A mid-size Volvo SUV with 300kW/640Nm is like one of those movie characters. You know the ones: a regular Joe or Jane with a humdrum job who turns into a kick-arse crime fighter in their spare time.
It’s an unexpected turn of events. We wouldn’t normally spend much time with the Volvo XC60 as traditionally there hasn’t been a performance bolt in its body, but those outputs and the fact our sister mag Wheels crowned it their 2018 Car of the Year suggested it might be worth a closer look.
Volvo’s path to its muscle-car like power and torque figures is an unusual one. It starts with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, boosts it with both a turbocharger AND a supercharger then adds an electric motor to each rear wheel for all-wheel drive capability.
The internal combustion engine provides 235kW/400Nm with the remaining 65kW/240Nm added by the e-motors. Just as the XC60 T8 is a car of two power sources, it’s also a car of two distinct personalities.
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Volvo might now be owned by the Chinese, but the injection of capital has allowed its Scandinavian soul to flourish. The design inside and out is fresh, clean and, crucially, different to its largely German opposition.
Inside, the dash is dominated by the 9.0-inch vertical touchscreen which, by and large, works intuitively.
On the move the ride is decent, though the giant 21-inch wheels don’t help, the myriad active safety systems aren’t too intrusive and it’s a relaxing place to be, particularly as most journeys can be completed in complete silence.
Early plug-in hybrids had an electric-only range about as long as the average driveway, but the XC60 can complete around 40km of engine-off driving. The switch between the two power sources isn’t completely seamless and there’s some torque steer under hard acceleration, but switching to ‘Power’ mode (Volvo-speak for Sport) changes the experience dramatically.
Throttle response is instant, traction is absolute and this 2.1-tonne SUV hangs on in the bends with remarkable poise. The steering offers little communication, but points the nose precisely and there’s a surprisingly dogged resistance to understeer followed by great punch out of corners.
A Volkswagen Golf GTI might have a hard time shaking a well-driven XC60 T8. An Audi SQ5 or Porsche Macan S is still going to have more enthusiast appeal, then there’s the fact the XC60 T6 forgoes the batteries to deliver a more traditional 235kW/400Nm all-wheel drive SUV and saves you 200kg and $16,000 in the process.
2018 VOLVO XC60 T8 SPECS:
Engine: 1969cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo, s/c, hybrid
Power: 300kW (combined)
Torque: 640Nm (combined)
0-100km/h: 5.3sec (claimed)
Like: Potent powertrain; surprising handling
Dislike: Complex; heavy; image
Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars