Volvo XC90 – A Genuine Life-Saver
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
Volvo has announced that not a single occupant has died in a car-to-car accident in the UK in an XC90. This is according to Government crash figures.
The statistics, provided by the police, show that no XC90 driver or passenger fatalities have been reported since records began in 2004.
More than 70,000 XC90 cars have been sold in the UK to date and the model has been at the forefront of SUV safety since the first-generation model was launched in 2002.
The second-generation model was launched back in 2014 and in Volvo’s continuing quest to make their cars safer still, boast Run-off Road Protection (pre-tightens seatbelts) and automatic emergency braking at junctions that activates if the driver inadvertently turns into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
Many would argue that the XC90 has become the default choice for those seeking a practical and luxurious 7-seater SUV with some all-terrain ability.
I would not disagree, as the stylish SUV really is quite hard to fault and wows all with its bespoke family-friendly interior and practical nature.
For me, if there is a chink in the XC90’s Swedish armour, it would be the performance from the diesel engine. A full load and some challenging Yorkshire roads during an earlier test saw the 1,969cc engine struggle somewhat, a by-product of which was that economy suffered too.
On test here however is the T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid version.
This combines a 320hp petrol engine with an 87hp electric motor. It can be powered by the petrol engine, the electric motor or a combination of the two. The result, 407hp when required and with CO2 emissions as low as 49g/km.
The T8 can be driven for up to 27 miles on electric power alone, enough for many people’s daily commute. I managed around 20 miles of gentle A-road cruising before the engine fired into life.
The 400V lithium-ion battery (located between the front seats to improve weight distribution without eating into passenger space) can be fully recharged in as little as two and a half hours using the optional 16-amp fast charge cable.
Charging via the standard UK three-pin plug cable will take between three and a half and six hours.
The new T8 has seven selectable drive modes: Pure, Hybrid, Power, Save, AWD, Off Road and Individual. Hybrid is the default mode whereby the electric motor (which powers the rear wheels) and the petrol engine (powering the front wheels) either individually or together to achieve an optimum balance between performance and economy.
Save mode allows the driver to preserve as much of the battery’s charge for use later in a journey, such as when driving through an urban area. All very clever and excellent if you regularly travel into low emission zones, which are rapidly springing up across the country.
As per the rest of the XC90 range, the choice of Momentum, Inscription and R-Design will be a personal one, with prices starting at £59,850 before options.
All versions are extremely well-equipped, though most will plunder the options list. I would add the ‘Intellisafe Pro’ pack at £1,500 which includes adaptive cruise control and blind spot information systems. If you feel the cold like me, then the £575 ‘Winter’ pack is a must, otherwise colds leather seats will greet you on a frosty morning.
Behind the wheel, the view out is suitably imperious, a definite boon when piloting a large car on confined UK roads.
My ‘Momentum’ spec test car lacked the optional Four Corner Air Suspension (£2,150) and it was missed. It introduces a level of control and suppleness to the ride that is absent from conventionally sprung versions. Add to this, is the ability to firm up the suspension for greater handling prowess on fast cross-country drives. Take my advice and tick that box!
Setting off in electric mode is a wonderfully serene experience, with just a little road noise to spoil the ambience in the hushed cabin. However, selecting power mode and the XC90 transforms into a hard-charging beast, capable of sprinting from 0-62mph in a scarcely credible 5.6 seconds.
I cannot imaging many wanting to drive the XC90 in all out race mode, but there’s no doubt that the T8 variant can cover ground swiftly and has plenty of power for swift overtaking manoeuvres.
The issue of fuel economy in plug-in hybrid vehicles is an interesting one. For drivers who cover a vast motorway mileage, a diesel engine is likely to be the best choice. However, many SUVs like the XC90 spend vast amounts of time in town on family duties and here the hybrid technology will pay dividends.
To properly benefit, you need the ability to charge the XC90 at home, something many townies without a driveway will be unable to do. For driven purely on petrol power with the battery empty, the fuel economy dropped to around 32mpg. Having said that, I don’t recall fairing much better in the economy stakes with the diesel engine version of the XC90.
Volvo reckons that around 25% of XC90 buyers will opt for the new T8 variant. I would not all be surprised if this figure is not a little conservative. The T8 drives with more gusto than the predicted best-selling diesel model, can be exceptionally frugal and offers tax saving incentives that are hard to ignore.
The downsides are the increased purchase price (over £13,000 before grants) and the need to be able to charge the vehicle at home. Overcome those (an affordable PCP and a long extension lead) and you will have one of the finest and classiest family vehicles in production today.
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine
Prices start at £62,570 (diesel from £50,985)
1,969cc petrol engine powering front wheels
87hp electric motor driving the rear wheels
8-speed automatic gearbox
0-62mph in 5.6 seconds
Top speed 140mph
Combined fuel economy 134.5mpg
Emissions – 49g/km CO2
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Volvo XC90 – A Genuine Life-Saver, 26th April 2018, 14:14 PM