Volvo plugs in to

greener SUVs

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Volvo XC40 Recharge, 2021, front
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Volvo XC40 Recharge, 2021, rear
Volvo XC40 Recharge, 2021, interior
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Volvo XC60 Recharge, 2021, front
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Volvo XC90 Recharge, 2021, front
Volvo XC90 Recharge, 2021, side
Volvo XC90 Recharge, 2021, rear
Volvo XC90 Recharge, 2021, interior
Volvo XC90 Recharge, 2021, display screen
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Volvo XC90 Recharge, 2021, badge

VOLVO has expanded its plug-in SUV line up as the Swedish car maker presses ahead with its plans to slash the lifetime carbon impact of its vehicles by 40 per cent come 2025.

The company - now owned by the Chinese auto giant Geely - now has three plug-in vehicles in its SUV range with PHEV powertrains offered on the XC90, the XC60 and the XC40.

They're called Recharge versions and are part of long-term plans to go electric which will see the arrival of its first pure EV - another derivative of the XC40 - imminently.

Prices for the plug-ins range from £42,430 for the XC40 to £72,820 for the much larger XC90. The more medium sized XC60 is priced from £52,590.

Each is available in a variety of trims although entry-level Momentum specification is not included.

We have just had the chance to drive all three models back to back in a driving exercise in the Midlands and each is impressive in the high-tech world that is becoming part and parcel of modern motoring.

The XC40 is front-wheel-drive only but the larger XC60 and XC90 are 4x4s with their rear axles driven independently by an additional electric motor.

Various power outputs are available as well giving the models their own performance characteristics although each has a common factor of being much more economical than their conventionally powered counterparts.

As with any plug-in hybrid they use a combustion engine mated to an electric powertrain and can be driven purely on electricity for the average commute.

The XC40 we tried was in top specification Inscription Pro grade and as such is available only as a T5 model with a total of 262 horsepower on tap.

It was priced from £42,430 and comes with plenty of performance from a 1.5-litre thee cylinder petrol engine backed up by an electric motor.

Top speed is 112mph and that is now the case with all Volvos which have limited maximums as a safety measure but 0 to 60 acceleration is a brisk seven seconds making the plug-in one of the quickest XC40s you can get.

But its on fuel economy where the car scores and while officially it is rated at a best of 134.5mpg overall with emissions of just 47g/km in the real world it's a different question.

We took identical 25 mile routes for all three models and drove each car in its hybrid setting throughout. Other drive modes are available but for the purposes of comparison we chose a common setting.

The XC40 managed a credible average of 72.5 to the gallon and according to the onboard trip computer still had a range of some 450 left.

Volvo claims the plug-in has a pure EV range of up to 27.3 miles, though on our run the battery pack was exhausted some 1.5 miles from home.

The XC40 is the lightest of Volvo's three plug-ins and tips the scales at just over 1.7 tonnes - almost half a tonne lighter than the XC60.

The XC60 was in R-Design specification which saw it priced from £52,570 and it has a 2.0-litre petrol engine developing 253 horsepower plus a further 87hp from the electric motors.

Volvo claims it can manage 0 to 60 in a very brisk 5.6 seconds and has a theoretical average fuel return of 113mpg. Its emissions are rated at 55g/km at best.

However, on our drive it retuned a remarkable 84.1 average mpg although its battery range was almost identical to that of the XC40. Volvo claims the XC60 can manage some 33 miles of electric driving on a full charge.

The XC90 is Volvo's heavyweight SUV and in PHEV guise tips the scales at 2.25 tonnes. As a plug-in the combined power output is 390hp with its 2.0-litre engine boosted to pump out 303 of those.

Despite its bulk - and the XC90 is a very large SUV - Volvo is claiming 100.9mpg at best with a CO2 figure of 63g/km and the powertrain gives it an official 0 to 60 time of 5.5 seconds.

That's the quickest of all versions of the XC90 and there's an even more rapid plug-in available in the shape of a Polestar Engineered variant which has a 5.1 second 0 to 60 time.

We achieved an average of 54mpg and although that is a truly impressive return for such a large vehicle, the battery pack was exhausted some 21 miles into the journey.

Boot size is slightly reduced on the plug-in 4x4s but otherwise they are identical to their conventionally-engined cousins and with the XC40 being front-wheel-drive there is no impact on luggage space.

Our exercise showed that Volvo's Recharge cars can make a huge amount of sense when it comes to fuel economy, although the initial outlay will be around £10,000 more on retail price alone.

Factor in the tax savings - and benefit in kind rates can be as low as 12 per cent for the XC40 and only 15 per cent for the XC90 - and the attraction of electric motoring starts to add up.

There is still a way to go before EV driving is the norm but the benefits are beginning to emerge - and they are all in the driver's favour.

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