Tag Archives: luxury

Luxury Volvo on a charge

Volvo S90 Twin engine

By Bill McCarthy

There are not many manufacturers that think of a moose when designing safety systems. But if your are travelling across near-Arctic land tracts in Scandinavia, there’s a chance the aforementioned beast appearing on the road in front of you could cause you to come a cropper.

Swedish firm Volvo has thought of that and many other innovations as its success story continues.

It seemed, not that very long ago, that the days of the big saloon may have been numbered with the growing popularity of the ubiquitous SUV/crossover.

But Volvo’s impressive executive saloon is first among equals in a brand that says, by 2025, it wants half of its global sales volume to consist of fully electric cars, with the rest hybrids.

The strategy seems to be paying off with Volvo managing to increase its share of the UK new car market last year, despite the pandemic, with  2.85 per cent share of the total market, up from 2.43 per cent the previous year.

This big saloon is a plug-in hybrid that offers excellent fuel economy and low CO2 emissions, to make it an extremely attractive company car with lower benefit in kind payments. It is also luxurious, almost decadent, with just about every creature comfort catered for, and a few other bits and pieces as well.

Add to this the Swedish firm’s proven all wheel drive capability, such a boon on those snowy and icy Nordic roads, where you could run into near ton weight of antlered beast, and you have quite a package.

It is a million miles from the tank-like Volvos of yesteryear, looking svelte and sleek. It also adds cutting-edge technologies, ranging from safety to cloud-based apps and services. In addition passengers are cossets in top end comfort, with ride and comfort, matched by few.

It has just two trim levels, R-Design and Inscription driven here, both feature the T8 twin engine technology, with petrol only and diesel abandoned.

 The two litre petrol engine is mated with an 86hp electric motor to deliver a total of nearly 400bhp.

That is a lot of power on tap and, mated with a slick eight-speed auto box, the big car delivers blistering pace, racing to 60mph in a shade under five seconds. Very impressive if you take into account the excellent economy on offer.

It also has a claimed electric power only range of around 37 miles, a figure I struggled to attain, with nearer 30 miles achieved, even driving carefully. It has a theoretical range of 134miles, which in the real world equates to nearer 60mpg. Still impressive in such a vehicle.

Having said that, a daily commute on electric only, does give mind-blowing figures, with the plug-in charge up taking around six hours. What you gain in fuel economy, you lose a little on electricity costs, but the savings are clear to see.

Driving in hybrid mode, the electric range does drain fairly quickly so switch to ‘B’ mode on the gear selector which allows the battery to regain power under braking, while slowing the vehicle by just taking your foot off the accelerator.

It has a real road presence, featuring the now-familiar Thor’s hammer style headlights, LED running lights, folding door mirrors, power boot lid, piano black front grille with chrome surrounds and twin exhaust tailpipes, and sitting in smart alloy wheels.

The interior is dominated by nine-inch, tablet style touch screen and a 12.3 inch TFT driver information display.

The touchscreen hosts the major functions, like Volvo’s Sensus infotainment system, satellite navigation, various apps, a sophisticated voice-control system, top end sound system with 10 speakers and connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

You can even turn the car into a WiFi hotspot thanks to the standard data SIM card and it features in-car entertainment applications such as Spotify, Pandora, Baidu or TuneIn and Volvo On Call.

Otherwise quality is exceptional with soft touch materials throughout, powered and heated leather seats which are firm and supportive and a large glass areas. Features include dual zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, cruise control, electric windows and door mirrors sports mat and pedals.

Also standard are ambient lighting, rear footwell and side step illumination, heated sports multi-function steering wheel, heated, powered front seats with lumbar support, split folding rear seats, power folding rear backrests, and ski hatch.

It is an engaging drive, Even at high speed, engine and road noise is muted, with just a hint of wind noise from the large door mirrors. Excellent torque means motorway driving is a comfortable affair, the key acceleration range of 50-70mph achieved in what seems the blink of an eye.

In practical terms, there is much on offer including a huge, long boot with 500 litres capacity and a power-operated tailgate, which can also be operated with a ‘kick’ function to trigger a sensor beneath the boot.

All models  are packed with safety equipment, which goes without saying on a Volvo, with full complement of airbags and a raft of driver, passenger and pedestrian safety technology. Neat options include automatic parking and  360 degree camera, where the surround view from the four wide-angle lens cameras appears on the centre touch screen at even at very low speeds.

 It also includes City Safety, part of the Intellisafe package, which includes pedestrian, cyclist and the now famed Nordic ‘moose’ or large beast detection package.


Volvo S90 Recharge T8 Inscription AWD PHEV

Price: £56,155

Mechanical: Combined 390bhp, 1,969cc, four cylinder petrol engine and electric motor driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Insurance: 42E

Max speed: 112 mph

0-62mph: 4.8 seconds

Combined mpg: 134.5

CO2 emissions: 44-61g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles

M8: Electric pace and luxury

BMW is simply dynamite

BMW M8 Competition

By Bill McCarthy

IT may come as some surprise to hear BMW say that its twin new models, the M8 Competition coupe and convertible are its first foray into the luxury performance car market.

