Autoblog's long-term 2020 Volvo S60 T8 Inscription has been a hit with the editorial staff thanks to its plush cabin, high-output powertrain and well-executed driver assist systems. And while a 400-horsepower luxury sedan is plenty cool in its own right, that characterization glosses over a critical component that makes the S60 T8 tick.
It may be a performance hybrid, but it is a hybrid — a plug-in, at that. And like other plug-ins, it is designed to be capable of covering short distances without any help from its gasoline engine. In this case, approximately 22 miles.
That's what the EPA says, anyway, but because it's not a dedicated EV, driving it like one can be challenging. The S60's drive modes include one called "Pure," which is meant to be as close to a dedicated EV mode as possible without actually being one. Even in "Pure," the gas engine will kick in if you're too aggressive with the throttle, or if you simply run the battery's state of charge into the ground.
But if the EPA says we should be able to get 22 miles out of the S60, darn it, we're sure going to try. And we're also going to see if it's too difficult a challenge to keep the gas engine from kicking in to help.
This is where I come in. The S60 has effectively been in my care since travel restrictions started rolling out across the Midwest, so I've been looking for new and different ways to test its capabilities. This week, I decided to see just how tough it is to get those 22 miles out of the S60's battery pack.
The first step was planning a route. I wanted to stick to surface streets and main roads but avoid power-sapping freeway merges, so I settled on Michigan's iconic Woodward Avenue. It's a large thoroughfare with frequent stoplights and speed limits ranging from 35 to 50 mph — a great simulation of typical around-town driving.
Conveniently, the drive from my house in Berkley to the upper loop of Woodward in Pontiac turned out to be about 12 miles, or a little more than half of the S60's estimated EV range. Perfect. To prepare, I plugged the S60 into my back porch outlet to top it off on 110-volt power. When all was said and done, the in-cluster estimate showed 23 miles available on battery power.
In-car computers are notoriously unreliable for this sort of thing, but I took it as a good sign when I set off. Driving through my neighborhood, which has frequent stop signs and 25-mph limits, I actually saw the projected EV range tick up ever so slightly, capping at 25 miles before steadily declining as I hit roads with higher speed limits and fewer stops.
The drop-off became more precipitous once I hit Woodward. Thanks to shelter-in-place, the broad avenue was nearly empty, and opportunities to regenerate the S60's battery effectively vanished. Mercifully, though, the gas engine remained silent as the miles ticked away.
As I made the loop around Pontiac, the cluster was showing roughly 30% charge left in the battery, and about eight miles of expected range. Any hope of completing the entire drive on electric power was quickly fading.
But, as you'll recall, that wasn't the entire point of this exercise. The first part of the idea was to see whether I could deplete the battery's state of charge to effectively zero without the engine coming on. This wasn't merely a test of the S60's range, in other words, but of its ability to behave like an EV in the real world.
And despite the bleak range outlook, I was succeeding. The miles continued to vanish, but the gasoline engine remained obediently dormant. As I approached Birmingham (home of Autoblog's corporate office) heading back south, the range counter dropped to just one mile. As I passed through town, the "1" became a set of horizontal bars. The battery gauge showed nothing.
Still no engine.
At that point, I had successfully completed the test. I'd set off with 23 miles of available range and fully depleted the battery's state of charge without the gas engine coming on. But now I had been presented with a new challenge: eking out whatever I could while running on the electric equivalent of fumes.
I continued south on Woodward for a little over a mile, turning off just south of 13 Mile Rd onto Coolidge Highway. The speed limit dropped again to 35. From under the hood, nothing but silence.
A half-mile later, as I was about to begin coasting down for the red light at 12 Mile, the S60's somewhat coarse engine finally coughed to life. I did a quick mental tally, estimating that I'd managed 24 miles exclusively on EV power. A check of Google Maps later bore that out.
So, not only did the S60 perform as advertised for the duration of the test, but it even beat the EPA's figure, albeit barely, without any attempts to optimize my driving. Under different circumstances, I could commute in the Volvo indefinitely without fueling up; topping it off at home and in the office garage would more than give me the range I'd need to go about my routine.
This test really drives home what makes the Volvo S60 T8 so special. It's a 400-horsepower luxury hybrid that doubles as a gasoline-free commuter car and a phenomenal road trip companion, and it does these things with very few compromises.
I'll be sad when it's no longer sheltering in place with me.