After nearly a year of waiting, Volvo has announced the full specifications and pricing of its first plug-in hybrid car, the 2012 Volvo V60 Diesel Plug-in Hybrid Wagon.

Last February, we were invited to Sweden to get an exclusive sneak peak of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon concept. Then in June we were given the chance to get behind the wheel of one of Volvo’s early prototype cars at the 2012 Challenge Bibendum 

Now we can tell you about our pre-launch visit to Gothenburg, where Volvo executives displayed the production V60 Plug-in Hybrid wagon for the first time, strongly hinting that the V60 Plug-in Hybrid isn’t going to be the only plug-in hybrid we’ll see from those Swedish chefs of safety in the coming months.  

A Series Of Firsts, With No Compromise

Volvo is visibly proud of the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon. While it might not be the first plug-in car to the market, Volvo executives are keen to point out that the V60 Plug-in Hybrid is a first in several other key areas.  

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

  • It is the first plug-in wagon to make it to market
  • It is the first luxury plug-in car to make it to market which isn’t a sports car.
  • It is the first plug-in clean diesel electric hybrid on the market. 
  • It is the first plug-in hybrid which can tow
  • It is the first plug-in hybrid to be truly ready for extreme cold weather

Throughout the cabin, there's a sense of luxury too -- the first 1,000 cars will come in a Pure Limited specification, which includes leather seats, Artic Night wood panelling, twin chrome exhausts, specially designed alluminium wheels, and all of the other top-of-the-range features you'd expect from a Volvo. 

There are some nice touches you might not expect as well: the gear selector lights up to tell you which position it is in, while a smartphone app lets you pre-heat or cool the cabin in a variety of ways depending on where the car is and its state of charge. 

And ulike some cars which scream their eco-credentials, the Volvo V60 plug-in hybrid is completely understated. From the rear, only the subtle chrome strip on the tailgate hints at its impressive fuel economy, while a small Plug-in hybrid badge sits on below the "A" pillar on both sides of the car.There are other clues too, like the specially-designed front grille and front spoiler, but to the untrained eye, it looks like any other volvo wagon.

In other words, the Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid is the green car equivalent of a street sleeper. 

Through-The Road Hybrid System

Volvo’s No Compromise ethos follows in the car’s specifications. Up front there’s a 2.4 liter, five-cylinder diesel engine married to a six-speed automatic gearbox. Producing 215 horsepower, it is supplemented by a 7 kilowatt electric motor, which enables the V60 Plug-in Hybrid to enter all-electric all-wheel drive mode when required. 

Driving the rear wheels is a 50 kilowatt peak electric motor, making the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon a through-the-road hybrid. Combined, the entire drivetrain system can produce an impressive 472 foot-pounds of torque, and, in power mode, accelerate the car from 0-62 mph in just 6.2 seconds. 

All that torque comes in handy for towing too: Volvo claims the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon can easily tow up to 1.9 tons, although fuel economy won’t be anywhere near the  headline-grabbing 1.9 l/100km (124 mpg) it has achieved on the European test cycle. 

Electric Only Performance

While the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon uses a conventional diesel engine and a conventional front-wheel drive automatic gearbox, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon can drive for up to 32 miles in all-electric mode thanks to its 11.2 kilowatt-hour (8 kilowatt-hour useable) battery pack from LG Chem and rear-wheel drive electric motor.

Capable of driving in all-electric (Pure) mode at highway speeds, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon offers those with an average commute of around 30 miles the option to use only electricity during the week, switching to diesel power for longer weekend trips. 

In Pure mode, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid accelerates more slowly, but Volvo insists that its performance is still on par with other plug-in cars on the market. 

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

Ready For Cold Weather

Volvo’s V60 Plug-in Hybrid wagon has been been built to withstand all extremes of weather -- and that includes the bitter frigid winters of the frozen Arctic North. As a consequence, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid features many special features which most plug-in cars don’t have. 

Firstly, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid uses two starter motors. In addition to the 7 kilowatt high-voltage motor/generator it uses to start the diesel engine once the car is moving, the V60 Plug-in Hybrid wagon also uses a 3.5 kilowatt conventional starter motor to enable the car to perform cold-starts in extremely low temperatures. 

In addition, the car uses an innovative cooling and heating system that not only controls the temperature of the engine block, battery and cabin, but also the motors to ensure that both passengers and car are always operating at an optimum temperature. 

To cool the battery pack, Volvo engineers have developed a system that can use both cold liquid from the car’s powerful AC compressor, as well as use a heat-exchanger unit to cool the battery pack ‘for free’ in cold weather. 

Not Heading For The U.S.

Priced at around £47,000, the 2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid will launch next year in key European markets. In the U.K., car sticker prices include 20 percent taxes, so we estimate the equivalent U.S. cost to be somewhere around $58,667. 

But as we’ve said before, Volvo isn’t planning on bringing the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon to  the U.S.

Firstly, Volvo executives don’t feel that a plug-in hybrid diesel would be well received in the U.S. 

It has a point: a plug-in diesel hybrid wagon would represent a niche within a niche within a niche. 

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

2012 Volvo V60 Plug-in Hybrid

In the U.S., clean diesel cars account for a tiny proportion of all new car sales, while advanced drive cars -- that’s hybrid and plug-in cars -- only accounted for 2.75 percent of all new car sales in November. 

In Europe, where 50 percent of all new cars are clean diesels, and many new cars are wagons, a plug-in hybrid wagon makes more sense. 

Secondly, Volvo doesn’t believe the V60 Plug-in Hybrid wagon can compete on price in the U.S. market. Much more expensive than cars like the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, and even the luxury base-level 2012 Tesla Model S Sedan, Volvo believes the V60 Plug-in Hybrid Wagon wouldn’t sell well. 

There’s Hope

But while the V60 Plug-in Hybrid isn’t coming to the U.S., Volvo executives are keen to point out that the U.S. hasn’t been forgotten. 

Earlier this year, Volvo unveiled a whole new line of four-cylinder engines, which it claimed would be up to 200 pounds lighter, more powerful than its current six-cylinder engines, and consume up to 35 percent less than its current four-cylinder engines. 

It has also previously hinted at the development of a new vehicle platform that would be developed to make electrification of Volvo’s entire car range easier, moving it towards a goal of zero tailpipe emissions by the year 2020. 

When we visited Volvo’s Gothenburg headquarters last week, Volvo executives remained tight-lipped about any future cars, but strongly hinted that the U.S. would be getting a U.S.-market plug-in hybrid in the near future. 

It doesn’t take much imagination to speculate what that could be, and with several auto-shows coming up in the next few months, we could see Volvo’s U.S. plug-in hybrid debut pretty soon.

All we know is this: If the European-specification V60 Plug-in Hybrid is Volvo’s entrée into the world of plug-in hybrids, the Swedish chefs are cooking up one amazing main course. 

Volvo provided airfare, lodging, and meals to enable High Gear Media to bring you this first-person news report.


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