I already wrote at-length about the ways our 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E charmed me unexpectedly. A big part of that charm was its combination of utility, luxury, and thriftiness. And though some reviewers have chided the automatic stop-start system, I actually loved its aggressiveness.
Not a foreign concept
It’s not that this is the first stop-start system I’ve ever experienced. Quite to the contrary — I’ve had stop-start ignition on any number of test cars, most of them hybrids. It is noteworthy, however, that even the hybrids’ stop-start ignition systems don’t seem as aggressive as that of the Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E once you punch the “Eco+” button in the center console. That button puts the Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E into its thriftiest mode, with stop-start being a big part of the game plan to maximize fuel economy. (The other parts, if you’re interested, primarily involve allowing the car to coast with the engine idling down hills and turning off the air conditioner compressor — though it can be turned back on in a slightly less-powerful form if you press the A/C button again after pressing the Eco+ button.)
In Eco+ mode, the Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E will shut down the engine sometimes before you even come to a complete stop. Where most stop-start systems I’ve experienced — even in hybrids, mind you — will wait until you’ve stopped for a couple of seconds before shutting down the engine, the V60’s stop-start system will kick off the ignition as you’re rolling up to the stop. I noticed several times the engine cut out somewhere between 5 MPH and coming to a complete stop. If I let up on the brakes, even while still rolling, the engine restarted without delay. I loved the fact that the system maximized its usefulness — and my fuel economy — by kicking in earlier than other stop-start setups.
Eco Guide keeps MPG monitoring simple
The Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E had three modes that could be displayed on its thin-film transistor (TFT) gauge cluster: the default “Elegance” mode, a “Performance” mode, and and “Eco” mode. I spent most of the week in the eco display mode, which gives the speedometer ring and all outlying gauges a light green aura.
To the left of the speedometer in this display mode is the Eco Guide gauge. The way it operates is pretty simple: A yellow diamond on the left edge of the gauge shows your most recent average fuel economy, while a yellow needle protruding from the right side of the gauge shows instantaneous fuel economy that is always changing relative to engine load, gear selection, and throttle position kind of like those old vacuum-operated fuel economy gauges in BMWs.
Result: Impressive highway fuel economy, not bad overall
The 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E made good use of its stop-start system in town, and I guess I made pretty good use of that Eco Guide gauge on the highway in arriving at an end-of-week average of 34 MPG. That’s not world-beating, I’ll grant you, and it’s not on-par with the fuel economy one might expect from, say, a Toyota Prius or any number of other similarly sized hybrids.
But let’s be honest: None of those is as pleasing to drive as the Volvo V60 T5 Drive-E on a day-to-day basis, and maximizing hybrid fuel economy in city driving means constantly trying to keep the powertrain in EV mode. That may well give hybrids the advantage in city driving, but it also tends to piss off all the folks behind you as you slowly creep away from a fresh green light under flaccid battery power.
In terms of driving experience, Volvo got a whole lot right about the V60 T5 Drive-E while not sacrificing fuel economy. It’s an overall pleasing experience to pilot the Volvo, whether the terrain be urban streets, rural roads, or high-speed highways. The infotainment system also proved pleasing to use despite — perhaps because of — its lack of touchscreen interface. More about that in our next installment.
Disclosure: Volvo provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas.