A car review on a cycling website? Absolutely! Most riders drive, and this vehicle from Volvo ticks all the boxes so far as the space, safety, technology, efficiency and the demanding needs of road & gravel cyclists go.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve had the pleasure of test-driving the latest XC60 plug-in hybrid from Volvo Car Australia. Recently arriving home after a 2650km round trip that took in Canberra, the NSW Snowy Mountains and Victoria’s High Country, the car was an absolute joy to drive and the perfect 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.
Classified as a mid-sized wagon, the XC60 feels cavernous! 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 between Canberra 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’ll hold more than a week’s worth of clothing. With another blanket placed over the bikes, the case, 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 is a plug-in hybrid that offers the best of both of these evolving technologies.
Up front is a turbocharged 2-litre, 4-cylinder internal combustion engine. Strong, whisper-quite and seamless, it’s mated to an 8-speed automatic gearbox. From silence to feeling supersonic, the XC60 launches from 0-100 in 4.8 seconds.
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. Charge it overnight at home and forget about the price of fuel!
Around town, and with the ICE and electric motors working together in magical harmony, the official fuel economy figure 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 … impressive!
Charge Me Up
So far as charging goes, the car was supplied with a neat handbag that contained a standard 240volt plug-in cable. The vehicle 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 on the dash, the more blue the better.
An all-wheel drive vehicle, handling and grip were nothing short of exceptional. This was especially reassuring during a near zero-degree descent of Mt Hotham during early morning rain.
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 electric, seems to seamlessly morph into petrol mode on the highway, and remains phenomenally smooth for the duration of the drive. 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.
That Sound System!
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 country roll 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, yes 1-9, Bowers and Wilkins speakers.
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.
The full Volvo XC60 plug-in hybrid review will appear in the July-August edition of Bicycling Australia Magazine.