Volvo’s large plug-in hybrid estate isn’t quite the car we’d like it to be
Large, luxurious plug-in hybrid cars are coming, with all premium manufacturers committing to rolling them out in coming years. But while we’re still awaiting the launch of cars such as the Mercedes-Benz E350e and BMW 530e Touring, Volvo’s already marketing a plug-in V90 T8 estate.
Instead of a four-cylinder diesel engine, it gets a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol up front, and an electric motor for the rear wheels. Volvo fits a large 10.4kWh battery pack, cleverly located in the central section of the car so it doesn’t restrict boot space. It will do up to 28 miles in pure electric guise and can be recharged in two and a half hours.
Because it combines petrol and electric, the V90 T8 boasts 400bhp and 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds – that’s performance estate figures, not one that also boasts claimed economy of 141.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 46g/km.
Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol plus electric motor
Power: 312bhp (petrol), 86bhp (electric)
Torque: 295lb ft
Gearbox: 8-spd automatic
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 141.2mpg
CO2 rating: 46g/km
If there’s enough charge, it will run at speeds of up to 78mph in pure electric guise, or combine petrol and electric to give four-wheel drive traction on slippery surfaces. You can even charge up the battery on the move, which caps power to ‘only’ 312bhp, all delivered through the front wheels. Needless to say, traction is thus limited at times…
When you really boot it, all the systems will kick in and release over 400bhp, although the car does begin to struggle when you do so. Body control is pretty soft, with lots of lean through bends, and initial brake pedal feel is rather sloppy as well. This has performance estate power, but not the suspension setup to match.
It’s best left to its own devices, juggling the various drive sources to serve up electric car refinement where possible, and the best possible fuel economy no matter what the battery charge. The clever digital dials even have a bespoke display that lets you know at what point the engine will kick in, so you can drive a bit more softly to keep it turned off.
The V90 generally rides effortlessly and the interior is quite beautiful, although it’s far from cheap. With a few options such as rear air suspension and a brilliant Bowers & Wilkins sound system, the price of our test car spiralled to over £67,500, which is a staggering amount to spend on a car that, although clever, can also be a clumsy-feeling drive at times.
If you’re seeking a posh petrol-electric hybrid estate, your options are limited, so the V90 Twin Engine might be something of a default. And it’s a decent choice, particularly if your daily driving range is small and you have full need for a large, commodious load-lugger. However, for most, the regular diesel V90 D5 AWD will be a better bet – not least as it’s a whopping £14,000 cheaper…