Volvo Cars, the Swedish automaker owned by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China, scored a major public relations coup with the announcement that all Volvos built after 2019 would be "electrified," meaning battery-powered, plug-in gas-electric hybrids or so-called mild hybrid -- that is gasoline engines with electric assist.
Most of Volvo's post-2019 cars are likely to be mild hybrids, using a 48-volt battery and an electric motor to assist its gasoline engines, a trend that will increase in the U.S. as well. For now, Volvo's only electrified power train is its T8 eAWD plug-in. The T8 has been available on the full-size XC90 crossover and S90 large sedan and now is offered on the new midsize XC60 crossover, new for 2018 and Volvo's best-selling model.
Automakers like Volvo are responding to increasing government legislative pressure in the U.S., China and Europe to introduce more electric and electrified technology, even though consumers haven't bought current electric models in great numbers.
Volvo doesn't typically attract the same sort of stomp-the-accelerator types looking for low 0-to-60 mph times or eye-popping top-end speed. The T8 does impart a good deal of thrill with a 407 hp 2.0-liter gasoline engine, turbocharged and supercharged, driving the front wheels and an electric motor driving each of the rear wheels. Torque is 472 foot-pounds, making it comparable to Volkswagen AG's (VLKAY) Porsche Macan S or Honda Motor Co.'s (HMC - Get Report) Acura MDX Hybrid.
During more than a hundred miles of driving through the Rockies near Denver -- behind the wheel and as passenger -- T8 proved to be nimble and able on winding climbs and descents, as well as straightaways, with plenty of power for passing slow-moving trucks. Volvo's plug-in hybrid system has been tuned for power rather than to optimize fuel economy; though the EPA rating hasn't yet been issued, it probably won't be far from a combined 52 eMPG.
On purely electric power, the T8-powered XC60 can travel about 15 miles, enough for a short commute or a quick trip to the grocery store. XC60 also is available with Volvo's T5 drive train, a 250 hp 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and a T6 drive train, the same 2.0-liter engine with supercharging as well as turbocharging, giving it 316 hp. All three versions of the XC60 are equipped with all-wheel drive, though a front-wheel-drive version will be available later on, Volvo said.
Volvo offers three successively more costly trim levels on the XC60, starting at about $41,900 -- Momentum, Inscription and R-Design -- and each trim is available with all three engine choices. R-Design with T8 starts at $56,200 and is eligible for a $5,000 federal tax credit.
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