By Patrick James on 2017-08-13 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Volvo XC90 T8
IN the world of the luxury SUV, where even your ‘base' model will set you back around Â£50,000, Volvo's XC90 might not figure on many people's list.
But the big Swedish offering is right up there, maybe even first among equals.
It is a luxury SUV that has just about everything including excellent two-litre engines, full seven seat capacity, off-road capability and stunning looks and a nod to Nordic mythology with the signature ‘Thor's hammer' light design to give it a real road presence.
As for Thor's symbology, these are the LEDs built into the front light clusters in the shape of the Norse god's hammer.
On top of that, with the hybrid T8, or Twin Engine model driven here, you have startling performance.
It combines a supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor, pumping out around 400 horsepower with carbon dioxide emissions of just 49g/km, making it hugely attractive in the company vehicle market.
It is four wheel drive with a slight difference. The petrol engine drives the front wheels, while the electric motor delivers power to the rear axle.
Like many of its competitors it is well equipped, but just like those competitors you can spends thousands on add toys and goodies.
There's plenty of excellent stuff on this top of the range model, including a superb Bower and Wilkins 19-speaker sound system, heads up display, state of the art communication and class-leading safety equipment, a lot of what you might expect at a shade under £70,000.
It looks stunning, the exterior has a softer, more curvaceous look than its predecessor, with, a reshaped bonnet and smart alloy wheels, roof rails and reconfigured Volvo badge. This has a more prominent iron mark, which has the iconic arrow aligned with the diagonal slash across the grille.
Inside is pure luxury with leather finish to all the seats, high-quality soft touch finish with Scandinavian and steel trim and neat little touches like the Swedish flag sewn into the upholstery.
The dash is dominated by a nine-inch TFT touchscreen which controls major functions like sat nav, infotainment, climate and phone connectivity as well as a number of apps and web browser capability. All the dials and controls are beautifully laid out.
Another nice touch is the starter button, which is twisted rather than pressed and a knurled silver knob which allows you to select drive modes.
The default is hybrid, but full electric, dynamic and off-road are all selectable - whichever suits your mood at the time.
The seats, despite being thinner to give more space to the rearmost two passengers are comfortable and supportive.
The second bank of seats sits slightly higher than the front two, while the third row, is higher still, giving all occupants better forward vision.
With all seven seats utilised, boot space is limited, but all seats behind the front two fold flat to provide a huge cargo area, which can be accessed, when your hands are full, by kicking under the rear bumper, where a sensor triggers the powered tailgate.
There is a choice of 2.0-litre diesel or petrol engines, with the D5 diesel the best seller, together with the T6 petrol and the T8 plug-in hybrid, which offers almost supercar performance.
It can hit 60mph from a standing start in around 5.5 seconds as it races through the slick-shifting eight speed automatic gearbox.
Blistering pace, but economy is not bad either. At the push of a button the driver can switch to emission-free city pure electric power where the range will be around 23 miles, and then, when needed, immediately revert back to the combined capacity of the petrol engine and electric motor.
This delivers a stunning, but not really achievable in the real world, 139 mpg. A very respectable mid-to-late 40ish mpg was my estimate over the course of a week.
Charging times for the battery vary depending on whether you used a dedicated charging position or plugging in to the mains at home. Either way, the more electric power, the better the economy.
All models are lavishly equipped, with Sensus navigation (including internet access, traffic information and free lifetime updates), LED Active bending headlights, Volvo On Call, ‘CleanZone' air quality, powered tailgate, keyless entry, powered driver's seat, auto dimming mirror and DAB radio.
The drive is superb. For a big seven-seater it handles beautifully, particularly with the optional air suspension. Even at high speed, engine and road noise is muted, with just a hint of wind noise on the large door mirrors.
Volvo has always been at the forefront for safety and this car is no exception with its raft of technologies, such as autonomous emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection and front collision warning.
Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription
Mechanical: 407bhp, 1,969cc, 4cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox
Max Speed: 143mph
0-62mph: 5.6 seconds
Combined MPG: 134.5
Insurance Group: 40
C02 emissions: 49g/km
Bik rating: 9%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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