This Is Not Your Math Teacher's Volvo

by: Adam Strojecki

    Wouldn't it be nice if you could explore your community in complete silence? Imagine taking the kids to school and running your errands without ever wasting a penny on gasoline or being subjected to fueling up your car in the freezing mid-west temperatures as we so eloquently experience here in Chicago.


No, I'm not talking about the electric car (good guess though). I'm talking about Volvo and their range of T8 PHEVs (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle for us simpletons). Volvo currently offers the T8 moniker for most of their range; including the S60, S90, V60, XC60, and XC90. Having had the pleasure of driving (and living with) a couple of these models, I felt I could offer some real-world experiences and advice.


Buying into the T8 grants you access to an extra 87HP and 177TQ over the T6 configuration. That power comes from the electric engine that solely powers the rear wheels. The fronts are driven by the familiar Twin-Charged engine you'll find in the T6, albeit slightly altered, complete with 313HP and 295TQ. Together, the two mate and produce 400HP and 472TQ - in a Volvo! Over the T6 power-plant, your combined EPA estimated mileage skyrockets from 25MPG to 69MPGe, courtesy of the 22 mile electric-only range. Remember those numbers.

Let me back up a little. I'm a 30-something year old that has been fueled by American Muscle and speed his whole life. So when I get into any vehicle without a rumbling V8 and less than 700HP on tap, it's hard to find genuine excitement. That being said, I can appreciate advancements in modern automotive technology and praise those who have the guts to introduce new ideas. Volvo's plug-ins are not only gorgeous to look at, but also have the ability to change the way you drive every day.


Throughout this article you will see a very unique 2019 Volvo S60 T8 R-Design. This particular car underwent our very own McGrath Project Red Edition treatment. Pretty cool, right? Nothing about this car screams "Volvo" or "safe" or "efficient." Luckily for me, it's all that and then some. At a list price of $61,330 (before all our add-ons), this car is loaded! Featuring a class-exclusive $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins Sound System, all the safety features you can imagine, and supple Nappa Leather, every misconception you've ever had of the Volvo brand is suddenly debunked. You're not going to find a sound system this good or a standard panoramic roof in any other car in this class, mind you. Come to think of it, the cars in this class simply don't offer this kind of tech, power, efficiency, and style - sorry Germany (maybe we can finally make LED headlamps standard - it is 2020 in case you didn't get the memo)!


Day 1: Time to take "Project Red" home. With the benefit of a hybrid charger at work, I didn't have to worry about keeping the car fully charged. Off we go, 9PM from our Barrington facility to my home in Northbrook. Will the "claimed" miles get me home? Will I be itching for more power? I get in and I turn the Start knob to the right - nothing happens. It's kind of crazy to think you don't really have to "start" anything when you've got a fully charged battery. Off we go. Switching the drive mode to Pure, I harness only the power from the electric engine, and nothing else. With 177TQ  powering the rear wheels, it becomes obvious that you don't really need any more power/torque for simple city commuting. The dashboard claims I have 22 miles until my gasoline engine kicks on. Seeing as how I live 19 miles away, I feel confident that I can get home without a sip of fuel.


Undeniably, I fell in love that day. Without the gasoline engine ever kicking on, the available 87HP and 177TQ proved fully competent in daily driving duties. That's more torque than a new Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla! The S60 T8 is surprisingly capable in Pure mode, too. Unless the driver at the red light next to me had a heavy foot or a V8, I had no issues accelerating to the local speed-limit in a brisk time. This was kind of cool - I had 472TQ available but only needed 177 to drive to work? That was the first time I uttered "this is awesome" under my breath.


Over the next 3 months, I drove this beauty religiously in all sorts of real-world environments that included the daily drives to work and the weekend trip to the family that were far beyond the applicable 20-some mile electric range. I drove in Pure mode 99% of the time. I loved how the regenerative braking would kick on as soon as you let off the accelerator, too. This was especially fun as you approached a red light in the distance. Given enough space, the car would get down from 50MPH to 15MPH without touching the brake pedal. The car promoted "green" driving, and to be honest, it was a lot of fun trying to push as much MPGs as was humanly possible!

The real trick is when you have to drive more than 20-or-so miles you're allotted. I quickly mastered how to squeeze out all the little MPGs with my frequent 60+ mile one-way trips to Oswego to visit my family on the weekends. This was a perfect test, as I lived about 7 miles from the 294S onramp and my family lived about 9 miles off the 88W offramp. The first few trips to Oswego, I set the S60 T8 into "Hold" with about 10 miles left on the batteries, so I could harness it when I got off the highway on 88W. Results? The car averaged high 30-MPGs round trip. Not bad, but I could do better. The sweet spot is to use all the range right away, then charge. Using up the last 15-or-so miles on 294S, fully draining the battery, and then setting the S60 into "Charge" yielded the best results. The S60 T8 can go up to 76MPH in Pure mode, by the way. When I got off on 88W using this method, I still had about 8-9 miles that were charged while cruising at 75MPH on the highway. With this method, the round-trip results for ~120 miles driven were 45-47MPG. I should add, I always kept a charger in the trunk and wasn't shy about plugging in at anyone's house.


Wonder what the final outcome was? After 3 months and 3,238 miles of driving, this exact S60 T8 returned an average of 117.6 MPG! Wait, what?? Yes - 117.6MPG. Over the mileage driven, the gas engine only burned 1.75 tanks of fuel. Check out the attached screenshot (what's an article without proof, right?) of my phone using Volvo's On-Call Application. With On-Call, you can track your vehicle's location, mileage, send the navigation a destination, and remote start the engine. Truly a remarkable vehicle and remarkable engineering on Volvo's part - bravo.


Is this something you can drive, too? Well, studies show that we humans living in these glorious United States drive an average of 16 miles on our commute to work. That means you can drive to and from work without burning any gasoline, so long as you keep the battery charged. I was lucky enough to have a spare charger at home, so keeping the battery full wasn't ever an issue. If you don't have the fully built in wall charger at home, the simple socket in your garage will suffice. Recharge times were about 6hrs, but generally happened at night when I was sleeping.


I've driven almost every car in this "small-luxury" sedan segment over my 15 years in the automotive business. What can I deduce? While every other "premium" brand offers a great product, little offer so much standard! Yes, you can buy a nice C-Class, 3-Series, or A4. Unfortunately, you'll quickly find yourself adding options that should've been standard in a luxury car. Sorry to say, but it looks like the Swedes have won this round. Best-In-Class Torque and one of the most gorgeous-looking sedans in the luxury market? You might want to hit the drawing board.


I really enjoyed Volvo's S60 T8. It was a breathe of fresh-air in this "boring" car economy that we've been exposed to. Remember back in the 90s when it was cool to own a German car? Suddenly, it doesn't feel as cool as it used to. I'll take my Swedish Missile, please. Welcome to the new era of Volvo.

*Mileage claims are based on author's experience. Customer fuel economy and range will vary.