Opinionated at any speed . . . Silvio Calabi

Volvo S60 Recharge AWD Ultimate Black

Tue, 08/01/2023 - 3:30pm

The ever-expanding range of electrified vehicles from Volvo presently includes three battery-only SUVs, two hybrid gas-electric SUVs, two hybrid sedans and one hybrid station wagon, all sold under the name Recharge. All the hybrids are plug-in types, which have larger battery packs than non-plug-in hybrids, for more electric range, and which can be, well, plugged in to recharge their batteries. (Non-plug-in hybrid batteries are recharged by the gas engine while it’s running.)

The S60 Recharge mid-size sedan debuted in 2020 and was significantly punched up for 2023. Under the hood there’s a turbocharged four-cylinder gas-burner that makes 312 horsepower and drives all four wheels; attached to the rear axle—and powering only the rear wheels—is an electric motor that adds another 143 horses, making this the most powerful Volvo ever put into production.

Despite its 455 horsepower, all-wheel drive and mad electric acceleration—and even the Darth Vader costume of this Ultimate Black edition—the S60 Recharge is no threat to sports cars on a road course. So we might think of this as a present-day Swedish analog to Detroit’s 0-to-60 muscle cars of yore, except that no muscle car was anywhere near so luxurious, safe, comfortable or quiet, not to say fuel-efficient.

On the right rear quarter there’s the usual gas-filler door. On the left front fender is another door, this one for the (supplied) cable to recharge a 14.9-kWh battery on household current. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, PHEVs, with their gas engines as backup, suit many drivers’ needs better than pure electrics, especially in rural areas. Furthermore, Volvo has refined its PHEV technology to be even more functional.

With 40-plus miles of battery range, the S60 Recharge offers a “pure” electric drive mode that seems to wring out every last electron, and without babying the throttle to avoid awakening the gas engine. By plugging in inbetween, we’ve been able to run errands around town for days on electricity alone.

This is also the only PHEV we’ve seen with an EV-style one-pedal driving option. This turns the S60 Recharge into a deluxe, high-performance golf cart: Press on the pedal to go, lift off to slow down—no brakes required. Instead, braking friction is applied by a generator that helps recharge the battery pack.

(In case you’re wondering: Lifting off the throttle in one-pedal mode activates the brake lights even if the driver isn’t actually on the brake pedal. The car begins to slow rapidly, and a driver behind needs a heads-up.)

All Volvos exhibit some Scandinavian weirdness, naturally, and the S60 Recharge has its share. The keyless ignition switch isn’t the normal pushbutton; it’s a knob sticking up out of the center console that has to be twisted clockwise. Then, instead of the anticipated sounds of internal combustion, the driver’s screen lights up with a good-to-go message.

Well, fine—it’s fun to be a little different. But logic says that if start was a clockwise turn of the knob, stop would be the opposite, no? Turn the knob anti-clockwise to shut the motor(s) down? In fact, no. Turn it to the right again. And then find and push the Park button; and finally find and pull the e-brake switch. An owner, as opposed to a reviewer, will get used to this. Same goes for the wonky touch-and-slide sun/moon roof switch.

Over time, an owner would also learn to appreciate this computer control system, now Google-based, and will remember that pushing the shift lever forward will make the car go backward, and pulling the lever to the rear will make the car go forward. (Volvo isn’t alone in this; BMW and others do it too.)

The final surprise—this is a pleasant one—in the 2023 S60 Recharge is its price. This most powerful of all Volvos, a sophisticated, refined, highly fuel-efficient Euro sedan loaded with creature comforts and safety systems, has a starting MSRP of $53,045. Our sample Ultimate Black edition is $58,495. Furthermore, Volvo says this car qualifies for the federal electric-vehicle tax credit, effectively dropping its price by $7,500. This nearly wipes out the difference in price between the gas-only S60 and the Recharge S60, which makes the PHEV version that much more attainable.

Next week: Chevrolet Trax