Test drive: 2024 Volvo S60 Recharge PHEV is better in charge

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Test drive: 2024 Volvo S60 Recharge PHEV is better in charge


It’s been nearly a decade since Volvo first started rolling out plug-in hybrids in the U.S., and while the formula for them hasn’t changed a whole lot, a couple of important details have. 

One of them is that Volvo’s made the batteries larger every few years, leading to more plug-in electric range, improved hybrid drivability, and overall a better mix of attributes. 

The other thing that’s changed in that time is that Volvo is seriously going all-electric. It’s targeting 2030 for a fully electric lineup, with EVs that won’t cost more than gas vehicles by 2025.

Volvo just this week announced that the S60 will be discontinued, with 2025 the final model year for this South Carolina-built sedan. It’s going away as that plant becomes the first of Volvo’s plants globally to go all-EV, making space for both the Volvo EX90 and, later in the year, the Polestar 3

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

That said, the S60 Recharge plug-in hybrid has kept getting better, with a significantly larger battery pack 18.8-kwh (14.7-kwh usable) arriving for 2023. That’s up from 11.6 kwh gross and 9.1 kwh usable prior to 2022, and it boosted the EPA rated range from 22 miles to 41 miles. That’s Volvo’s highest-mileage plug-in hybrid. And when that plug-in charge is used up, the Recharge is slightly more efficient than before, at 31 mpg combined. 

A few months ago I got to follow up with the S60 Recharge—a 2023 model, just before the late-arriving 2024s rolled in. The verdict? It’s a little confused about its hybrid identity but more electric when it counts versus previous Volvo PHEVs I’ve driven. If you’ve been on the fence about a Volvo plug-in hybrid, this might be the one that can fully cover your commute plus your out-of-the-way road-trip needs.

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

 

S60 Recharge electric range: 40-ish miles in chilly weather

I ran through three charges in the time I had the S60 Recharge, not always seeing the mileage I quite expected. As we’ve underscored before with plug-in hybrids and EVs, when you’re not harnessing waste heat from an engine, the use of cabin heat comes at a pretty steep cost in terms of range lost. 

With the climate control set to 72 degrees on a 44-degree evening and the car set to start in its Pure (electric) mode, I drove just 33 miles before the S60 started its engine and went to Hybrid mode. The route included a near-equal mix of 65-mph freeway driving and 30-50 mph boulevards with some hills and stoplights. Then on a drizzly night with the temp at 47 degrees and cabin heat still at 72 degrees, I covered 36 miles in a mix including four miles of city streets plus the remainder at 55-70 mph on the highway. 

Just to push the question about the impact of climate control, on a clear evening at 46 degrees I then drove through one charge without using the cabin heat—only the seat and steering-wheel heaters—and managed 44 miles (roughly 20% farther) while recreating the previous loop. That being roughly 20% farther without using the climate control. So in the scope of year-round driving and the extremes of the year, 40 miles feels doable in a mild climate.

In interface, the S60 Recharge doesn’t have a ‘B’ shift mode like some hybrids or EVs, but it does have a one-pedal driving setting, in a screen submenu. I mostly kept it in the standard mild-regen setting because it’s not a particularly consistent one-pedal mode. 

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

S60 Recharge gets dreamy seats, good cabin comfort, quiet ride

The climate system is fantastic and warms the cabin up quickly without it needing to start the engine (but you’ll pay in range). The S60 also has dreamy front seats, with extendable thigh bolsters that made this lanky 6-foot-6 driver feel right at home, plus excellent back support, and the seat heaters’ warmth goes all the way up to the back of the shoulder blades. 

Getting in and out of the back seat was easy enough, too, although the low ride height combined with the rakish roofline made mounting a child seat—and helping the child in and out of the back seat—more challenging than I might have guessed.

Once underway, in electric mode, it’s clear how much effort Volvo has put into keeping road noise muted. The S60 rides with a firmness that speaks European sport sedan, but its dampers soak up the minor stuff without pinging into the cabin. Upholstery and trim were appropriately dark per this Black Edition car, but it all also felt appropriately premium. 

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

The S60 has a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 312 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, hooked up to an 8-speed automatic transmission, with a thin motor system (143 hp and 228 lb-ft) in the middle. A clutch system allows just the motor to propel the vehicle in electric-only mode, but I sensed (and heard) the transmission shifting along the way. 

