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
Mechanical: Combined 390bhp, 1,969cc, four cylinder petrol engine and electric motor driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Combined mpg: 134.5
CO2 emissions: 44-61g/km
Warranty: 3yrs/100,000 miles