The second-generation XC60 has been around for a while, but Volvo has facelifted its five-seat SUV since we last towed with one. As well as subtle design changes, Volvo has fitted its Google-based infotainment system, with built-in Google apps. The Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Plus that we’re driving has a bigger battery than before, for an all-electric range of up to 49 miles.

What are we looking for in the Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Plus ?

We want to find out if the updates have been effective and if the big Volvo is still one of the best five-seat premium SUV cars for towing a caravan.

Towing ability of the Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Plus

Heft on its own doesn’t automatically put a vehicle among the best cars to tow a caravan, but it’s not a bad place to start. With a kerbweight of well over two tonnes (listed as mass in running order by Volvo), the XC60 is certainly heavy.

Some plug-in hybrid tow cars have relatively restrictive towing limits, but not the T6. It’s approved to tow up to 2250kg. Stick to the 85% guideline, as usually recommended for safe and stable towing, and caravans of up to 1828kg make prudent matches.

Side view of Volvo XC60
Rear-seat passengers have plenty of space

We paired the Volvo with a Coachman VIP 565 with a MiRO of 1497kg, borrowed from Broadlane Leisure. Our towing test began with the battery showing just over three-quarters of a charge and an electric range of 34 miles. So long as the charge remained healthy, the XC60 was capable of towing the Coachman on electric power alone, even at 60mph on the motorway, the fastest of the caravan speed limits you can tow at.

The petrol tow car engine would wake up with a grumble for a sudden burst of acceleration or when towing up a steep hill, but it was remarkable how well the T6 performed without burning any petrol.

The electric range reached zero after 17.5 miles, so pulling a caravan more or less halved it. From this point on, the XC60 still used electricity as well as petrol power, but with the burden of towing the Coachman firmly switching to the petrol engine.

The Volvo still performed strongly, with brisk acceleration, although the car was much noisier once the four-cylinder engine was working hard.

XC60 from the rear
The Volvo has the solid, confident feel that’s the hallmark of the best big 4x4s

Hill starts are easy enough, with the electronic parking brake holding car and caravan still on a 1-in-10 slope before releasing smoothly. The tyres briefly scrabbled for grip before confidently towing up the damp gradient.

Stability is always the most important quality in a tow car, and it’s hard to find any cause to complain about the Volvo. It has that solid, confident feel that’s the hallmark of the best 4x4s for towing a caravan. Even in the disturbed air around HGVs and high-sided vans, there was nothing more than the odd nudge from the caravan.

Volvo's towball
The Volvo’s towball and electrics cost £1400

Low-speed manoeuvring is also easy and the excellent rear-view camera gives a clear view of the towball for hassle-free hitching.

Solo driving

The XC60 isn’t the sharpest SUV to drive, nor is it the quietest or most comfortable. But it’s certainly there or thereabouts in the measures that matter.

As with any plug-in electric vehicle, the T6 is at its best with plenty of charge, so it can rely more on electricity. This makes for smooth, quiet progress, especially in town, where there’s less cause to need help from the petrol engine.

The transitions between electric and petrol-electric are usually smooth, although the engine can sound a bit gruff when asked to work hard. But there’s no doubting the performance when both power sources are flat out, with Volvo quoting a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds.

While undoubtedly quick, the Volvo doesn’t feel very sporty. The steering is quite numb and the car can’t match the agility of a BMW X3. If ride comfort is your priority, the Audi Q5 smooths over rough roads better than the Volvo, and is better at suppressing wind and road noise.

Space and practicality

The XC60’s cabin is every bit as well made and stylish as you’d expect of a £60,000 SUV. Materials quality is high, and there’s a minimal, high-tech look to the dash.

It takes some time to learn how to get the best from the latest Google-based infotainment system, although it’s easier to use than the previous one. It’s compatible with Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto, as it already employs the Google apps you might find on an Android phone. But it’s annoying to have to sign in to individual apps rather than mirroring your phone.

Cabin area
The cabin is every bit as well made and stylish as you’d expect of a £60,000 SUV

There’s plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel and seat, so it’s simple to find a good driving position that’s comfortable over long distances.

Rear-seat passengers have lots of space, so adults can travel in comfort. There’s a large hump in the floor which gets in the way if there are three in the back, though.

The boot has a high floor and a modest capacity of 468 litres with the seats upright. The back seats split 60/40 for more space and there’s a ski hatch for long items.

Buying and owning a Volvo XC60

The XC60’s price tag of over £60,000 is quite stiff, although research by What Car? suggests big discounts are available. If your company is picking up the tab, the car has
a keen benefit-in-kind tax banding, thanks to its low carbon dioxide emissions.

Fuel economy varies hugely in real-world conditions, depending on whether you can recharge at home and how far you drive each day. Economy while towing varied from 148mpg with a healthy charge, to 21.1mpg once the all-electric range reached zero.

Alternatives to consider

The Volkswagen Touareg 13.0 V6 TDI 286PS 4Motion Black Edition comes with everything that you may look for in a big SUV, including stability and being well suited to all-season touring. Alternatively, the Škoda Octavia Estate 2.0 TDI 150PS SE L DSG is both fuel efficient and practical, providing caravanners with a spacious cabin.

Verdict on the Volvo XC60 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Plus

Although the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3 are better to drive, the Volvo XC60 makes a very capable tow car. It’s spacious, quick and extremely stable.

See what we had to say about an older model too, as our expert takes a look at buying a used Volvo XC60.

Technical spec

  • Price: £60,055
  • What Car? Target Price: £57,687
  • Retained value after three years: 50%
  • Kerbweight: 2163kg
  • 85% of kerbweight: 1828kg
  • Gross vehicle weight: 2660kg
  • Max towing limit: 2250kg
  • Gross train weight: 4910kg
  • Towball limit: 100kg
  • Towball and electrics: £1400
  • Boot size: 468-1395 litres
  • Payload: 497kg
  • Test conditions: Damp
  • Engine size: 1969cc
  • Power: 253hp (petrol)/ 145hp (electric)
  • Torque: 258lb ft (petrol)/ 228lb ft (electric)
  • Official combined economy: 217-313.4mpg
  • Towing economy: 21.1mpg-148mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 22-30g/km
  • 1st/2nd year car tax: £0/£560
  • Insurance group: 40E
  • Euro NCAP rating: 5/5

See what we have to say about how to choose the right caravan for you.

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