Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid 17 | 02 | 2016Scotcars rating

    Volvo goes green and gives its class-leading XC90 the plug-in hybrid treatment

    IF YOU'RE ONE of those people who still think Volvo cars are boring, and simply a Swedish company which focuses on producing safe, boring cars, then you are so out of touch. This new XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid, with its a crystal gear selector, is cutting edge technology … and one of THE best large SUV currently on the market. It's also the only premium plug-in hybrid seven-seater on the market.

    Surprised? You really shouldn't be. In the form of the seven-seat MkII XC90, Volvo created an SUV which manages to combine impressive versatility with near unquenchable desirability. Now, with the introduction of the T8 plug-in hybrid, it's become the 'must-have' not only for parents who enjoy power, but also company car drivers.

    Confused? Let me explain. The T8 plug-in hybrid delivers a combined 400bhp, hits 62mph from standstill in 5.6secs, carries on to a max of 140mph, yet has 'official' fuel figures of 134.5mpg — but let's be realistic here: in 'real world' driving, you'e not going to achieve 100mpg — and CO2 emissions of just 49g/km CO2.

    That, whether you're a mummy or a daddy, or someone who enjoys the benefits of a company car scheme, makes the Volvo attractive.

    Yeh, it's not cheap: for the T8 prices start at £59,955, though you can have an entry-level XC90 D5AWD Momentum from £46,250. But there's a lot of car for your money if you opt for the T8.

    And it's clearly already having a big impact on UK buyers. Twice as many UK buyers have opted for the T8 than anticipated (some 20%), and where previously trim level preferences tended to be conservative, more than 40% of the XC90s coming to the UK will do so in lavishly appointed Inscription specification.

    From the get-go, the XC90's chassis — built on Volvo’s new SPA scalable product architecture — was designed to package electric powertrains. In the T8, that means a 314bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine under the bonnet driving the front wheels. This is mated to an 81bhp electric motor, mounted at the back and driving the rear wheels only. It’s powered by batteries that are stored in the transmission tunnel, which of course needs no propshaft running through it.

    Oh, and just worth mentioning, the petrol engine is both supercharged (for low-rev response) and turbocharged (for higher-rev response).

    And, of course, the batteries can be charged by plugging the car into the mains.

    Before you ask, 'yes, the T8 can run on electric only'. According to Volvo, it has a range of 24 miles. And of course, you can opt to retain the electric charge to use if you're journey takes you to a zero-emissions zone. Alternatively, you can just leave it in Hybrid mode and let it do its own thing … which is probably the way most owners will handle the technology.

    Sensibly, Volvo has also included a ‘maximum traction’ mode, which is perfect for when you find yourself having to tow a horse trailer out of a wet field.

    And without meaning to contradict the fact the model's named the 'T8 Twin Engine', there's technically actually a third engine: this 25bhp starter/generator sits between the petrol unit and the eight-speed gearbox, and  both smooths the transition between the drive modes and fills any torque gaps.

    Driven in the aforementioned Hybrid mode, which delivers improved economy and maintains the serenity in the sumptuous cabin, the integration of electric and petrol power is almost seamless.

    Remember the crystal gear selector? Well it sits proudly on the top of the gearshift and …. strangely, aesthetically and tactile-wise, it works. I guess it's intended to generate that 'at one with the environment' mood.

    The cabin, with its acres of beige leather, machined aluminium and, at times, strange-looking wood panelling, somehow combine to deliver one of the finest interiors out there, and most definitely competes with anything else in its price bracket.

    It's an uncluttered environment in which to travel, one which benefits from an overall sense of light. It's both impressive and luxurious.

    So, what's the verdict? We all know the base XC90 is fundamentally a very fine SUV. The Twin Engine powertrain merely further enhances the product, and is yet further boosted by the tax breaks delivered by its Scrooge-like CO2 output.

    If it's out-and-out economy you're after, it's worth considering the D5 diesel. But if it's an environmental and technical statement you want to make — and especially if you use it for your 24-mile commute on electric-only charged overnight from the house mains — then the T8 Twin Engine is with checking out.

    Related: VW Touareg V6 TDI

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    Jim McGill


    Quick Stats
    Price OTR/As Tested £60,455 / £63,850
    Engine / Power: 4 cyl in line, 1969cc, supercharged and turbocharged petrol, electric, 8spd auto / 314bhp and 81bhp (electric)
    How fast?: 0-62mph 5.9sec; / Max 140mph
    How big/heavy?: L4950mm W2140mm (incl mirrors) H1776mm / 2296kg
    How thirsty/CO2?: 134.5mpg combined / 49g/km CO2
    InsGP/Road tax: n/a / Band A
    Alternatives: VW Touareg, Range Rover Sport, Audi Q7 (none of the three are hybrids)

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