Leading the ‘charge

James Batchelor reviews a double winner at the Towcar of the Year Awards 2024

News of Volvo axing its estate cars last year was understandably met with surprise and sadness by hordes of families and caravan owners alike. Happily, though, the manufacturer’s remaining bevy of SUVs are all rather good, none more so than the XC60 mid-size model. It’s so good, in fact, that it walked off with both the ‘Family Towcar’ and ‘Hybrid’ gongs at the Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar of the Year Awards 2024. We thought it was only right to submit the XC60 to in-depth testing. 

Comfort – 89%

Plenty of space in the back

Over the past few years, UK sales of Volvo saloons and estates have dwindled while its SUV sales have rocketed. The second-generation XC60 is consistently the Swedish brand’s best-selling model globally, and since its launch in 2018 it has been subtly and periodically updated. 

The latest refresh brings marginally tweaked looks, a Google-based infotainment system, new trims and specifications, and larger batteries for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) ‘Recharge’ models.

Volvo has replaced the older XC60’s 11.6kWh battery pack with a 19kWh one and fitted a more powerful – 143bhp – electric motor on the back axle. The pure-electric range has now been bumped up from 33 to 51 miles – a very healthy improvement (and very useful, as I shall explain later) – while there’s now also the option for one-pedal driving (the brake regeneration is cranked up, meaning once you lift your foot off the throttle the car comes to a stop without the need to touch the brakes).

The older model’s complex turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol engine has been simplified – it’s now just boosted by a turbo, while an electric generator, sitting between the engine and gearbox, cranks the engine, boosts the torque and also charges the battery when needed. The XC60 Recharge comes in two flavours, T6 and T8. The former has a combined power output of 350bhp and the T8 has a bonkers 455bhp. It’s the T6, the more popular version of the two, that is tested here. 

The interior is the epitome of beautiful design and excellent quality – soft leather (an eco wool blend for the seats is also available) is mixed with metal detailing and open-pore wood inlays, making this cockpit one of the best around. The Google-based infotainment system works well, mostly – a real highlight is the addition of Google Maps for the sat-nav – but a few too many prods of the screen are needed to perform some basic functions. Speaking of which, Volvo has removed the drive mode switch from the centre console and buried it in a menu within the infotainment system. It’s a small gripe and one that probably wouldn’t matter in mild-hybrid-petrol-powered XC60s, but in the plug-in hybrid Recharge cars switching between ‘Pure’ (pure electric mode), ‘Power’, ‘Hybrid’ and ‘AWD’ (all-wheel drive) modes is now a hassle. 

The XC60 is a roomy SUV with plenty of space in the back for a couple of six-foot passengers – they’ll also appreciate the wide rear seats and the generous headroom, even if you opt for a sunroof. The back seats fold in a 60/40 split and a ski-hatch is standard; you can even option fold-out booster seats in the two outer seats but, sadly, sliding or reclining rear seats isn’t an option. 

The boot, at 468 litres, is a good size. Well-shaped door mirrors allow towing mirrors to be attached easily, while there’s only one towbar available – an electrically retractable one that costs £1,400. 

Our car was the mid-spec Plus model that added heated seats all round, heated steering wheel, 360˚ parking camera, electric driver’s seat and a 600W Harman Kardon sound system over the entry-level ‘Core’ model.

Driving – 87%

Beautiful design and excellent quality inside

Plug-in hybrids offer plenty of benefits. A healthy 51-mile (claimed) EV range means that local journeys (unhitched) can often be completed without using a drop of petrol, while the electric motor gives extra torque and boost when towing. Meanwhile, low CO2 emissions of up to 22g/km mean cheap road fund licence costs. 

The electric motor on the back axle of the XC60 gives the car all-wheel drive, and the switch between petrol and electric power when driving is nearly seamless. It’s quick, too – with a fully charged battery, you get the full sensation of petrol and electric power with 0-62mph taking just 5.7 seconds (4.9 seconds in the T8). 

Despite all this power, the XC60 is a very refined car to drive. It doesn’t steer with the precision of a Jaguar F-PACE P400e or a BMW X3 xDrive 30e, but there’s a well-rounded character to the big Volvo. The seats are fantastically comfortable and despite our car’s optional 20in wheels trying their hardest to disrupt the ride, the XC60 glides along nicely.

Over the course of 800 miles, I averaged over 45mpg and the car routinely gave me over 40 miles of EV range, which is pretty good. As for charging times, thanks to a 6.4kW charger, it takes five hours to top up the battery from a home wallbox.

Towing – 87%

Electrically retractable towbar

Impressively refined driving characteristics when driving solo doesn’t always equate to a similarly impressive towing experience, but that’s not the case with the XC60. We hitched up to a caravan with an MRO of 1,546kg and the XC60 hauled it with ease. Naturally, with 350bhp, power is not an issue, but the XC60 deploys it in a calm manner. The gearbox hangs onto gears when needed, such as when navigating steep inclines, and the combination of electric and petrol power gives great traction to all four wheels. 

During my test, there was only a slight movement from the outfit when overtaking tall-sided vehicles, but for the most part it was a stable combination. That slight lack of steering feel and precision is more noticeable when towing, but it’s not a huge black mark against it, and the brakes – normally the Achilles’ heel of a plug-in hybrid – had good feel and stopped the outfit safely and quickly. An average fuel consumption of 24.6mpg when towing is decent, too. 

Verdict – 88%

A hugely deserved winner of two categories in the Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar of the Year Awards 2024. The XC60 Recharge is super-smooth to drive, frugal and tows extremely well. A plush interior and upmarket image seal the deal.

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