Road Test: Volvo XC90 T8

Reporter:

Steve Rogers

IMAGINE you are the boss of a big company with a big company car and a big tax bill.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a car with every luxury known to man, which cost next to nothing in tax, had the performance of a sports car and, to top it all, did more than 130 miles to the gallon?

Then your secretary walks in with a tray of tea and biscuits and you awake from your dream.

But does it have to be a just a dream?Volvo has built a car that makes the dream come true – well the 130mpg takes a bit of explaining, but the rest is kosher.

The car in question is the XC90 T8 and it gains its notoriety because it has two engines, a 320bhp turbo and supercharged two-litre petrol driving the front wheels and an 86bhp electric motor driving the two at the back. Other car companies call this type of car a hybrid.

It means the car will drive for 27 miles using the electric motor, so if your journey to and from work comes within that range, isn’t too hilly, you will never use any petrol.

The car is topped up with ‘fuel’ at the house by plugging it into the mains, leaving it to charge for about four hours before going off again.

It is a clever system with the driver selecting from different modes, one of which is all electric, and when the ‘leccy’ runs out, it switches smoothly to petrol which then recharges the batteries so you get a bit of both. Hence this seemingly impossible 134mpg figure.

It obviously can happen, but in my case I have to drop the one from that figure. According to the car’s dashboard computer, which tells you everything that is going on, I sometimes ventured into the 60s, but was mainly in the mid-30s to the gallon.

The other thing that can upset that heady figure is exploiting the XC90’s substantial power base. Would you believe 60mph doesn’t taken anything like six seconds?

So what of this XC90? It can fairly be described as a young pretender. When looking for the most desirable SUV, we turn to the Range Rover, if we discount the ever-so-expensive and none-too-pretty Bentley Bentayga. So is Volvo better?

The answer is down to whether your taste is the opulence of a Georgian terrace house in Belgravia or a glass-fronted penthouse in the docklands.

The Volvo falls into the latter. The cabin is simply beautiful, with the emphasis on simple textures that don’t overpower but offer a new style of reserved luxury – everything you expect from the laid back Swedes.

Eyes are drawn to what looks llike a crystal glass-topped gear lever and the openness of the dashboard.

Daft as it sounds, the XC90 is daunting because of its lack of switches. Instead most of what you need is found behind a large tablet-style screen.

That, too, is daunting with lots of swiping and pinching. Play with it long enough and you will crack some of it. My wife takes a different view and says it is far too distracting when driving.

She is right, but then we are old... well oldish. And you imagine younger folk, whose lives are organised by smartphones and the like, would have this sussed in the time it takes me to find the button to open the powered tailgate. Is it comfortable? Of course. The Volvo is made for cruising rather than tearing around corners.

Buy an Audi Q7 or Porsche Cayenne for that.

What Volvo has squeezed out of two litres is sensational, although four cylinders can’t sound as sweet as a throbbing V6, let alone a sonorous V8, but we have got the planet to think about, so a bit of harshness under hard acceleration is a small price to pay for cleaner air.

Do you buy a hybrid? Drivers who like to put the foot down would be better off with the powerful diesel, which doesn’t cost the £63k of the T8. But definitely buy one of them.

Factfile:

V90 D5 R-Design 8sp auto

  • Engine: 2-litre; 235bhp
  • Performance: 0-62mph 7.2secs
  • Economy: 57.6mpg combined
  • Emissions: 129g/km. Road tax £110
  • Insurance group 33
  • Price: £43,995

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