auto Show next week, the XC60 plug-in will use a 280 horsepower 4-cylinder gasoline engine and a 70 horsepower electric motor for a total output of 350 horsepower. The gasoline engine will drive the front wheels, while the electric motor will power the rear wheels. Volvo claims that the vehicle can be driven in electric mode for up to 35 miles and return up to 50 mpg. Stefan Jacoby, Volvo’s CEO, noted that the gasoline powered version will be an important car for China and Russia as well as the United States, as this likely has as much to do with the crossover body style as it does the gasoline engine.
On a personal note, my folks bought an XC60 T6 this summer, and I have spent ample time in it. While perpetually ignored in the marketplace, the XC60 is a car I’m fond of, with a powerful engine, a well-appointed cabin and good driving dynamics. At the time of purchase, I urged my parents to look at the XC70 T6, but it cost a few thousand dollars more and offered little appreciable difference to them. If a couple of upper-middle class car enthusiasts saw little value in opting for a wagon over a crossover, then what chance would a station wagon have with more conventional buyers, who are likely to be even more image-conscious and resistant to the idea of a wagon? On the other hand, my parents have a 5.4 mile commute through a downtown core to their office, and something like this would be right up their alley. Hopefully pricing won’t be so exorbitant that it cancels out any economic benefit for buying the XC60 plug-in.