Having driven the extremely rapid M850i recently, that left me scratching my head. But when you are talking about power units that deliver supercar performance, small increments make a difference.

Both  models feature a brutally powerful 4.4-litre V8 engine with twin turbos and the now familiar BMW M Steptronic eight-speed transmission, delivering a stonking 635hp and 750Nm of torque. 

This in turn delivers neck-wrenching performance with the car hitting 62mph in just 3.2 and 3.3 seconds respectively. 

For those who care about the incremental performance, the well over half a second to 3.9 seconds difference between that and the M850i may seem to make the latter almost pedestrian by comparison. 

The Competition model also offers a track driving mode, where rear wheel drive can be selected and up to 189 mph can be hit where permitted.

Power is delivered by two turbochargers, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, direct injection with increased pressure, plus cooling and oil supply systems designed for maximum track performance.

All this power need to be transferred to the wheels in an efficient and safe manner and the four wheel with the model specific adaptive suspension and chassis improvements means the big beast is rarely troubled when you turn on the power.

This became apparent with a full day’s drive up and down the twisting roads and passes of the mountains of southern Spain near Malaga. Difficult roads to test the performance and handling of any vehicle were dismissed by this luxury thoroughbred in the most beautiful Andalusian setting.

Choose full auto or switch to the paddles and the car is a delight, clinging limpet like on horseshoe bends with the big slabs of rubber on the 20-inch wheels and blasting away on the rare stretches of straight road. The convertible was driven first and on a sunny day the roof was straight down.

The car does look good, predatory, almost feline in profile in both coupe and convertible guise and features a hexagonal theme with upgraded black kidney grille carbon-fibre and large apron underneath. 

To the rear there is a carbon-fibre spoiler, four exhaust pipes and diffuser for the cabrio. The coupe features a double bubble carbon fibre roof while the convertible offers a fabric top which folds away in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot.

The interior is the last word in luxury, functionality and comfort with powered front seats, featuring with warm air collars in the headrests in the convertible for when it gets chilly. Trim is of the highest quality with Merino leather, anthracite headliner, top quality soft touch finish and a riot of carbon fibre, leather, thick carpets, and the familiar M  branding throughout on seats, sills and doors.

These include red accents on the M leather steering wheel’s M buttons and the start/stop button on the centre console. The newly designed transmission selector lever with Drivelogic switch is leather-surfaced with an embedded M logo and stitching.

The latest  iDrive infotainment system dominates with the so-called Live Cockpit Professional 12.3-inch display which controls, navigation, infotainment and and a raft of connectivity services and apps with at last Android Auto being included from next year in addition to Apple CarPlay.

In addition the BMW Connected Package Professional adds remote services and real time traffic information. There’s also M8-specific dials which can be selected by the driver on the digital display and the couple of drive selector red buttons on the steering wheel.

Driving it is a real experience, floor the throttle and the exhaust acoustics change depending which mode is selected via the M Sound Control button on the centre console. By selecting SPORT PLUS the engine sounds more like a racing car as the roar of the V8 kicks in.

Two variants of this M setup can be stored permanently with the driver’s preferred settings for the engine sound, gearshift characteristics and driving stability control on either of those two red M buttons on the steering wheel. 

On the road the huge amount of torque means power delivery is instantaneous, even allowing for overtaking with comfort on twisting  roads. The 4WD Sport mode  diverts a larger slice of engine power to the rear wheels. Deactivating the Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC) transfers power exclusively to the rear wheels for a more engaging drive.

The handling is peerless with the slip differential, adaptive suspension and active chassis keeping the car firmly planted while the beautifully weighted steering is direct and responsive, especially when you need to instantly avoid a herd of sheep crossing a mountain road.

But it’s not just about the madcap performance. Slowing down through mountain villages, the car settles into a docile mode, but on the other side, feathering the throttle unleashes all the power again.

Is it also a superb motorway cruiser and happy to sit at 70 mph, but here allowed, again a blip of the throttle means that huge torque delivers brilliant overtaking speed.

For safety, the M compound brakes are standard while larger  carbon-ceramic brakes are an option as the car provides a full  complement of safety kit. In addition it features cameras which can record and store the previous 20 seconds on the car’s activity on the hard drive, plus full complement of airbags, stability and traction control and assisted braking.

Rollover protection system is standard on the convertible which also includes a wind deflector, which can be set up in the rear-seat area to prevent unwanted air turbulence when driving with the roof down.

For the record claimed economy is around the 25mpg mark, obviously dependent on how you drive and emissions over the 250 g/km mark ain’t going to save you anything on benefit in kind taxation. But at £123,000-plus for the coupe and £133,000, yes, £133k for the cabrio, it probably does’t matter.

As usual with BMW, even for a car this expensive, options can bump up the price substantially, but that should be no surprise to BMW drivers.

And if the performance is too much there’s always the ‘pedestrian’ M850i.

