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Auto review: Volvo blazes hybrid trail with 2020 S60 e-AWD

By Barry Spyker, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

While Volvo has always been a step ahead of the crowd when it comes to safety, the Swedish carmaker these days is carving a new trail with hybrids and plug-ins, too.

Volvo sold nearly 23% more plug-in hybrids last year than the previous one. This year it expects plug-in hybrid cars to make up 20% of its total sales, according to Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson. And, know this: Volvo is the only carmaker in the world to offer a plug-in variant of every model in its lineup.

The 2020 S60 T8 E-AWD Inscription proves another point: Volvo isn't shy about packing plenty of punch into these fuel-efficient creatures. The S60, among the most powerful of hybrids, touts a combined 400 horsepower from the alliance of its 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged I-4 engine (313 hp) and two electric motors (87 hp).

With gas and electric working together, the nearly two-ton sedan can get up to 60 mph in an amazing 4.4 seconds - without drama, fuss or much noise. The S60 also produces 472 pound-feet of torque, an impressive figure for a smallish midsize luxury sedan.

The T8 plug-in for 2020 gets a larger 11.6-kWh battery pack but that doesn't mean a longer driving range: It still gets only 22 miles on electric alone. Volvo claims fuel economy of 69 mpg-e combining gas and a full charge, but that could take some magic. The gas engine is rated at around 30 mpg when operating alone.

So here's the deal: If you don't wander far, you could go days before tapping the gas tank. A full charge takes 3 hours at a 240-volt station; not bad. The trick with hybrids is that you must be diligent about charging daily. It's easy to forget, or get lazy. For those folks, a nonhybrid S60 is available with the same 313-hp 2.0-liter engine.

 

S60's ride is on the firm side but comfortable and well composed. The suspension is tuned to keep it flat through the S-curves, but it also handles the road's imperfections admirably. Electric-assisted steering is lightweight, possibly to a fault since it hampers feedback.

Power is delegated via a smooth and decisive 8-speed Geartronic transmission. Annoyingly, the shifter drops it into neutral first so you have to tap it twice to get into a drive gear from reverse. All-wheel drive is standard across all four trim levels of S60 and it's front-wheel biased, sending power to rear wheels only when needed.

Selectable drive modes tailor the driving dynamics to fully electric, maximum power for sportier driving, or a blend of adjustments to throttle, steering and suspension for individual driving style.

This is the third generation for the S60. It's also the first Volvo to be built in the U.S. at its new factory in Ridgeville, S.C. It gets Volvo's new signature grille, a streamlined profile with curved hips and a ducktail trunk lid. Volvo designers say they set out to give it a "confident and playful" look.

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