Volvo has a well-earned reputation for building autos that protect their passengers, but the automaker is expanding its compassion for humans to include the environment. It has launched its Polestar electric vehicle division and offers an all-electric XC40 compact crossover, but plug-in versions of its traditional models will add juice to the plans. The 2021 XC60 Recharge Inscription is a great example.
Inscription means it is the upper level trim with all of the luxury style and gear. The XC60 is already a slick design fronted by Volvo’s trademark grille with cross-slash logo, smooth flanks, strong shoulders, and taillamps that extend to the roof, but additional chrome, curve-following LED headlamps, and 20” wheels distinguish our fly ride. Look closer, though, and you’ll see a tiny little difference between the XC60 Recharge and other versions: A door on the front fender that hides the plug. Connect to household current, or ideally a 240v charger, to give the wagon 19 miles all-electric range.
Moving inside is to undertake a master class in Scandinavian design. Run your fingers over natural wood on the dash, soft Nappa leather on the seats, and laser etched switches for volume, engine starter, and drive mode selector in the console. Swedish glass maker Orrefors crafted the crystal gear selector. Volvo seats have always been supportive pillows of comfort, but these hug your sides, extend their lower cushions for support, and can be heated or cooled. There’s a heated steering wheel too. Open the panoramic moonroof to let in fresh air.
I’d sell my cat for the Bowers & Wilkins audio system ($3,200 upgrade) with Gothenburg Concert Hall mode. It acts as one big subwoofer that fills the cabin with a cloud of sound. Connect devices with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and wireless charging pad. The big center touchscreen looks intimidating, but swipes through logical screens to conjure entertainment, navigation, and climate controls. Swipe right to select from a full menu of crash avoidance systems: Lane keep assist, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian/cyclist detection, blind spot warning with steering assist, cross-path detection, and road fun-off mitigation systems.
Out on the road, you realize Volvo sacrificed no driving enjoyment in the pursuit of electrical plugs. In fact, it’s amplified. The heart of the hybrid system is a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine, connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission and electric all-wheel-drive system. Under heavy loafers, the electric system contributes to the combined 400 horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s rocket power in a mid-size crossover that makes no pretensions of being a sports car. Even better, it achieves 27-MPG combined burning gas or 57-MPGe during the hybrid cycle. Drive with abandon.
Beyond ample smooth power, there are other talents. Unlike some competitors’ systems that can feel chattery over bumps, the four-corner air suspension system on the XC60 provides a buttoned ride. Scroll through the drive modes for Pure Electric, Hybrid, Power, AWD, and Off-road to adjust the steering and suspension from light to firm and throttle response from easy to spirited. The suspension even adjusts ride height – lower in Power, higher in Off-road. Beyond all of that wizardry, drivers get information through a colorful flatscreen instrument cluster and head-up display, keeping eyes safely focused.
Volvo didn’t just create a foreshadowing of its electric future, but rather a better Volvo. It’s safer than ever before, but delights owners with a sensibly luxurious interior, streaming power, smooth ride, and exemplary fuel efficiency. Of course, that comes at a price. Base XC60s start at $41,700, but plug-in Recharge models rise from $53,500. An as-tested price of $71,340 reflects all it contains.
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