The injection of some much-needed cash in 2010 has transformed the Volvo line up with the XC90 demonstrating just how far things have come. Yes the brand still majors on safety, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it has re-discovered its confidence when it comes to channelling the Swedish design ethic that makes a Volvo look and feel different to the German brands.
Designed from the ground up to accept a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the XC90 offers a massive boot, lots of interior space and 7 seats. The secret is clever packaging that locates the batteries in the transmission tunnel. This does mean that there’s no space for a driveshaft but fear not, the electric motor drives the rear wheels which means that you do still get four-wheel drive.
The front wheels get an equally hi tech 2-litre petrol engine which uses both turbo and supercharging to produce a hefty 306 bhp. When the petrol and electric motor are working together the system hits 449 bhp which is enough to provide hot hatch levels of acceleration. You can also lock the system in electric mode which delivers a useful 42.9 mile official range and the likelihood of around 25 to 43 miles in real life.
As with all plug-in hybrids the key is to maximise EV running, at which point you will see massive fuel bill savings and get genuinely low CO2 emissions. However if you’re planning to regularly drive long distances or never intend to plug-in, you’ll get the fuel consumption of a 2-tonne plus petrol SUV. We tried it and got 28 mpg, you have been warned!
Used as intended the XC90 can deliver day-to-day EV running with a long enough range to meet many people’s needs. If that sounds like you, then it makes absolute sense. If you’re one of the 50% of Twin Engine buyers who never goes near a socket then it doesn’t. Unfortunately it’s too expensive to attract the Government grant and gets caught by the top rate of VED so it isn’t a cheap option, but it is hugely versatile, good looking, offers 7 seats and a premium and thoroughly contemporary interior. It also handles neatly which in a class not overburdened with great drives is better than most of the competition. Just make sure it fits with your daily routine before signing on the dotted line.
Estimated real world range: 25 – 43 miles (electric)
Official range: 42.9 miles (electric)
Official electricity consumption: 206 Wh/km
Battery pack: 18.8 kWh (gross) lithium ion; 8 year / 100,000 mile warranty
Recharge time: 240 v 7 hours; 3.6 kW charge 4 hours
Please note that CO2 emissions quoted for electric cars are not directly comparable to diesel and petrol cars. This is because CO2 emissions quoted are calculated by Green Car Guide and include the emissions created at the power station turning fuel (e.g. gas etc) into electricity and in transmitting and distributing the electricity to an end user. They do not include the actual production of the fuel (e.g. gas extraction and refinery emissions). Petrol and diesel emissions are supplied by car manufacturers and are based solely on the fuel burnt in the engine (tailpipe emissions) and do not include the production of the fuel or distribution to a fuel station. In practice this means that electric car emissions are over-estimated relative to petrol and diesel. For instance if an electric car, a petrol car, and a diesel car are all reported to emit 100 g/km CO2, the electric car actually has lower emissions.