Big plug-in hybrid

from Volvo

Volvo S90
Volvo S90 static
Volvo S90 R-Design, action
Volvo S90 R-Design, front quarter
Volvo S90 R-Design, rear quarter
Volvo S90 R-Design, boot
Volvo S90 R-Design, interior
Volvo S90 R-Design, interior rear

VOLVOuses the word premium for all its cars but I think that should be avoided because its products are above that.

In fact, judging by the handsome, range-topping S90, I would say the company has found a niche all its own - cars with such cosseting comfort and superb refinement that 300 miles can be driven with very little fatigue.

Surely at this luxury level of car ownership, you would rather have comfort and the cachet of something different, than follow the crowd into a ‘sporty' Audi or Mercedes.

I gave the plug-in hybrid S90 T8 Twin Engine a truly exacting task, to waft me right across the country from west to east and back over a period of just two days.

During that time I drove nearly 400 miles over every conceivable type of road and surface, returning by a completely different route as is my wont, because you never know what you might see.

The big Volvo was a marvellous companion and a superb long distance cruiser in every way, soaking up the worst of potholed and much repaired side roads in towns, shrugging off speed humps and completely insulating me from pock-marked or undulating surfaces at speed.

Now the suspension does most of that, but here I must mantion the electrically adjusted front leather armchairs, which are beautifully shaped and supportive and also heated or cooled at the driver's whim.

Despite being fairly flat, they also hold uncannily well through fast corners - but more of that later.

Like all the larger Volvos now, the S90 T8 has a four cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine, boosted in this case to give more than 300bhp.

On top of that it has an electric motor, with battery pack and mains charging. This drives the rear wheels and can be used alone to give a zero emission maximum of about 28 miles, or in tandem with the petrol unit for all wheel drive and to give maximum urge.

The two together give a total of 390bhp, which gives this big saloon almost supercar performance, with 0 to 62 miles an hour taking just 4.8 seconds.

Such a reserve of power under the right foot gives safe and swift overtaking and, of course, the four-wheel-drive (4WD) will keep it going in the worst of winter weather.

As I hinted above, the road-holding and general handling are also very good, with little roll and loads of grip. The steering is a little inert but I found there was enough road feel.

A drive mode selector gives the T8 five different choices to change the way it responds.

The Hybrid setting uses both power units together or separately to best effect - electric only in traffic for example, Pure is electric drive only, Power uses both units together - as does AWD - but here it's for maximum traction and Individual allows the driver to select settings.

Changing the mode uses a strange roller and switch combined, but it didn't work particularly well for me and a dial would be better.

The very best safety is built in to every Volvo as part of the company's long term ethos, of course, and from 2020 all its cars will be limited to 112 miles an hour because speed so often plays a large part in accidents.

This is a brave move, but I can see other car makers adopting a similar strategy on today's ever more crowded roads - and eventually governments too.

Volvo interiors are very good to look at and to live with. The simple uncluttered dash works well in the main but the large, upright touchscreen controls too much - the sat nav, sound system, heating and ventilation, car functions, and the wide range of safety electronics.

It's too complicated and despite large screen buttons, it's difficult to even change the temperature on the move.

Equipment in the S90 T8 R-Design Pro I drove includes just about everything you can imagine but special items include an electric parking brake that comes on automatically when the car stops and goes off when you pull away and a coasting function in the Eco mode allowing no engine braking on downhill stretches.

Other unusual kit includes LED headlights with automatic high beam, lane-departure warning, traffic sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and both heated steering wheel and windscreen.

FAST FACTS

Price:£57,800

Mechanical:390bhp, 1,969cc, 4cyl petrol/electric engine driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed:155mph

0-62mph:4.8 seconds

Combined MPG:141

Insurance Group: 44

C02 emissions:46g/km

Bik rating:16%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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