The Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 is a big estate with a new, larger battery, allowing it to be driven up to 54 miles on electric power, and it also offers good performance and all-wheel drive grip.
If you want a big electric estate then there’s not much available at the moment, but the Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 is the next best thing, as it offers an electric driving range of up to 54 miles from its petrol-electric PHEV powertrain.
The V90 is Volvo’s largest estate and the Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 model combines a 4-cylinder, 2-litre petrol engine with a 145 hp electric motor powered by an 18.8 kWh battery. Total power output is a substantial 350 hp.
The V90 Recharge has a big boot (551 litres), with 1,517 litres of space with the rear seats folded down. Although this is a big car and space for passengers is good, central rear-seat passengers need to contend with a large ‘transmission tunnel’ on the floor where their legs should go – except this doesn’t house the transmission, but the battery.
The minimalistic interior looks and feels premium and is a match for rival offerings from the German manufacturers.
The headline is that the Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 is excellent to drive. In electric mode it’s as quiet and refined as any pure electric car – and thanks to the 145 hp electric motor, performance is good when using just electric power. With its electric range of up to 54 miles, you’re likely to be driving on electric power most of the time, but if you need to do a long motorway journey, then the V90 is still quiet and refined if you have to use the petrol engine.
The V90 is also very comfortable, with good ride quality – although it’s worth noting that our test car had the option of adaptive dampers and rear electronic air suspension. Because this is an Estate rather than an SUV, handling is good thanks to the low centre of gravity – although the 2,026 kg kerb weight means that it can’t be described as agile.
The V90 Recharge’s petrol engine produces 253 hp and 350 Nm of torque and the electric motor develops 145 hp and 309 Nm of torque; this translates to excellent performance, with a 0-62 mph time of 5.5 seconds.
The V90 also has all-wheel drive capability, which provides good levels of grip. And even the steering feels responsive for this class of car.
So far then, it’s all excellent news for the V90 in terms of the driving experience. However Volvo has done one crazy thing (in our humble opinion). The whole point of a plug-in hybrid is to be as efficient as possible. To drive a PHEV efficiently, you need to be on electric power for the majority of the time, although there are some occasions when you need to be able to easily change the hybrid driving mode, for instance when changing between urban and motorway driving. To be able to do this, you need to be able to easily press a button on the dashboard to swap between drive modes. However you can’t do this in the V90. The average person who gets in a V90 Recharge will have absolutely no idea how to change the drive modes. There are no physical drive mode buttons on the dashboard, and no buttons visible on the touchscreen.
However it is actually possible to change the drive modes, so how do you do this? Well, you have to press the cog at the very bottom right of the touchscreen, which brings up a ‘Settings’ screen, and then you have to press the top button on that screen for ‘Driving’, which brings up drive mode options. These are: Hybrid, Power, Pure and Constant All-Wheel Drive. Below these options are further buttons for Battery Auto, Hold or Charge. So a plea to Volvo: make the control system for the hybrid drive modes much more user-friendly for the average driver! Also, the V90 starts in hybrid mode as the default, not electric (‘Pure’).
There’s also another issue: in the vast majority of new cars you pull the gear selector once for Drive or Reverse. If you do this in the V90 you select neutral and end up going nowhere. This is because you have to pull the gear selector twice; it would be much easier to do this just once.
Also, there’s no ‘B’ or brake regeneration setting marked on the gear selector, but once in Drive, if you pull the selector down again, then you get the ‘B’ setting, so this is another V90 ‘secret’ like the drive modes (although, like the drive mode, it does show ‘B’ on the instrument display).
Most car controls are on the central touchscreen; there’s a ‘home’ button below the screen and pressing this brings up the four boxes for maps, media, phone and car status. There are permanent climate controls at the very bottom of the screen, and a symbol of four small boxes at the bottom left bring up further options.
The Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD has an official WLTP electric range of up to 54 miles, which is around double of many PHEVs. This helps it achieve a combined WLTP fuel economy figure of 256.5-352.6mpg. Did we achieve this figure in real-world driving? No, but the V90 was a lot more economical than the average PHEV, which in our hands typically average around 50-55mpg after a week of mixed driving around town and on motorways. The Volvo didn’t use one drop of petrol all week as it was driven purely on electric power, so you could say that it averaged hundreds or thousands of mpg. With two 90-mile motorway runs over the weekend, the average overall fuel economy ended up as 96.5mpg, which is very impressive.
The real-world electric range was also short of 54 miles, at around 40 miles, but this is still a lot more useful than the 20 or so miles for the typical PHEV. When fully fuelled the V90 should have a range of around 440 miles on petrol.
The V90 Recharge has a maximum charge rate of 3.7kW; a home charge from 0-100% will take around five hours.
The Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD Inscription costs £58,300. Our test car had a number of options including Lounge Pack – Power Glass Tilt and Slide Panoramic Sunroof, Parking Camera, 360° Surround View, Advanced Interior Air Cleaner (£1,950); Lighting Pack – Active Bending Headlights with Adaptive Shadow Technology, Headlight Cleaning System (£875); Climate Pack – Heated Front Windscreen, Heated Steering Wheel, Heated Rear Seats (£575); Premium Sound by Bowers & Wilkins with Dolby Pro Logic II Surround Sound (£2,150); Active Four-C Chassis – Four Corner Adaptive Dampers with Two Corner (Rear) Electronic Air Suspension (£1,500), Retractable Towbar (£1,175); 20-inch Alloy Wheels (£800); and Metallic paint (£715), taking the total price to £68,040.
The Volvo V90 Recharge has a Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax liability of 8% for 2022/23.
The Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD is excellent to drive overall, being quiet, refined and comfortable. It has an electric driving range of up to 54 miles which means that the majority of most people’s journeys can probably be carried out using zero tailpipe-emission electric power. If you use the petrol engine for longer journeys than there’s lots of performance, and you’ve got all-wheel drive grip. So the Volvo V90 Recharge is a rare thing: a large estate car that can be driven on electric power for a large proportion of journeys. So it’s a shame that the control of the hybrid system, and therefore the efficiency of the car, is spoilt by hiding the hybrid controls away in a sub-menu of a sub-menu on the touchscreen. The Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T6 AWD gets a Green Car Guide rating of 8/10.