We’ve all got a hill that we’ll die on. A matter of minor importance that we simply won’t back down on.
For me, it’s the incontrovertible fact that proper physical dials for heater controls are better than any touchscreen-based, voice-activated nonsense.
Car makers are desperate to bury every function within a touchscreen in the name of progress but having to repeatedly jab at a small section of a plastic panel just to turn the heat down is plain stupid.
It was the one thing I hated about the Volvo XC60 I ran for several months in early 2021 and, now that the car has been facelifted, it’s still the one thing I hate about it. In fact, I hate it even more because, in an otherwise much improved touchscreen system, Volvo has made the heater controls even harder to operate.
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Yes, to make way for the Android Automotive interface on the nine-inch screen, the icon to bring up the heat adjustment has been made even smaller and harder to hit.
I know I shouldn’t get so hung up on such a minor detail but a) it’s really, really annoying and b) it stands out all the more because of how good the rest of the car is.
The update to the car’s infotainment system is one of the biggest changes in this otherwise fairly minor refresh. Gone is the button-heavy Sensus system, replaced by a pared-back OS based on the same Android Automotive software that powers the brilliant system in the Polestar 2. The Volvo’s arrangement isn’t quite as slick as the Polestar’s but it does simplify matters while putting the most important functions front and centre. It also introduces Google’s responsive voice assistant and give access to thousands of apps through the Play Store.
Even bigger news than that is a new battery for the plug-in hybrid model. The older car’s 11.6kWh unit has been replaced by a 18.8kWh one. That extends its official electric-only range from 32 miles 48. My relatively short time with the new model wasn’t long enough to fully gauge its real-world performance but based on the reliable 24 miles of range I used to get from the old model, I’d expect around 35 miles of real-world electric drive in the new one.
Also new for this year is a more powerful rear-mounted motor. Combined with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is carried over unchanged, the XC60 T6 PHEV now offers all-wheel-drive output of 345bhp.
That means this largish SUV can startle with its straight line pace and in-gear acceleration. Zero to 62mph takes a very un-Volvo-like 5.7 seconds but that won’t do much for your range or economy.
If you can lay off the traffic light drag racing, official economy is a ridiculous 217-282mpg, based on the usual unrealistic PHEV usage cycle. On actual roads, my long-termer, which claimed 113mpg, returned 44mpg and with a bigger battery and regular recharging, I’d expect slightly better performance from this new version.
Alternatively, if 345bhp isn’t enough for you, the T8 hybrid ekes 449bhp out of its petrol/electric hybrid system with, allegedly, no hard to the range or economy.
The updates haven’t brought any chassis revisions so, for all it’s quick in a straight line, the XC60 is not a sports SUV. The ride is controlled and comfortable but it’s far happier cruising along steadily than being flung between corners by a Stig Blomquist wannabe.
The new infotainment and bigger battery aside, this update to the XC60 is pretty minor.
Visually the new model has a redesigned bumper that completely hides the exhaust tips - a nod towards Volvo’s all-electric ambition. That and some new digital instruments aside, you’ll be hard pressed to spot much difference. That means it’s still effortlessly cool, spacious and airy, with supremely comfortable seats and decent space for a family.
So it’s as practical, stylish and desirable as ever with a chunk more EV ability. Those awful heater controls aside, what’s not to like?
Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD R-Design
Price: £54,975 (£59,650 as tested); Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol with electric motor; Power: 345bhp; Torque: N/A; Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive; Top speed: 112mph; 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds; Economy: 217-282mpg; CO2 emissions: 23-30g/km