2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 review (video)

Mark Davis

We first fell in love with the Volvo XC60 T8 plug-in hybrid in 2020. It was one of the first SUVs to roll sheer performance and efficiency into one vehicle. For 2023, the luxury SUV has been updated with more power, more electric driving range, more features, refreshed design elements, and a long name change to XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 Plug-In Hybrid.

The PHEV (plug-in hybrid) is the only powertrain you can get in the T8 nameplate, and the PHEV setup is not available in any other variant. It sits highest in the lineup, above the Plus B5, the Ultimate B5 Bright, and the Ultimate B6 Dark – Volvo switched to ‘B’ names recently, and all B models feature a mild-hybrid system.

Manufactured in China, you are spoiled with a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo and supercharged petrol engine that pairs with an electric motor and an 18.8kWh battery. Together, they produce a jaw-clenching 340kW of power. All four wheels are constantly powered (electric side powers the rear wheel only), and match to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Prices begin at $72,990 for the lowest spec XC60 Plus B5, and peak at $101,990 for the variant we are testing here – a $3000 increase over the T8 before this mid-generation update (excluding on-road costs) . Let’s see how it weighs up.

2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.0-litre turbo supercharged four-cylinder plug-in hybrid
Output (combined): 340kW@6000rpm / 400Nm@3000-5400rpm plus 309Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 21×8.5, 255/40
ANCAP: Not tested
Tare weight: 2147kg
Power-to-weight: 6.31:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 1.6L/100km
Economy during test: 6.5L/100km[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Fuel capacity/Type: 71L/95 RON
Power efficiency: 212.5kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.51 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.92 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.16 seconds*
1/4 mile: 13.14 seconds at 176.4km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.250g*
100-0km/h braking: 2.97 seconds at 36.46 metres*
Max deceleration: -0.906g*
Decibel at idle: 41*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 84*
Priced from: $101,990[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 – THE PACKAGE

The Swedish car maker has one of the strongest reputations in the world for safety and technology. The XC60 comes with a dizzying list of features and aids to keep you safe. Some of which are made with notably higher precision and cover more variables than other manufacturers. For example, it comes with Volvo’s ‘City Safety’ detection suite, which covers pedestrians, vehicles, large animals and cyclists; and intersection collision mitigation with brake and steering support.

You also get adaptive cruise control with pilot assist that works more accurately than other brands, driver alert, lane-keeping aid, oncoming lane and run-off road mitigation, blind-spot sensors, cross traffic alert, rear collision warning, park assist pilot, a 360-degree camera, and road sign detection, to name a few.

Other tech standard on the Recharge Ultimate T8 is a 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster, two-zone climate control with a humidity and pollution sensor, heated front seats, an outstanding 13-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system, a wireless phone charger, a panoramic roof, 21-inch alloy wheels, a head-up info display, keyless entry with a remote tag, a hands-free tailgate, adjustable air suspension, and that hybrid performance drivetrain.

The 9-inch portrait-oriented centre touch-screen has been a quality setup over the years, but its size is quickly becoming small compared with other luxury SUVs on the market. Though, its operating system is now upgraded to Google’s Android Automotive interface, where apps like Google Assistant, Google Maps and Google Play Store are directly installed and licenced for four years. It’s still brilliantly crisp and clear to read, but everything important is now moved into the settings menu. Some items should be pulled out of that deeper menu and made more quickly accessible with less clicks. For example, drive mode selections. Hopefully, with the versatility of Android, you’ll be able to download different skins that improve the altered layout.

Turning to the fully digital instrument cluster, it also has a notably high quality and clarity about it, making items very easy to read. A minor qualm we find is when the sat-nav is not in use, there is a huge blank space between the speedo and power gauges. We get that a minimalist approach is adopted, but this seems to be a waste of valuable real estate when the gauges are squashed over to each side of the screen.

In terms of interior design not a huge amount has changed in the update, except some new look materials and inlays. But it still measures in as class-leading for contemporary presentation, and quality feel. In the Recharge Ultimate T8, you can choose from charcoal accented leather with metal mesh aluminium décor, wool blend with real driftwood décor, charcoal or slate coloured Nappa leather with metal mesh aluminium décor, or for an extra cost, ventilated charcoal Nappa leather with linear lime wood décor. All options look exquisite. We love the clean, minimalist, flowing contours with that stern upper dash lip, high levels of illumination, and that real metal mesh aluminium décor.

Judging on interior space, there is no shortfall in the front or second row. With a notably open and clean design, the space around you does not encroach on your wriggle room. The seats are bolstered in all the right areas, but not too much to lock you down. Cup holders and compartments are decently sized. Door bottle holders are big enough to fit a wine bottle. But it would be great to see another storage hole in front of the gear shifter like its smaller XC40 sibling.

Boot space in the mid-sizer has increased to 505 litres. But it still falls short of its competitors, the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. Both of those offer 550 litres. Without comparing the figures, we felt the XC60’s boot is adequate to fit a large grocery shop, or luggage for a weekender away. It’s smartly designed with no lip to lift items over, minimal intrusion from the side walls and wheel arches, and suspension height adjustment buttons accessible from the boot. A nifty cargo net is installed on the left side to stop smaller items from rolling around, too.

External design has also undergone a mild touch up – and just as well only mild, as it still looks brilliant we think. It keeps that sheer elegance going with smooth curves crafted into the sheet metal, ‘Thor’s hammer’ LED headlights, and crisp LED lighting all around. It proves that Scandic design ages well. Extra flair has been added to the front bumpers with larger indents under the headlights, exhausts are now hidden, and contrasting black highlights are applied.

