By on January 4, 2012

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.

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16 Comments on “Volvo XC60 Plug-In Hybrid: Because Wagons Don’t Play In Peoria...”

  • avatar

    280 HP out of a turbo 4. Nice job Volvo!

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, it is. I have a 2006 V70 2.5T (5 cylinder) that puts out 208 hp. It doesn’t feel slow, so I’m curious why Volvo felt the need for additional HP in the XC60. if you’re trying to show some green credentials, why not have a more efficient gas engine to bump up the MPG even more?

      I’m still sorry to see the V70 go.

      • 0 avatar

        For feel and sound- the common complaint with the 5 cylinder was its agricultural feel/rough sound. An inline six does sound better when revving (to me and most people) and at a premium price I like to have it as an option. I currently drive a 2005 Volvo S60R (300HP 5 cylinder) and it is damn fast but likely will replace it with a nice used 2011+ 6 cylinder S80 T6. As long as fuel prices stay low in the US Volvo should keep their robust sweet inline sixes as a main stay. They still can adopt Direct Injection and 8 speed autos to reduce consumption.

        HOWEVER keep in mind fuel consumption is NOT the only major factor in being green – emissions is a major component and Volvo’s DRIVE campaign on the Euro continent to reduce CO2 emissions has garnered it much praise.

  • avatar

    The XC60 is one of Volvo’s strongest selling models. I wish Volvo would import a V70 T6 – I think it would sell in small volumes but could command a higher premium (charge MORE for it, how many true wagon alternatives are there? )and profit per unit if all imported were loaded with options. My mom has a XC60 FWD and it draws attention – she is constantly asked about it.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t find the 5cyl unrefined at all. In our 2000 V70, yes, the non turbo 5 is a bit thrashy, but the newer one is as refined as anything else I’ve driven short of an inline 6.
      But, in the hybrid, I’m not clear on the rationale for 350hp. the current XC60s are sporting 300-325 in turbo trim – are customers clamoring for more?
      I assume the 4 is for lightness, which is reasonable, but I would think if they had kept the horsepower target comparable to the current models, then they would only need 230 or so from the new engine. Surely that 50 hp can be traded for higher MPG, lowr CO2 , or whatever other green bogey they want.

      • 0 avatar

        I am happy with the feel of my 5 cylinder too but a lot of the reviews you read of Volvo’s 5 cylinder models often mention subjective comments regarding its feel and or sound. I like the off cylinder count growl myself especially when I hammer the throttle. When you are trying to coax people out of their 3 series and 5 series Bimmers that have had smooth six cylinder as the base engine for a couple of decades it’s hard to sell them on a 5 cylinder with inherently higher level of coarseness and mileage that isn’t better – keep in mind inline 6 cylinders are naturally balanced.

        Now that BMW has changed to 4 cylinders even for the 5 series I think Volvo should play up its ability to put you in a fine handling sedan with a inline 6 for the price of a BMW 4 cylinder. Mercedes decades ago went the cheap route by sharing architecture of it’s V8 and V6 instead of continuing to produce gas inline 6s which they know are inherently superior. The switch to a V6 by Mercedes was a cost saving move. Jaguar stopped using inline 6s too also to save money – Ford already had V6 blocks so why spend the money to develop new inline 6 engines ?(more likely Ford wouldn’t let them)

        People want performance especially when they are paying premium prices – notice how well the Lexus CT200h is NOT selling!

        I suspect Volvo sells a lot cars in densely packed urban areas where accidents occur frequently and you WANT superior power to avoid the nuts you share the road with. I live in Atlanta which is part of the reason I got a 300HP S60R – power and safety to deal with the selfish/careless drivers I am surrounded by. I had my 1998 Volvo C70 totaled in 2010 by a 5300LB Lexus SUV which rear ended me at @30MPH (college student swerving in and out of traffic in the wet- I walked away).

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    So it will go just as far as a Volt on pure battery power and get 50 MPG once the battery is depleted? Really? I highly doubt that but would love for Volvo to prove me wrong. I’ve heard 70K for the diesel version. I would suspect no less than 50K for the gas version on the US.

    Hey honey, I couldn’t sell you on the Volt how about this Volvo wagon?….LOL

    • 0 avatar

      This a lot heavier vehicle than a Volt I wouldn’t expect the same battery only range just because of the heavier weight.

      Will a Volt accelerate from 0-60MPH in under 6 seconds ?
      Does the Volt provide AWD traction ?
      Is the Volt as safe or utilitarian as the XC60 ?

      I think those reasons would easily justify a higher selling price for the XC60.

  • avatar
    Corky Boyd

    More likely the diesel hybrid can’t meet EPA particulate standards. Europe’s are far more lenient than America’s. Many are waiting for the ultimate hybrid (Diesel). GM looked at a small diesel for the Volt and opted for gas. Toyota has stayed away. VW whose turbo diesel would pass, may be the only hope.

    • 0 avatar

      FWIW, GM is rumored to be releasing a diesel Cruze in the US.

      But I think you’re right about the EPA regs, I don’t think very many diesels will be able to be certified. In my neck of the woods, diesel is anywhere from $0.30 to $0.60 higher per gallon than gasoline. That kind of spoils the money saving equation.

      • 0 avatar

        Diesel tends to be more expensive during winter because of demand for heating oil. However, most modern oil burner gets at least 1/3 more efficient that its petrol counterpart . Overall, it is still cheaper to drive a diesel vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      More likely many people won’t buy a diesel in the US. Who else is selling a diesel hybrid in the US? With Volvo’s emissions knowledge I don’t think they will have much problem engineering a small diesel to pass U.S. emissions even without urea catalyst.

  • avatar

    Gas is now 7,96 USD/gallon here in Sweden. Volvo V70 is still one of the most sold cars (S60 and V60 is also selling strong).
    The majority of cars sold are wagons here in Sweden. Wagons are hot in all of Europe.

    • 0 avatar

      You average citizen is probably smarter than the average US citizen that feels they need to intimidate other drives with their massive SUV :) Actually both Ford and GM concluded most SUVs are bought for 1 of 2 reasons :
      1. The SUV buyer has self esteem issues.
      2. The SUV buyer is not confident in their ability to drive.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s without fail that every day in south east Michigan that I’ll see a short guy with a huge truck or suv. Since I’m 6’5″ and have no desire for something so gargantuan, it always makes me laugh.

  • avatar

    i have never understood why americans in general dislike wagons. i live in new york city and they are very popular here. maybe it’s because our driving situation is more like europe’s: we are mostly one car families and we don’t drive to work. when we use our car on weekends it is for getting out of town or shopping at big box stores. there is frequently the need for cargo space but we don’t like the driving dynamics of suv’s. many suburban americans have one sedan and one suv. the suv is for around town and the sedan is for the long commute. my parking garage in manhattan is approximately 1/3 wagons, 1/3 suvs and 1/3 sedans & 2 drs. i drive a 2002 volvo xc70 with the t5. it’s a great car.

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