It seems strangely fitting that on the day we said a final farewell to my father our accidental long-termer also left us.
Dad shuffled off after a short illness and odd as it may sound, during the last few weeks of his life, the big blue Volvo served as a sanctuary of sorts.
After difficult days at a hospital bedside and during countless stressful cross-country trips between home and the ward, the cream leather and driftwood finish of the XC60’s warm, comfortable and near-silent cabin was more soothing than any hospital chapel. Sinking into the enveloping seat and pulling shut the door on another miserable day was a release of sorts, something I’m not sure I would have felt amid the identikit gloss black and shiny silver of other test cars.
Making the journey from the hospital to my home, the XC60 was an undemanding partner on the route through the Scottish lowlands, allowing me time to reflect in silence, distract myself with a podcast or use the full force of the immense Bowers & Wilkins sound system to scream along to some angry German industrial music.
That calming influence may well have further endeared the Volvo to me but, truth be told, I was already pretty sold on the big Swede.
For a start, much as I occasionally deride SUVs, the XC60 has just the right blend of space and practicality without the austentatious and deliberately intimidating design of its German rivals.
There is plenty of space for five people, plus their luggage, to travel in comfort and, with everything from active collision mitigation to run-off road protection they’ll be kept safe too. Plus that higher driving position does give a commanding view of the road ahead.
The interior isn’t flawless though. Although the upright touchscreen is well integrated I’m not sure that portrait screens are the best option, and the need for physical heater controls rather than a stupid and dangerous touchscreen system is the motoring hill on which I’m willing to die.
There’s also the not-so-small issue of the price of our test car. Inscription-spec plug-in XC60s start at around £54,000 but our car had £10,000 worth of extras. Many of these you could live without but I take exception to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto being part of a £2,500 Tech pack when they’re free on cars costing a third of the Volvo’s price.
Of course, you could save yourself £10k and go for a standard petrol version but the hybrid offers more versatility and lower running costs if you use it correctly.
Plug-in hybrids aren’t for everyone but the XC60’s ability to do most day-to-day runs on purely electric power and offer 300+ miles at a moment’s notice with no worry about charging suits my lifestyle perfectly. At the end of my time with it, I’d covered several thousand miles and recorded an average economy of 44mpg but saved a significant amount of money by being able to complete runs to school, shops and sports training without burning any fuel. There are also tax benefits to running a PHEV as a company car. Plus there’s the smug feeling of not adding to pollution at the school gates.
The power and pace offered by the twin motor setup is impressive but this is definitely more a car for making smooth, quiet progress rather than racing along a B-road. That’s easily done given the smooth way it switches from electric to hybrid drive and while some cars leave you guessing as to when the transition will happen, the Volvo’s clear instruments mean it’s easy to modulate the throttle to make the most of the EV mode.
That’s a minor thing but another example of the small touches that made the XC60 such an easy long-term companion. They certainly come at a price but similarly equipped models from BMW, Audi and Mercedes cost similar money and lack the individuality and easygoing charm of the Volvo. The XC60 might have stayed with us far longer than initially planned but our unexpected house guest never outstayed its welcome.
Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Inscription
Price: £54,520 (£64,045 as tested); Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol plus A/C electric motor; Power: 335bhp; Torque: N/A; Transmission: Automatic, all-wheel-drive; Top speed: 112mph; 0-60mph: 5.6 seconds; Economy: 100.9-113mpg; CO2 emissions: 55-64g/km