Review: 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus - Out-badged by rivals, but outshines them
Shaun · Aug 15, 2020 10:42 AM
Mention Volvo and the word "safe" almost instinctively comes to mind. Yes, the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus is indeed one of the safest cars on sale today, but it's so much more than that.
First, a little refresher on the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus. Volvo Car Malaysia gave the XC60 an update earlier this year. The T8 plug-in hybrid variants now feature a larger battery, at 11.6 kWh compared to 10.4 kwh previously.
Inside, there is now a net pocket on the passenger side of the centre tunnel. And a redesigned Orrefors crystal gear knob. The rest of the car remains the same as before in terms of the spec sheet, but there are minor differences felt in the driving experience, as we shall dive into later.
The Volvo XC60 we have here is the range-topping T8 Inscription Plus variant. Unlike Volvo's R-Design, which is a sportier trim with more gloss black finishing, the Inscription trim has more shiny bits, chromed bits specifically.
From the front, the slats on the grille are outlined in chrome and there are chrome surroundings on the front bumper. Moving to the sides, more chrome at the bottom part of the doors and window surrounds. And at the rear, a hint of chrome around the reflectors.
With the shiny bits out of the way, let's move on to a more subjective matter – design. Personally, I think it's brilliant. I like how the headlamps stretches to the grille, how the horizontal part of the taillamps accentuate the width of the car, and how proportionate it looks overall.
That being said, some of my friends and relatives do have different opinions on its design, particularly the taillamps. Some even said only the front portion of the car looks good. Needless to say, they aren't my friends nor relatives anymore.
In all seriousness, having different opinions or views is completely fine as long as there's no hostility involved. But I digress. Let's get back to the 2020 Volvo XC60.
Again, subjectively I think the design of the interior is perfect. A blend of Swedish minimalism and intricate details, like the tiny Swedish flag cutout on the metal trim surrounding the dashboard.
Objectively though, there are a few issues which are more of an inconvenience than drawbacks. For one, it's the massive centre tunnel that houses the hybrid battery.
It has compromised the depth of the storage spaces in the centre console. So larger items will have to be stored in the door bins.
The rear door aperture is rather narrow. Fitting a child seat or a baby seat will require a bit of fiddling. But there is a booster seat engineered into the rear bench. Also, the middle passenger will have to fight for foot space as the footwell is rather small.
Materials on some parts of the cabin, like the centre console and glovebox, are on the less expensive side. But that's almost nitpicking at this point.
For the most part, it looks and feels exquisite. The leather on the dashboard, wood trim, metalgrill on the fantastic Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and of course, the crystal gear knob just lifts the ambiance of the cabin.
Next is the Volvo Sensus infotainment system. Traditionalists would prefer physical knobs to adjust the climate control on the move instead of peeking down at the screen.
Speaking of the sound system, it's undoubtably the best audio experience you can have in a sub RM 350k car. Highs are airy and crisp, yet never harsh nor sibilant. Bass is weighty and goes deep, courtesy of the subwoofer.
With Individual stage selected, it's as if audio is coming from the windscreen. That shows how precise the imaging is, the sounds are almost tangible.
If you're familiar with plug-in hybrids, you'd know the feeling of pulling away in almost complete silence. It's a peculiar experience if you're used to regular combustion-engine-only cars. Though in time, this too will be the new normal when cars become electrified in future.
Volvo claims a pure electric driving range of up to 50 km from the larger battery capacity, but I've been managing about 35 km before the engine starts kicking in. And when it does, it's almost imperceptible. Perhaps just a distant hum if I'm actively noticing it.
Steering is incredibly light, like one-finger operation light. This makes low speed manoeuvres effortless. At highway speeds, it does weigh up a little to provide more assurance. Feedback is non-existent, but does that really matter in a luxury SUV?
Brakes are surprisingly well calibrated. Before the recent update, it was rather tricky to modulate the braking pressure when the system juggles between regenerative brake and the actual brakes. Now though, it's quite progressive and pedal feel is firm.
Moving on to the star of the show – the 407 PS/640 Nm hybrid powertrain. For a 2.1 tonne behemoth, the 2020 Volvo XC60 accelerates like a racehorse on crack. 0-100 km/h sprint is blazed in 5.6 seconds (Drive mode: Power), the reverse took 36.8 metres.
The "crack" here would be the fully charged battery. Should it deplete, it becomes a little less exhilarating. But 320 PS/400 Nm from the combustion engine is still no slouch.
Around bends or corners, it leans side to side quite considerably and its weight can be felt. The 2020 Volvo XC60 can tackle corners at a respectable pace, but you'd get the sense that it's not meant for it. The BMW X3 feels a lot more composed and reassuring in this respect.
Then again, this is an SUV. Carving corners is far from its purpose, which is wafting along. The Pilot Assist helps the 2020 Volvo XC60 in doing so. Just activate it at a press of a button on the steering wheel, sit back, and relax.
Even on the standard suspension, ride quality is impressive. It's not as firm as its German rivals, so you don't get that typical nuggety feeling ride or rather, the "Conti" car ride. The 2020 Volvo XC60 is more of a waft-er.
Only the sharpest edges on the road can be felt in the cabin, with the occasional thump. But for the most part, it soaks up the rotted tarmac and just wafts along.
Then there are the seats. Volvo says the seats are designed by orthopedic surgeons, and I completely buy that claim. Front or rear seats, they just support the body so well with evenly distributed pressure.
Plus, there's a wide range of adjustment for lumbar support and the seat base extends for additional thigh support.
The cabin remains quiet no matter the speed. Although the engine does make itself heard when driven in a spirited manner. It's a sporty growl and personally, I quite like it.
Wind noise is impressively suppressed for an SUV and road noise is relatively hushed. At 110 km/h, the sound level meter recorded an average of 66 dB.
This is a little tricky as it can differ greatly depending on frequency of charging. This test is conducted on the basis that the XC60 is used as a regular non-plug-in hybrid, which means no plugging in.
At the start of the test, battery percentage was about 50% before the fuel tank was brimmed. After a 102.7 km journey broken down to about 60/40 highway and city, it required 9.29 litres to brim the tank once again. And the remaining charge is about 20%.
This gives us a calculation of 9.05-litre/100 km. Without plugging in to charge, the claimed 2.1-litre/100 km will seem far-fetched. But bear in mind also that the charge option was activated for at least half the journey to ensure adequate performance for the multiple 0-100 km/h runs.
Volvo has nailed the premium SUV formula with the 2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Inscription Plus; it's comfortable, the cabin is exquisite in both design and finishing, and it's brimmed with active safety features.
As a bonus, the hybrid powertrain is almost absurdly quick for a comfort-oriented SUV. And if plugged in frequently, fuel cost will be minimal. If not, then it would be a disadvantage to lug all that extra weight.
If you live in a condominium or have no access to a plug point, then the T8 hybrid variant may not be suitable for you. That is perhaps the main drawback I have for the XC60 T8, you need to charge it day in and out to take advantage of the system.
Unless of course, you don't mind refuelling more often and you want all the extra goodies featured in the Inscription models. Then really, the Volvo XC60 T8 has no glaring downside, especially when you consider the value proposition.
Put it this way, if I were in the market for a mid-size luxury SUV, my money would be on the Volvo XC60.
The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.