The staid image of Volvo cars is long gone and they continue to produce world-class vehicles. Having been one of the first to offer plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrains in its saloons, estate cars and SUVs, Volvo enjoyed an early lead over its mostly German rivals for anyone looking to cut their company car tax and fuel bills with an executive car they could plug into the mains. There’s now a lot of competition for plug-in hybrid fleet business, as well as much greater relative importance placed on those plug-in hybrids by the company car tax system, and model prices have steadily fallen.
My recent review of the XC40 Recharge proved they have got it spot on as it is now in my top three EVs. Now the big one, the V90 estate that has always been famed for being able to move a house, so cavernous is its interior.
It does not disappoint. The build quality is the remarkable thing of the sort you really only find in German cars. It is well-built, solid as a rock on the road and just slightly less cavernous than before.
Fundamentally the V90 is a big family estate, much like the Mercedes E-Class Estate, BMW 5 Series Touring and Audi A6 Avant. You will notice that this is the only non-German car in the lineup and it truly deserves its place at the top table.
This is a proper plug-in hybrid which pairs a 2.0-litre petrol engine with a 11.6kWh battery for up to 36 miles of electric range (claimed). What it doesn’t do is use the engine as a generator to supply more electricity therefore, when the battery is tapped out, you get no more until you plug in.
They have sacrificed an amount of interior space for style with the sloping roof line but it is still huge and if you need more space, get a van.
The interior is an oasis of calm that makes navigating Britain’s poorly surfaced, narrow, congested road network feel about as irritating and stressful as a meditation session. You are superbly insulated from the outside world and that cache of priceless antiques in the back will be as safe as houses.
Every V90 has a 2.0-litre engine with some form of electrical assistance. All the Bs – the B4 (petrol or diesel), B5 (petrol) and B6 (petrol) – are mild-hybrids, while the T6 Recharge is a plug-in. Every V90 has an eight-speed automatic gearbox. The B6 and T6 are both all-wheel drive (the latter because the e-motor drives the rear wheels) while the rest of the range is front-wheel drive.
If it’s outright speed you’re looking for, then l suggest you look elsewhere. The V90 T6 (335bhp, 0-62mph in 5.3 seconds) and B6 (296bhp, 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds) are certainly brisk, but remember this is a big, plush Volvo estate we’re talking about and it really does not beg you to push it - it’s more a waft than a blast.
It is a superb car in which a couple of hundred miles will be achieved in supreme comfort with no worries along the way. Its main rival, the Mercedes E-Class Estate will have a fight on its hands with this as it’s tough to squeeze a Rizla paper between them. Snob value will push you toward the Merc whilst bullet proof safety in crash tests might nudge you towards the Volvo. Whichever you select, you cannot really go wrong.
The interior is well laid out with few knobs as just about everything is controlled via the nine-inch screen. It is all easy to get your head around and the comfort level is high. The Volvo interiors are getting better and better.
There really is only one reason l would not buy the Volvo – the key fob. A small thing you might think but we are all used to knowing exactly where the lock/unlock buttons are on our fobs which we press without looking or thinking about it. Not so the Volvo. The large fob is totally blank on both sides and for some odd reason they have put the tiny buttons down the side of the fob therefore it is impossible to hit the right one without putting it up to your eyes. Yes, really that small, and examining them before hitting the right one. Annoying, unnecessary and totally pointless.
Apart from that, it is a superb car worth every penny of the money and will likely outlast you. Still it’s big enough to use as a hearse so there’s another couple of bob saved.
Model tested: V90 Recharge PHEV T6 AWD R-Design
Engine: 2-litre plug-in
Power: 253bhp + 87
Speed: 0-60mph 5.6 secs
Economy: 104.6mpg (claimed)
Price from: £41,645
As tested: £66,675