Volvo has set a bold goal: All of its cars will be all electrified (hybrid or better) by 2025 and all electric (no internal-combustion engines at all) by 2030. One might expect Volvo to be concentrating on those future EVs, but Volvo is also making meaningful improvements to its T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid models. First to arrive on our shores will be the updated Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge. While we were in Belgium to drive the new all-electric C40 Recharge, Volvo also arranged a little seat time in the latest version of the hybridized XC60—and we’re glad it did.
Bigger Battery, Motor, Range—and Tax Credit
There are two major changes to the T8 Recharge hybrid system. First is its battery, which grows in size from 11.6 kWh (of which 9.1 kWh is usable) to 18.7 kWh (14.8 kWh usable). That ups the XC60 T8’s electric-only range from 19 miles to a much more usable 32 miles. (The battery lives in the XC60’s central spine, so there’s no impact on cargo space.)
Volvo has also replaced the current XC60’s 87-hp electric motor with a new 142-hp unit, raising total system power from 400 to 455 horsepower (of which 313 comes from the 2.0-liter gasoline engine; for those unfamiliar with Volvo’s T8 hybrid system, the gas engine drives the front wheels while the electric motor drives the rears).
These changes improve the XC60 T8 Recharge’s electric-only driving ability, but there’s another important benefit: Volvo anticipates the updated powertrain will qualify XC60 T8 Recharge buyers for a higher $7,500 tax credit, as opposed to the $5,419 credit the current car earns.
Drive Faster! Drive Faster!
We popped our Thunder Grey test car into Pure mode (Volvo’s word for all-electric) and scooted quietly away from the Brussels Airport and onto the highway. Volvo set up the accelerator pedal to make it easy to stay in electric mode; there’s a point of resistance near the end of the pedal’s travel, pushing past which starts the gas engine and unleashes all 455 of the system’s horsepower.
Naturally, us being who we are, we went foot-to-the-floor and were thrilled with the results. Total system torque is now a whopping 523 lb-ft, up from 472 lb-ft. Volvo claims a 4.5-second 0-60-mph time, half a second quicker than the current T8 Recharge. And yes, it does indeed go like the proverbial clappers (whatever they are), jetting forward like a muscle car possessed. It’s an eerie sort of acceleration, not as smooth as a pure EV, with the electric motor’s nonstop torque filling in the power gaps as the eight-speed automatic transmission shifts. It’s huge fun and highly addicting, and if Volvo is really trying to reduce pollution and fuel consumption, perhaps it shouldn’t make acceleration on hybrid power quite so enjoyable.
XC60 T8 Recharge Works on Batteries Alone
But our mission was to see if the updated 2022 XC60 T8 made electric driving more palatable and possible, so back to Pure mode we went. (We were annoyed to discover that once you trigger the gasoline engine, the XC60 T8 switches to Hybrid mode, and the only way to get back to Pure mode is to swipe through menus on the screen—there’s no stand-alone drive mode switch. We voiced our frustration to a Volvo engineer, who told us the team is aware of the oversight and working on a solution.)
Running on the electric motor only, the XC60 T8 is nowhere near as quick. The motor itself generates less than half of the system’s torque—228 lb-ft—and although that’s not slam-you-back-in-your-seat power, it was enough to accelerate to Belgium’s 75-mph speed limit smoothly and without impeding traffic. Truth be told, we probably would have cheated and pinned the accelerator if only it wasn’t such a pain in the you know where to switch back to EV mode. (Maybe the lack of amode switch isn’t such a bad idea, after all.)
Don’t Touch That Brake Pedal!
Volvo has made another major improvement to the T8 system: one-pedal driving, which is common in electric cars but far less so in hybrids. (For those unfamiliar, one-pedal driving engages regenerative braking when you lift off the accelerator. Regen uses the spinning electric motor as a generator to charge the battery, which also creates resistance that slows the car.)
One-pedal driving is engaged by shifting to B (“Braking”) mode. Most hybrids have a B setting that produces minimal regen, but the XC60 decelerates with verve, particularly at lower speeds. We turned off the highway and into town and were indeed able to drive the XC60 T8 Recharge in stop-and-go traffic without ever touching the brake pedal. We praised the all-electric C40 Recharge for its smooth one-pedal action, and it’s the same with the XC60 T8—our prediction is that once owners get the hang of it, they’ll be one-pedaling all over the place.
Other Updates to the 2022 Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge
The XC60 received a midcycle refresh for 2022, and our updated T8 Hybrid drive gave us a quick overview of the changes: styling enhancements, a new digital dash with a fantastic moving-map display, and a new Android-powered infotainment system with Google Maps for navigation. (We have mixed feelings about the new system; see our First Drive of the C40 Recharge for details.) In keeping with its pledge to eliminate leather in its cars by 2030, Volvo is pushing wool blends as the new luxury upholstery. We can get behind that—wool doesn’t sear the back of our thighs on a hot summer day.
Overall, we’re pleased with the changes Volvo has coming for the XC60’s plug-in hybrid system. Americans put an average of 33 miles per day on their cars, so the 32-mile all-electric range is a genuinely useful improvement that will help drivers reduce their gasoline consumption and produce less pollution. And we’ll never say no to a car with more power and stronger acceleration.
Face-lifted versions of the 2022 XC60 T8 are in showrooms now; cars with the bigger battery and motor should arrive in the first quarter of 2022. (There will also be 2022 XC60 Recharge models with the smaller 19-mile battery, so be sure to check the window sticker carefully.) Volvo hasn’t announced pricing, though we wouldn’t be surprised to see a modest bump over the current car’s $55,345 base price. Whatever sticker they put on it, we’ll eagerly await the updated XC60 T8 Recharge’s arrival—it’s a definite change for the better.
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