Published on July 25th, 2023 | by Subhash Nair0
2023 Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 Ultimate Review
The Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 Ultimate is the culmination of many small improvements over time.
The Volvo XC60 is far from a spring chicken at this point. This second generation model was launched in Malaysia back in 2018 and has since been given update after update to keep it even more appealing against rivals from Germany and Japan. Today, we have quite possibly the final revision of the XC60 in the form of the T8 Ultimate model. To be clear, Volvo Car has yet to show a third generation XC60, but the hint is in the name, ‘Ultimate’. So what’s new on this Swedish SUV?
As we mentioned earlier, the XC60 has received numerous small updates over the years with one noticeable design facelift coming about 2 years ago and then another equipment upgrade for the 2023 model.
Compared to the original XC60 T8, this one comes with a much larger 18.8kWh drive battery as its biggest update. The petrol and electric motor are both not the same as they were at launch. The 2.0L 4-cylinder no longer features a supercharger but now puts out 317PS and 400Nm of torque, which is about 10hp lower than before. Despite the drop in hp from the petrol side of the equation, you get a bit boost from the electric motor. It is now rated at 145PS and 309Nm of torque, which is up from 88PS and 240Nm of torque at launch.
It also has the latest Google-integrated Android Automotive OS system baked into the vehicle with updated animations and a new digital layout. In terms of looks, the XC60 T8 Ultimate now comes with the sporty R-Design package rather than the luxurious Inscription package. This also comes with blacked out exterior trim pieces.
On the inside, things are a little less aggressive and sporty but you will find some ‘Open Grid Textile’ upholstery on the seats and door cards. Other equipment pieces that have been updated over the years include the redesigned Orrefors crystal gearknob and the removal of the physical Drive Mode selector button. There’s also a wireless Qi charging pad. Another minor change comes to the visual look of the Bowers & Wilkins speaker setup. No longer do the speaker drivers feature a yellow finish. They are now a much more subtle grey.
The biggest improvement to the XC60 is in the way it drives. The new PHEV setup is class-leading in terms of figures. Total system output is 462hp and 709Nm of torque, which gives it a 0-100km/h time of just 4.8 seconds. Behind the wheel it certainly does feel a lot faster. That being said, the biggest difference is in how it handles that power.
After years of tweaking, the XC60 finally has the dynamics to handle that power at high speed. The steering feels more communicative at higher speeds but really it’s the braking that feels so much more improved in terms of feel and in terms of distribution of brake force. In the past, the XC60 T8 model tended to dip its nose drastically during heavy braking. The new model stays level. All-in-all, it’s a much better car to drive fast in.
What’s more, because the drive battery is so much larger and the electric motors are so much more powerful, the XC60 Recharge T8 is now able to drive on pure electricity for a lot longer. You’ll barely notice the transition from petrol to electric and back while in hybrid mode. And when in pure electric mode, you can now get 81km on a full charge. That is as good as it gets in terms of electric range for PHEVs in Malaysia. In our testing, the Volvo XC60 T8 Ultimate was extremely fuel efficient without us even attempting to be light-footed. A full tank of petrol and a fully charged battery can easily return 700km of mixed driving. A light right foot and more highway driving would stretch that number much further.
The only area where we feel the current XC60 T8 doesn’t quite live up to the initial XC60 T8 is in secondary ride, which came with air suspension on the CBU models. The current setup with the Dynamic Chassis tuning is simpler but it does mean that you feel a lot of road surface imperfections transmitted into the cabin.
Design & UI
In terms of looks, some may actually prefer the understated classiness of the Inscription package. However, we feel that the R-Design look does work better for this type of vehicle. The XC60 owners are less likely to be chauffeured around that XC90 owners, so aggressive looks are definitely the way to go.
With the R-Design package, you’re getting a square mesh grille, an X-shaped front bumper with vertically aligned grilles on either side. You also get a different look for the rear bumper with a hidden exhaust.
Altogether, the bodykit features a lot of glossy black trim instead of chrome. This gloss black treatment extends to the wing mirrors, glasshouse surrounds and roof rails too. It all looks best in this new Fusion Red colour.
The interior of the XC60 is just as nice as it has always been. The seats are comfortable, very adjustable and supportive with ample legroom and a non-intrusive center tunnel (unlike the last two generations of the GLC).
The interior design is minimalist and luxurious with metal inlays, knurled physical knobs, tactile buttons and a light dash of glossy black plastic.
While the dual digital displays seem to be the same as they were on the launch model, the XC60 has seen some massive upgrades in this department too. The animations are fresh alongside the new Android Automotive operating system.
The new firmware give you special features on the Volvo XC60 that you don’t see in other rival models.
Google Maps navigation, for instance, can be projected on the driver’s instrument panel as well as the HUD.
The Bowers & Wilkins system has been given an update here and now has a 1400W output versus 1100W at launch.
There are some other tweaks to the system that make it wound a lot more neutral to our ears, though this can be adjusted manually by the user.
Visually, the interior takes a step in a different direction. Speaker drivers are now grey instead of pale yellow, leather upholstery now comes with open textile contrast pieces to go with the faux leather. We were happy to see the integrated child booster seats are still present at the rear bench.
Overall, the XC60’s look and feel manages to escape looking too aged by incorporating the massive change to the Android operating system. Currently, Volvo Car Malaysia uses a Singapore-based e-sim carrier for the vehicle’s in-car data, but they are switching over to a Malaysian carrier in future for better reliability. We did not experience any hiccups during our test drive of the XC60, but did on our trip to JB with the C40.
There’s no running away from the fact that the Volvo XC60 has been on the market for about 6 years and sports a design language that was debuted nearly 9 years ago on the XC90. Age does remove some of the appeal from a premium product and that’s why so many of its rivals go for very drastic midlife-cycle redesigns.
We feel that this design has aged well and because the Volvo Car portfolio is so small and they sell fewer cars versus their rivals, it hasn’t worn itself out just yet. The shift towards a sportier look and a sportier driving behavior does open itself up to a new market that may have found the Inscription package unappealing.
Objectively speaking, the 2023 XC60 Recharge T8 is a noticeably improved product both on paper and behind the wheel. It’s more powerful and in some ways more tech-laden than its rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Volvo Car Malaysia are also offering some significant value-added deals through September 2023, including complimentary car insurance for the first year and a 5-year Volvo Service Plan worth RM20,000.
It’s also still a very well-equipped, spacious and capable vehicle – definitely good value in the premium segment for what’s on offer.
With all the excitement around electric vehicles, there are still many living in older condos that simply can’t reliably plug-in an EV at home. For those customers, the XC60 Recharge T8 is a great alternative, as they can still get a fuel-sipping hybrid to daily, and 81km of petrol-free driving when they get the chance to charge. The 8-year/160,000km battery warranty should keep owners happy and resale value in check.
Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 Ultimate Specifications
Engine: Inline-4, 16-Valve, DOHC, Turbocharged Petrol PHEV
Gearbox: 8-speed Conventional Automatic
Max power: 317PS @ 6000rpm (+145PS electric)
Max torque: 400Nm @ 3000-5400rpm (+309Nm of torque electric)
Top Speed: 180 km/h
0-100 km/h: 4.8 seconds