First drive: Volvo V70 plug-in hybrid

  • Emits just 50g/km of CO2
  • Has 30-mile electric-only range
  • On sale 2012, prices expected to start at £40k

Volvo has allowed Parker's an exclusive drive of its next-generation V70 plug-in hybrid concept that slashes emissions to just 50g/km of CO2 and delivers a stunning average fuel economy of 150mpg. 

Differing from the Toyota Prius and other hybrids currently on sale the new Volvo has been developed to cover the average daily commute to and from work on electric power only.

This means the Volvo estate can cover up to 30 miles on a single five-hour charge with zero tailpipe emissions. If you want to go further a conventional 185bhp 2.4-litre diesel engine fires up to carry on your journey recharging the battery as it goes. 

Simplicity is the key with the Swedish firm's new hybrid. The diesel drives the front wheels through a traditional six-speed automatic, while at the rear, state-of-the-art lithium ion batteries power an electric motor that turns the rear wheels.  

Occasionally, on full-bore starts or slippery conditions mean both electric and diesel powerplants can work in combination for maximum power or traction. 

When they do the V70 generates more than 300bhp, promising for a 0-62mph dash in around 7.0 seconds and a top speed of over 150mph. 

On the road, and in one of the 230 V70s built for durability testing, the big Volvo is impressive. We didn't get the chance to experience both powerplants working together, but in electric mode only. The powerful motor is more than up to the task keeping up with urban traffic, although the added weight on the tight twisting urban road circuit we drove never quite subsided, blunting handling and agility. 

Despite looking like the current car, hidden underneath the plug-in hybrid's body is all-new underpinnings for the next-gen V70 platform. This helps it to cope with the added packaging difficulties of the extra motor and battery cells. 

The V70 is a heavy car weighing in at well over two tonnes with the battery and state-of-the-art lithium ion cells adding a mighty 250kgs to the kerbweight. 

Switching to diesel, meanwhile, is a bit of a shock after the near silent electric motor, but having the diesel powerplant enables a total driving range of more than 500 miles. 

The firm is now readying the plug-in hybrid to be available as soon as 2012 with prices expected to begin at around £40,000.

To find out why the Volvo V70 is a viable alternative to the Mercedes E-Class estate click here.