You can’t accelerate as rapidly in plug-in electric mode as you can in hybrid mode, but it’s plenty quick for most needs. A pronounced accelerator detent near the floor helps assure that you’re not accidentally ordering up the engine when you don’t intend to, and once it enters hybrid mode, a unique-to-Volvo interactive display helps you understand when the gasoline engine is going to start based on how hard you’re accelerating and its present state of charge. 

Recharge’s hybrid mode can be fun but raucous

For all that Volvo has done with that packaging, the engine makes itself be known when it starts, and it’s not so much exhaust noise as a general soundtrack. The turbo-4 is rather coarse-sounding. It seems that Volvo has tweaked the programming of the transmission to keep the engine lugging in its low-rpm range a bit more than it had in previous iterations of the S60, and it carries audibly.

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge Black Edition styling is a departure from most Volvos you'll see

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

The overall system is quick by the stopwatch or the dragstrip—0-60 mph in 4.3 seconds, according to Volvo—but it’s not as fleet-footed for real-world demands. In hybrid mode it sure doesn’t feel like a four-second car, or a six-second car, if you stomp the accelerator to the floor at, say, 25 mph. There, even if the engine’s on you get a moment in which the transmission feels like it’s panicking, lining up the right gear and peak motor boost. And then when it’s delivered it’s all wrong for a moment, with seemingly too much torque sent to the front wheels (and a queasy lightness to the steering wheel) before all is well and you’re ripping more seamlessly into illegal speeds, all in control.

But most notably—and yes, this is a criticism—that full-rip charm is absent in the third-to-half throttle where suburban commuters are going to be the vast majority of the time once through a charge. 

To test out that hybrid mode, I also covered a 111-mile round trip with family to a hiking trailhead and back, gaining about 800 feet of elevation at the destination and returning to where we started, enjoying the Power mode for part of it. The trip computer showed we averaged a respectable 32 mpg for the full trip. 

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge infotainment includes a simplified home screen

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

S60 Recharge interface is…good, not great

The 9.0-inch touchscreen system is neither one of the best nor the worst in the S60’s class. It’s well-organized, and the vertical orientation makes perfect sense for following navigation directions. Climate functions “stick” to the lower portion of the screen; you can show navigation instructions on the gauge cluster; and finally, thanks to a recent update, you can use Apple CarPlay on the whole remaining screen—rather than a smaller module. It’s a Google-based infotainment system, so some of its native functions may still rely on that ecosystem. 

The 2023 I tested, in its top Ultimate Black Edition form, added up to $63,690 and included especially lustrous (and difficult to photograph) black metallic paint, a black ironmark and front grille, black trunk lid badging, a charcoal headliner, and upholstery in charcoal nappa leather and matching synthetic trim. The $750 Climate Package brought headlight cleaners, heated rear seats, and an especially toasty heated steering wheel. And the $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system offered up a lot of power to crank up the sound without distortion, but you’ll need to tweak the sound settings; it was a bit too muddy and bass-heavy for this cabin with all the settings on center. Priced out, a similar 2024 version would cost $64,145 including the $100 higher destination fee ($1,195). 

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge Black Edition Ultimate gets the top feature set of this PHEV lineup

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge

It should also be noted that the 2023 leftover I tested had a 3.6-kw onboard charger that limited recharges at home with my higher-current, 240-volt charger, to about four hours. 2024 models have gained a 6.6-kw onboard charger, cutting the charge time to about 2.5 hours—meaning in the time of a long shopping trip or leisurely dinner you might be able to recover most of a charge. 

Does Volvo finally have the formula right for plug-in hybrids, just as more of its EVs start arriving? That’s for you to decide, but perhaps beyond the original intent this Recharge ends up showing electric is better.

2024 Volvo S60 Recharge
Base price: $53,895 (Core model)
Price as tested: $64,145 (Ultimate Black Edition with options)
Propulsion: 312-hp 2.0-liter inline-4 and 143-hp motor; 455 hp, 523 lb-ft combined; all-wheel drive
EPA efficiency: 41 miles electric range, 31 mpg combined
The hits: Dreamy front seats, excellent climate control, firm but quiet ride
The misses: Coarse engine, hybrid system’s stumbles, tight roofline in back

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