For keen cycling enthusiasts, selecting the right car to complement the sport is almost as important as choosing the right bike. Here we take a look at the latest XC60 PHEV from Volvo.
First to what some may consider the elephant in the room … A shiny new Volvo reviewed in a cycling magazine? Absolutely! Most bike riders own and drive a car. And any bike rider looking to replace or upgrade a vehicle would surely have ‘bike friendly’ at the top of the want / need list.
This vehicle from Volvo, the latest XC60 PHEV Recharge, ticks all the boxes so far as the space, storage, safety, technology, efficiency and demanding needs of road and gravel cyclists go.
We’ve recently had the pleasure of test-driving the latest XC60 plug-in hybrid from Volvo Car Australia. A thorough test with no corners cut, we embarked on a 2650km round trip from Sydney that took in Canberra, the NSW Snowy Mountains and Victoria’s High Country prior to returning to NSW via the Hume Highway and Gundagai.
The brief synopsis? This car was an absolute joy to drive and the perfect cycling road trip partner.
First to space, bike storage and luggage carrying capacity – some of the most important fundamentals cycling enthusiasts look for when upgrading or replacing their car. Speaking personally, if a bike won’t fit in with wheels on, or at least the removal of the front wheel, I just wouldn’t even consider buying the car.
Classified as a mid-sized wagon, the XC60 feels cavernous! It is surprisingly wide and full of inclusions that equate to smart usage of space. In addition to its ample internal volume, the review vehicle was fitted with dual Volvo bike carriers on the roof and these safely cradled the road and gravel bikes we took away.
For longer sectors of the journey, we took the bikes off the roof to keep them clean from the swarms of insects and bugs particularly prevalent between Canberra, Dead Horse Gap at the top of Thredbo, and Bright. With the Volvo’s back seat folded perfectly flat, the gravel bike was laid down with both wheels on and covered with a blanket. The roadie was placed on top with the extra protection of a couple of small cushions.
Alongside the two bikes – placed and accessed via the rear left door – was Scicon’s Luggage Trolley 80 – a large 80l wheeled suitcase that held more than a week’s worth of clothing. With another blanket placed over the bikes, the luggage, and all manner of other cycling parts, accessories and paraphernalia we took on the trip, I was truly astonished to take a step back and see how much gear fitted into the back of the Volvo.
Best Of Both Worlds
Not purely petrol, but also not all-electric, the XC60 HPEV Recharge is a plug-in hybrid that offers the best of both of these evolving and competing technologies.
Up front is a turbocharged 2-litre, 4-cylinder internal combustion engine. Strong, quiet and seamless, this is mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. From sitting silently on the street, to feeling supersonic during takeoff, the XC60 launches from 0-100 in 4.8 seconds.
The traditional combustion engine is complemented by the hybrid electric system powered by a bank of Lithium-Ion batteries with an output of 18.8kW hours.
The vehicle defaults to the hybrid mode where it will typically start rolling in electric and then switch to petrol if more performance is required.
In all-electric mode, the range is listed as 70 to 80km. In real-world conditions, we found this to be around 65km – plenty enough for daily urban errands or commuting.
The idea here is plug it in and charge it overnight at home and forget about fuel!
Around town, and with the ICE and electric motors working seamlessly in magical harmony, the official fuel economyfigure is just 1.6l/100km. Out on the open road, and driven in hybrid mode, the consumption figures averaged around 5 to 6l per 100km … super impressive on a long road tip like ours and it was a joy to zoom past numerous (overpriced) highway service stations.
So far as charging goes, the car was supplied with a neat handbag that contained a standard 240v plug-in cable. The XC60 hybrid also self-charges via regenerative braking. We found this particularly noticeable on longer descents during the trip. It was heartening to see the all-electric range increase while we were going downhill – this is shown via a kind of reverse rev counter readout on the dash, the more blue it shows the better.
An all-wheel drive vehicle, handling and grip were absolutely exceptional. This was especially reassuring during a near zero-degree descent of Mt Hotham during early morning rain on the final day of the trip.
And the impressive all-wheel drive and traction control made the difference while getting to an out-of-town gravel location near Mansfield in North East Victoria.
Out on the road, the XC60 plug-in hybrid drives virtually silently. It slinks off the mark on battery power, seamlessly morphs into petrol mode on the highway, and remains phenomenally smooth for the duration of the drive.
You Can Talk To Me
Inside, the vehicle is equally comfortable. The electronic dash and large centre touchscreen display showcases all the information you’d ever need. One of our most used features was the steering wheel-mounted Google Assist button, so handy.
A highlight was pushing the button and saying “Play Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb, live”. A few seconds later we were sitting back, watching the golden Australian countryside passing by, and listening to the intricate detail of David Gilmore’s guitar and voice. ‘You are only coming through in waves, your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying ……’ Aaaah, it sounded so sublime through the onboard 12-channel amp and 19 Bowers and Wilkins speakers.
To comfort, and with scope for almost infinite adjustment, the front seats offer an almost infinite combination of adjustments. Designed by the company’s in-house chiropractor, they no-doubt had a lot to do with the levels of alertness and freshness we felt during and after the 8-hour drive home.
Bikes in the back, the Australian bush flying by, the excitement of the next day’s riding ahead … the Volvo XC60 hybrid went a long way to help make it the most memorable cycling trip in years.
For more on the Volvo XC60 PHEV visit www.volvocars.com/au