Volvo’s warranty plan has also increased from three to five years and unlimited kilometres. Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km. At the time of writing, Volvo Australia is also offering five years or 75,000km worth of complimentary services on all XC60s sold.

2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 – THE DRIVE

The XC60’s new T8 PHEV setup takes Volvo’s most powerful offering, and boosts it further. It now draws out an absurd 340kW of power thanks to increased battery power. This is a 26kW increase since this generation XC60 first launched. It also reduces the 0-100km/h acceleration claim of 5.2 seconds down to just 4.8 seconds. Our testing on a private road revealed a real-world time of 4.92 seconds.

When you gaze at the XC60 with all its elegance and luxury, this amount of power is unsuspecting. It’s difficult realise its full potential without breaking the law. With that instantaneous surge available from the electric side from the rear wheels, and then backed up by a very potent four-cylinder engine, take-off feels lethal. No hill will ever slow this beast down, even with its hefty 2147kg weight. To enhance the experience further, acceleration still feels raw thanks to an eight-speed auto gearbox. No shrill CVT here. Gear shift speeds are fast and smooth.

Fuel economy has also improved in more ways than one, but it gets a little deceiving. The official average has been brought down from 2.2L/100km to 1.6L/100km, mainly because the all-electric driving range has increased to 81km. Great figure. But it is derived from a very specific set of circumstances using the ADR 81/02 test, which might never be accessible to some owners. The test lasts for just under 20 minutes. So, battery range will likely outlast the official test, resulting in very little fuel consumed during that period.

You can achieve this figure when the battery is fully charged, and you drive no more than roughly 100km before plugging it in to recharge again. In other words, you use up the 81km of all-electric juice, then the last 20km is a combination of both engine power and battery power collected from braking energy. If you are able to plug it in to charge in less than 81km, your fuel consumption can be zero. But if you can’t get to a charger that often, your fuel average will rise.

It really is a sliding scale depending on how often you can recharge the battery. To give you another grasp of consumption, depleting one full fuel tank and one full charge of the battery gave us an average consumption of 6.5L/100km, and about 1050km in distance travelled.

We also used the handy battery charge hold function, which uses petrol power and preserves battery power until you turn the mode off. Battery power goes further in slower city driving, and petrol power goes further on freeway speeds. So, if you reserve battery juice for the ‘burbs, you will travel further overall.

To charge the XC60, a standard 240-volt household powerpoint will take about 9 hours from 3 per cent charge to full charge. Or an 11kW, 3-phase wall box will take about one hour and 20 minutes to charge.

The drop of the ‘Polestar’ rendition results in the loss of Brembo performance, floating, slotted brake discs and orange multi-piston calipers. Now you get standard front and rear ventilated disc brakes, which still pull the heavy SUV up confidently and smoothly. Steering is on the weightier side to give that sports confidence and balance on the road.

You get the best of both worlds with the T8’s ride and handling thanks to adaptive air suspension. It adjusts according to your selected driving mode to offer stiffened handling for performance-style driving, or a softer ride for better bump absorption. You can confidently tackle any corner, and it will carry through with strong stability and grip. Its heavy weight also helps to give it a solid and planted feel.

But, we were hoping for more on the comfort side. Bumps are not quite absorbed as well as they are in other luxury vehicles with air suspension. Sharper, un-rounded bumps travel through to the cabin with a thud. Likely caused by low profile 21-inch wheels/tyres. Even though the suspension is adjustable, its height is not manually adjustable to the extent a Volkswagen Touareg’s is. There is only one entry/exit height setting to choose from that is not governed by the pre-set drive modes.

Those glamorous low-profile 21-inch alloys won’t take you far into the bush as they are not designed for off-road touring. An impressive ground clearance of 216mm offers a confident seating position rather than to bounce over boulders with. Speaking of touring, the towing capacity has increased 150kg to 2250kg, making it 250kg greater than the BMW X3 xDrive30e and Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 e hybrids.

2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 – THE VIDEO

2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 – THE VERDICT

The updated XC60 Recharge Ultimate T8 plug-in hybrid is one of our favourite picks in the premium mid-size SUV market. It is loaded with high quality safety tech and struts a distinctly suave and luxurious design, inside and out. But it also gets the balance just right in the current EV climate. With an all-electric driving range of 81km, it offers one of the longest distances on the PHEV market. You can use it as a fully electric car with zero petrol use, or as a reliable petrol car if your route or charging setup is still developing.

Either way you use it, the amount of power you get is astounding – better than many high-profile sports cars. Add to that, it boasts one of the best power-to-fuel consumption ratios on the market today.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Outstanding performance, and one of the best power-to-fuel consumption ratio PHEVs on the market
– Quality in workmanship and materials
– Handy battery charge hold feature allows you to retain battery level for when you will get the best benefit
– Up to 81km pure electric range is one of the highest in the PHEV market
– Audio system by Bowers and Wilkins sounds out of this world
– Class-leading safety package[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Official 1.6L/100km is deceiving unless you have a very specific lifestyle, journey length and driving style
– Despite air suspension, there is still some clunking thuds over bumpers – suspension customisation is also not as comprehensive as others
– No spare tyre (repair kit only) – not ideal for an SUV
– 9-inch touch-screen is small in the current market
– Changing drive modes takes too long to navigate – earlier XC60s had a physical button[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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