I HAVE a theory that unless you’ve spent an entire day in a car, you don’t truly know it. And I mean an entire day. The kind that starts with a 5am alarm and finishes in the dark, your eyes ruined from searching the roadside for ’roos, your lap covered in chip crumbs and the centre console and door pockets littered with spent coffee cups.
I endure such trips more often than I’d like by virtue of living in Melbourne but having family in Mudgee. In fact, it happens so frequently now that the Inwood clan’s migration north of the border unfolds like a beautifully choreographed dance, with every task honed for speed and precision. Fuel stop duties are neatly divided (refuelling and window washing for me, coffee orders and fixing up the bill for my wife) and even our luggage is packed in a particular way to allow room for the two dogs.
It’s a brilliant test of a car’s all-round ability, with a particular focus on seat comfort, cabin space, refinement and, thanks to a backroads stretch through Muttama and Wombat, ride and handling. After hours on the Hume, the undulating 160km shortcut is a welcome boredom breaker, with fast sweepers that tighten unexpectedly, blind crests and rubbish rural tarmac.
This month saw the Volvo complete its second interstate jaunt and, for those familiar with the T8’s progress thus far, it should come as no surprise that it performed strongly. The seats and seating position are bang on and inflict no hint of back or leg ache, the cabin is hush on smooth surfaces, acceptable on coarse chip, and the optional air-suspension is quiet and comfortable with decent compliance over big compressions while also ironing out most of the small stuff.
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It’s an excellent long-distance cruiser and the T8 is fun on the winding shortcut too, thanks to precise steering and near-unflappable road holding that ensures rapid progress without turning the serene cabin into a mess of dog vomit and a disgruntled wife.
It was deep into our return leg, however, that a small hiccup appeared on the digital dash. ‘Regular maintenance overdue’ it read, signalling DQC55W was due for its 15,000km service. No biggie, I thought, I’ll book it in when I get home (handily, you can organise an appointment at the dealer through the XC60’s central touchscreen).
But then, with nothing but hours of road ahead, I began to consider the T8’s battery pack. While efficient and useful for commuting on money-saving electricity, could the batteries and motor become problematic and expensive to maintain? A call to Volvo put my mind at ease.
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Turns out the T8’s servicing is no costlier or complicated than a conventionally powered variant (see sidebar, above) and the battery pack itself is guaranteed for the life of the vehicle. With that blip attended to, I was left to crank up the stereo, dive into another chip packet and sink further into the plush leather seat as the glowing city lights of Melbourne grew ever closer through the windscreen.
Spanner and the works
Volvo describes the T8’s battery pack as a serviceable unit, meaning that unlike earlier hybrid batteries, individual cells can be replaced if they fail. Despite its powertrain complexity, servicing costs for the T8 are the same as the rest of the XC60 range, varying from $745-$865 every 15,000km/12 months. As for resale, the T8’s respectable 61 percent retained value after three years is consistent with other XC60s, so no hybrid penalty there.