Volvo is busy readying a hybrid version of its sleek V60 wagon.
So what? you might ask. There are lots of hybrids out there, right?
Yes, there are, but the 2012 V60 will be one of the few charging its battery array with a plug-in system. The really big news, however, is the electric motor won't be teamed with a gasoline engine, but rather a diesel.
For those keeping score, a diesel-electric hybrid is an industry first.
Being developed within the same group as the all-electric C30, the V60 hybrid is said to travel up to 31 miles with just its battery-powered electric motor.
Recharging will take just over seven hours when using a regular 110 household outlet. As is typical with hybrid cars, the V60's braking system will also help charge the batteries.
So sophisticated is the recharging setup that it offers the driver the option of preheating or precooling the passenger compartment as the car is charging, requiring less pull on the batteries at start up.
By itself, the 2.4-liter five-cylinder diesel produces 215 horsepower and turns only the front wheels. Adding another 70 horsepower to the mix is the electric motor that powers the rear wheels alone.
If you need all-wheel drive, you just push a button to activate the wagon's electric 4-wheel drive. Then the electric motor and the diesel each do their share.
Another area where Volvo is showing us something in the V60 hybrid that we haven't seen before is its three-driving-mode system that lets the driver choose the different degrees of the diesel-electric mix. It is controlled by three buttons on the instrument panel.
In Pure, the car runs on its electric motor as much as possible, getting a little help every once in a while from the diesel. Hybrid is always the default setting when the car is started and it creates the optimum blend of electric and diesel interaction for the lowest environmental impact. Power delivers the maximum excitement drawing on both the electric motor and diesel. In Power mode, the V60 Hybrid will race from 0-to-60 in 6.9 seconds.
Volvo doesn't have much to say about pricing as yet, but its CEO and president Stefan Jacoby admits the hybrid will cost more than the gasoline-powered version, which shouldn't be a surprise to anyone.
Here's the thing: Volvo isn't bringing the V60 Hybrid to the U.S. Well it is, but not until 2013, and with a gasoline engine in place of the diesel.
I'm no fan of hybrids; I think anyone trying to operate on a budget is throwing money away on a hybrid. But if you are going to make one, diesel seems like the way to go.
The Swedes have let us down.