But this is a true supercar and a delight to drive. BMW have thrown down the gauntlet to its challengers yet again.

BMW M8 Competition Convertible, Brands Hatch Grey

Flying with Bentley luxury

Bentley Flying Spur

By Bill McCarthy

Claiming to be the ultimate driving machine, as a famous German firm has, is quite a boast.

Few could get anywhere near that claim, but the British-built Flying Spur could be in with a shout. 

In fact, the company says it is the ultimate luxury Grand Touring saloon, offering the perfect fusion of performance-orientated agility and exclusive four-door, limousine-style comfort. Well, you would hope so for around £170k, but it does not disappoint.

German owned, by VW, but British designed and built in Crewe, it is close to the ultimate in motoring luxury and cutting edge technology which includes the retractable Flying B mascot, making its debut on the model.  

The third generation is the flagship of the range and is a completely new car from the ground up with extended wheelbase and a host of high-end goodies.

This is a beautifully designed car with  latest generation cut-crystal effect LED matrix headlamps and new wrap-around rear lamps incorporating ‘B’ motifs and either stylish new 21 and 22-inch wheel designs together with the signature grille. 

It is handcrafted to the finest Mulliner specificaton level and packed with technology, including the new, all-wheel steering system. This acts together with the all wheel drive and and improved suspension to increase stability and handling, with front and rear wheels steering in opposite directions to making parking such a big car much easier and keeping it rock solid at high speeds.

It is also incredibly powerful, capable of 207 mph and hitting 60mph in under four seconds. Quite something for such a big motor, weighing in at nearly three tonnes gross, despite the use of lightweight materials on the chassis.

Performance is toe curling, but not the riotous drive you would expect from an out and out sports saloon. Okay, floor the accelerator and its like jet taking off, but occupants otherwise suffer no discomfort and feel as safe as you can be with such performance. Only muted roar from the mighty 626bhp W12 engine intrudes into the cabin.

The  W12 configuration TSI engine delivers its staggering pace through a seamless eight-speed dual clutch transmission. The 900Nm of torque also delivers massive pulling power.

Floor the accelerator and the twin turbocharged beast is capable of hitting 60mph in a neck-wrenching 3.7 seconds.

 All the power is all well and good, but it needs to be kept in a straight line and that where the four wheel drive kicks in. The vehicle will use rear-wheel drive as much as possible during normal driving, but the system will send drive to the front axle as required. 

For better economy, the Variable Displacement system shuts intake and exhaust valves, fuel injection and ignition with the engine running as a six-cylinder for improved efficiency. This saves fuel obviously allowing the Bentley to reach a better than expected claimed 21mpg.

There are three drive modes where engine, gearbox and other chassis systems will modify to match the selected mode. Alternatively, the driver can personalise his or her own dynamic settings.

Just like its sporty sibling the Continental GT, it is sumptuous inside, a riot of handcrafted wood and leather of choice and chrome, together with jewellery-inspired diamond knurled finish switchgear and classy analogue style clock.

Bentley says design lines flow from the new wing-themed fascia to connect the front and rear passenger areas and create a completely integrated style. There’s no doubting the comfort with fluted leather seats, which feature diamond quilting for the Mulliner Driving Specification, while three-dimensional diamond quilted leather doors inserts are a world first. 

For those who like the bells and whistles, the optional Bentley Rotating Display is a must. Start the engine and a flat, veneered section of the fascia rotates to reveal the choice of 12.3-inch digital touchscreen which operates main functions of the car, including Apple and Android connectivity, sound system and climate control plus sat nav, 60gb hard drive, optional sirius satellite radio and Google street view. Rotate for analogue dials which are compass, temperature gauge and chronograph timer, or back to a plain wood veneer finish.

For those who are passengers, or being chauffeured, to the rear there is a detachable remote touch screen, which operates all the major functions, including the blinds, climate control and rear seat massage functions. It can also control the  mood lighting system

Is it well equipped? Well, it costs just shy of £170,000, so yes. It has just about anything you can think of, or so you thought, from the expensive Bang & Olufsen 16-speaker sound system to the  20-way adjustable seats with (optional) cooling, heating and massage functions. But the list of optional extras is eye watering if you have a spare few grand knocking about to give a total price for this model of over £200k.

But boot space is also surprisingly good, with 420 litres, ample space for those designer suitcases.

Safety is vital with such a powerful car and the  kit, some optional, features huge brake callipers, stability and traction control, a full complement of airbags and features including Active Lane Assist, Traffic Jam Assist and Park Assist with 360 degree all round cameras, infra-red camera, and head-up display.

The ultimate machine, maybe, certainly the last word in luxury.

Facts at a glance

Bentley Flying Spur

Price: £168,300

Mechanical: 626bhp, 5958cc, 12 cylinder petrol engine driving all wheels via 8-speed auto gearbox

Max speed: 207mph

0-60mph: 3.7 seconds

Combined mpg: 23.3

Insurance group: 

CO2 emissions: 298g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles