Sustainable luxury is an increasingly common aspiration, from niche furniture design to giant automotive firms. Today's consumer not only want to admire their shiny belongings, they want to sleep soundly knowing their purchases have helped ease the pressure on natural resources, or have, at the very least, impacted to a lesser degree than the closest alternative.
The past few years have seen a huge number of hybrid and electric vehicles enter the market, a barrage of eco correctness that is increasingly hard to navigate. Now there's another entrant into the race, the Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid.
Volvo has spent several years patiently beavering away at their Gothenburg headquarters developing the most recent twist on the green revolution. At first glance the V60 Plug-In appears almost identical to any recent Volvo. The only noticeable change in appearance are the slightly space-age style of its low-drag 17 inch wheels; when cutting weight and upping aerodynamic drags, everything has to be taken into account, even the flow of air through an alloy wheel.
One has to delve a bit deeper into the mechanical workings of the V60 to find the real differences. The new car blends a 2.4-litre diesel engine with an electric motor to create a combined power output of 276bhp. That's impressive enough, but it also comes with startling claims of efficiency: 148mpg with emissions at just 49g/km of CO2.
The V60 gives you three driving modes, Pure, which enables the driver to run using only power from the lithium iron battery pack housed discretely beneath the ample boot compartment. Volvo places battery range at a little over 30 miles with this selection, which should be plenty for most daily city commutes). Hybrid mode initiates help from the diesel engine, increasing performance if and when required, and Power mode combines engine and battery together to produce enough drive to record a 0-62mph time of 6.9 seconds.
Volvo has openly geared itself towards the luxury family market, a market that demands safety as priority. To protect ones loved ones is paramount, but to protect pedestrians is the next area of innovation. Richard Monturo, Volvo Vice President of Global Marketing told us that the V60's sibling, the V40, is 'already all there' in terms of advanced people-watching technology. When the car senses an imminent pedestrian impact, it deploys an airbag around the windscreen area, cushioning impact from the bonnet and windscreen wiper recess - areas where most pedestrian head injuries occur.
As always with fledgling technologies, research/development costs quickly mount up and the V60 is a pricey way into the hybrid market. Currently, the V60 Plug In is being pitched at £42,000 in the UK, after the governmental £5,000 plug in car grant initiative is accounted for. So far Volvo have approved a 1,000 unit European wide production run with a view to a potential further 4-5,000 being made.
But whatever happens in terms of sales, Monturo is adamant the hybrid model will ultimately become the Volvo way. 'By 2015-2017 we plan to add a hybrid option to our entire range,' he says. 'We like to give our customers options, the hybrid being one that would benefit more than simply just the owner.' As a demonstration of eco sensitivity with style, the V60 is one of the better hybrids on the market, with the promise of more innovation to come.