The Volvo XC60 T8 has been modified and improved for the 2022 model year. Kyle got to travel to Belgium and test it out with one of the battery engineers who worked on the car. You can watch the review in its entirety below.
Small Changes, Big Improvement
There is a business philosophy, made famous by the Japanese, called Kaizen. It is translated as “change for the better” or “continuous improvement”. It focuses on gradually improving productivity over time, as opposed to large and often cumbersome changes all at once. Volvo seems to have taken a page out of that playbook when they updated the XC60 T8.
T8 simply stands for Volvo’s hybrid twin-engine technology. These improvements are expected to be seen across the T8 lineup, including the XC90 SUV and the S60 sedan.
The first and most notable improvement is the increase in battery capacity. The outgoing hybrid XC60 used a 12kWh battery which, as Kyle noted, made the SUV perform slothfully at highway speeds in battery mode. There simply wasn’t enough juice to keep the vehicle going at that speed.
The new battery is rated for 18.8kWh, which may not seem like much, but it turns out that 6.8 kWh means quite a bit for an electric motor. In reality, Kyle notes that the usable energy is somewhere around 14.8kWh due to the fact that hybrid batteries get cycled (drained and recharged) much more often than BEV’s.
What is interesting is that this increase in battery capacity has not decreased the interior cabin space. Even the middle console was bigger than expected. This was achieved in a couple of different ways. First, the layout of the battery cells is as such that the interior space is not affected. However, this only works if you don’t increase the size of the batteries.
We find out from Kyle’s friend, Klaus, that not only did Volvo redesign the interior of the battery cells to utilize space more effectively, but they also altered the battery chemistry to make them more efficient. Hence, more power, same space.
Yes, alliterations are fun, but so is this revamped XC60. Because not only did Volvo improve the electric propulsion components, they improved the petrol components as well. After that they made sure the two worked together in perfect harmony.
The petrol motor is now turbocharged instead of turbocharged and supercharged. My guess would be that the rear-drive electric motor fills the gaps in the power band left behind after removing the supercharger. Keeping it would have simply made the vehicle more inefficient.
The 65% increase in power from the electric motor on the rear wheels means that the entire system puts out around 450 combined horsepower. 313hp from the petrol engine in front, and 137hp from the electric motor at the back. Kyle points out how quick and spritely the new and improved electric motor makes the vehicle feel.
Low Speed Test
As with most of Kyle’s electric vehicle review videos, he wanted to try out the low speed calibration first. The XC60 T8 is the first hybrid to utilize one-pedal driving, and Kyle notes it is calibrated excellently. If the battery is able to accept power then regenerative braking occurs, but if it cannot accept the power then friction braking takes over. Volvo spent a significant amount of time making sure the experience for the driver was the same regardless of which braking system was being utilized.
Pulling out of the airport parking structure and onto the roads, Kyle drove the XC60 T8 in pure mode, or full-electric. Klaus makes the point that the improvements made to their hybrids has the benefit of preparing Volvo customers for full electric vehicles. By creating a more robust electric drivetrain in a hybrid car, the driving experience becomes extremely similar to a battery electric vehicle.
Highway Drive Test and Drive Modes
Then, the big test occurs. Since the primary issue with the previous XC60 hybrid was it’s difficulty cruising at highway speeds on battery-only, this test would prove if Volvo had really improved the battery power all that much.
The short answer? Yes.
Kyle notes that even at 70mph, the electric motor has enough juice to pull away from traffic, which was certainly not the case before. Highway cruising can now be done in pure mode without issue.
That leads us into the five different modes the driver can choose from and what they do.
In Pure Mode, as we have discussed, the car is utilizing primarily battery power and drive like a rear wheel drive EV. The vehicle prioritizes efficiency over comfort, so the aircon may be a bit light, but the ride height is also lowered to reduce drag. The petrol motor will still kick in should the battery levels fall too low or if the kickdown switch is reached, but the improved electric drivetrain means gasoline power gets used less often.
Hybrid Mode is the mode that most XC60 driver’s will use. While the previous iteration of Volvo’s hybrid SUV was meant more for city driving, this model allows for more hybrid driving on highways and in rural areas as well. The vehicle will automatically choose what is most efficient and utilize that propulsion system. For example, on the highway it will most likely opt for petrol whereas the battery will be used for city driving where regenerative braking can occur. With a rear-wheel-drive electric motor supplementing the front-wheel-drive petrol engine, handling in inclement weather is also improved. The instant torque from the electric motor is much more responsive than a standard AWD system.
Power Mode is the final drive mode that Kyle tests, although the new XC60 T8 also comes with Offroad Mode and can be optioned with a Constant AWD Mode if one is interested. Power mode utilizes petrol and is supplemented by the electric drivetrain to crank out the full 450 horsepower we discussed earlier. In addition to moving the car forward, the gasoline motor also has the job of making sure the battery stays topped off enough to be functional. Kyle notes that the acceleration is impressive, which is no surprise, and that the gear shifts are quick.
In addition, the way the vehicle switches between petrol and battery power is quite smooth. Kyle notes you can’t even tell that the engine shuts off.
Final Thoughts and Impressions
While Kyle was unable to do any serious cornering tests, the circular off-ramps from the highways provided enough feedback to determine that the XC60 T8 handles well in the corners. It is not a performance car by any means, but body roll is minimal and it feels well-balanced at everyday speeds.
Kyle’s only note of “areas for improvement” was the underutilization of onboard charging capabilities. The 2022 XC60 hybrid uses a 3.6kW onboard charger, which Klaus points out is plenty for people who charge at home, but Kyle would have preferred something in the 6kW range.
Ultimately, Volvo has made several small changes that add up to a big improvement in this vehicle. They didn’t redo the entire thing. They didn’t try to revolutionize hybrids. They just tried to make what they already had a little bit better, and in doing so they made it exceptional.