(© Rod Hatfield)

Volvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept

Volvo has been slow to embrace electrification as a route to improved fuel economy. But the Swedish automaker is jumping in with all four wheels at the 2012 North American International Auto Show here in Detroit. The Volvo XC60 Plug-In Gasoline Hybrid Concept promises to do away with clunky charging adapters and provide pure electric driving as well as a range-extending gasoline engine and impressive performance, all in one unassuming wagon. With an advanced 8-speed automatic transmission and an equivalent of 105 mpg on the U.S. scale, the hybrid XC60 sounds like a step in the right direction. But much can change between the time a vehicle bows on the show floor and when it rolls off the production line?

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Volvo XC60 Plug-In Gasoline Hybrid Concept

Click to enlarge pictureVolvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept (© Rod Hatfield)

Volvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept

Click to enlarge pictureVolvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept (© Rod Hatfield)

Volvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept

Click to enlarge pictureVolvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept (© Rod Hatfield)

Volvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept

Click to enlarge pictureVolvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept (© Rod Hatfield)

Volvo XC60 Plug-in Hybrid Concept

What is it? This XC60 is a performance hybrid that combines a 2.0-liter 280-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a 70-horsepower electric motor. Volvo says the combination is good enough to power the wagon to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. That's sports-car territory.

What's hot? Drivers will be able to choose among three drive modes. Pure mode allows the vehicle to travel on electric power for up to 35 miles, while Hybrid mode uses the best combination of electric and gasoline power for optimal efficiency. Finally, Power mode uses both the gasoline and the electric motor for a total of 350 horsepower. In addition, the vehicle's battery can be charged in as little as 3.5 hours. (No word on whether that's on your electric outlet; we doubt it.)

What's not? While Volvo says the XC60 Plug-In Gasoline Hybrid Concept is headed to production, we imagine the final product will be considerably tamer than the vehicle spinning on stage in Detroit. Technology such as quick-charging systems and powerful electric motors all add to a vehicle's bottom line.

How much and when? Volvo hasn't released specific production dates beyond saying it will arrive in "a couple of years." If and when the wagon does arrive, expect it to carry a price tag that will need government incentives to be competitive.

MSN Autos' verdict: Combining hybrid fuel economy with V8 power figures is the stuff of concept fairy tales. We're just happy to see Volvo put a serious foot forward into the hybrid game.

James Tate cut his teeth in the business as a race team crew member before moving to the editorial side as Senior Editor of Sport Compact Car, and his work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Automobile, Motor Trend and European Car. When not writing, Tate is usually fantasizing about a vintage Porsche 911.