8 months ago

Company Car & Van April 2018


ON TEST: VOLVO XC90 More road reports at When we drove the Volvo XC90 back in 2015, to say we liked it was an understatement. However, back then we tested the diesel version and as readers will know, diesels are currently at their lowest-ever approval rating among car buyers. Step forward the Twin Engine XC90 T8, Volvo’s alternative to diesel. ‘Twin Engine’ is the name given by Volvo to its hybrid range and it’s available across most of the current Volvo models. The XC90 is also the model that debuted the current Volvo technology, and the platform underpins the latest Volvos, including the new XC40 and V60. There are six specs in the XC90 range; Momentum, Momentum Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription and Inscription Pro, all of which are mirrored in the T8 range. All models offer 4WD, seven seats, special energy-absorbent seats, Volvo’s City Safety auto-braking tech, Queue Assist and a self-parking system, so there’s no compromising on practically or safety. Prices for the XC90 T8 range from £62,450 for the Momentum, up to £70,350 for the rangetopping Inscription Pro. Despite being a large SUV, the XC90 offers a relatively sleek and aerodynamic look compared to much of its competition, namely the Range Rover Sport, Land Rover Discovery, Audi Q7 and BMW X5. The interior looks and feels expensive with brushed metal inserts, strategically placed wood, matching soft leather and a fit and finish straight out of the Danish Design Museum. On trend, Volvo has completely decluttered the dashboard. The infotainment and climate levels are controlled by a central portrait 9” touchscreen which has been designed to replicate the feel of an iPad and allows you to scroll between Media, SatNav, Telephone and all manner of car settings. It also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Although the system is to the forefront of what people want in their vehicles, after all we spend an awful lot of time in our cars nowadays, the touchscreen can be a little distracting for the driver while on the move and is best practised before getting behind the wheel. Indeed, Volvo knows that users will take a while to grasp all of what this Sensus System can do and provide buyers with a Sensus handbook to allow users to grasp just how extensive the operating system is. To reassure readers, after a week in the XC90 and with more than a couple of looks at the handbook, I discovered that Sensus is actually quite straightforward to use and is much more logical in its menu choices than much of the competition. Once mastered it is a fantastic addition. Standard equipment across all models is comprehensive, with SatNav, LED headlights, air-filtration, keyless entry, hands-free tailgate opening, a powered driver’s seat, auto-dimming mirrors and DAB radio. My entry-level Momentum D5 AWD A beauty, not a beast also included cruise control, roof rails, Bluetooth, the 9” centre console touchscreen, three rows of seats, with individually folding second row seats with fore/aft adjustment, Sensus Navigation, City Safety, which includes pedestrian and cyclist detection and front collision warning with full auto brake, 19” alloys and a 10-speaker 330W audio system. My test car had several options fitted, the most interesting being the Sensus Connect Premium Sound System by Bowers and Wilkins, which is an additional £3,000. This allows you to select, among others, the Gothenburg Concert Hall as a sound choice. Most awesome, music lovers. Unsurprisingly, the XC90 earned a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test score achieving 97% and 87% ratings for adult and child protection respectively. The XC90 also has lots of technology fitted as standard to help avoid crashes, including IntelliSafe, City Safety, Pilot Assist, Adaptive Cruse Contro and Run-off road protection. Also featured is an advanced blind-spot monitoring system that can steer the car back into its lane if you’re about to sideswipe another vehicle. The system will even brake and steer itself if it senses you’ve left the road and with Park Assist, it will also parallel and reverse park your Volvo for you. CC&V FACTFILE Price: £71,300 CO2: 58g/km BIK: 13% Comb mpg: 134.5mpg* * when combining petrol engine and battery Based on Twin Engine T8 Inscription Pro The interior can best be described as cavernous. There’s lots of room for five adults, with seats six and seven available in the rear if required. Even these two smaller seats will allow a couple of early teens decent head and leg room. The third row seats fold flat into the boot floor to utilise the boot with, say a mountain bike or a flat-pack from IKEA. In total , the XC90 has 451 litres of boot space when in seven-seat mode and 1,102 litres with the third row of seats folded flat into the boot floor. Stow all five of the rear seats away and there’s a whopping 1,951 litres. The boot also comes with a low loading lip, a shallow underfloor space and, of course, the powered tailgate as standard, 06 | April 2018 | Company Car & Van

so it is a very user-friendly space indeed. We’ve talked about the XC90 in general terms, but the reason for choosing the T8 over the diesel version is partly about saving money and partly being friendly to the environment. To this end, power comes from a 2.0-litre petrol engine combined with an electric motor, which together produce just over 400bhp. The T8 quoted combined economy figure is 134.5mpg, which is both incredibly attractive and very misleading. Could this figure actually be achievable? Perhaps, if you utilise the 25-mile range electric motor. This means that you need to charge it up and use it every day, which is easier said than done. Despite the increase of UK charging points you’ll need to charge at home and at work and not drive very far each day at a city commute kind of speed. Unfortunately, we spent most of our week in the T8 on the motorway dodging 75mph winds, the result being a 31mpg combined fuel economy, which is a much more likely figure than the 100mpg+ that Volvo quotes. There are five driving options: AWD, Pure, Power, Hybrid and Off-Road. The T8 runs in Hybrid as standard, which automatically manages energy flow between the engine, battery and the road. I used this most of the time, switching to Eco when moving slowly. You can save the battery charge for later use, or recharge on the move using the petrol engine Andrew Walker finds comfort and luxury on tap as he tests the Volvo XC90 as a generator. This, though, has to be accessed through the Sensus touchscreen. However, in common with, for example, the Golf GTE, the downside of this is your fuel economy plummets, while adding just 30% charge to the battery. Recharging on the move sounds sensible but in truth, it is best left to home or the office if you can. The good news is that, as it is a hybrid with CO 2 emissions of 59g/km, the XC90 T8 Twin Engine has a first-year tax bill of just £15 with a low Benefit-in-Kind company-car tax rating and is also exempt from the London Congestion Charge. Higher rate taxpayers will save a fortune if they pick a T8, although the cost differential between a diesel XC90 and the T8 version does make up for this annual saving, which is around £4,000 pa, over three years. For those of you wondering why the T8 doesn’t offer great fuel economy as just a petrol car, it’s not just because of its limited electric range. It’s just too powerful, too heavy at 2.3 tonnes and too much fun to drive it slowly. With 401bhp from its combined petrol-electric motor, 0-62mph is just 5.6 seconds and top speed is 143mph. These are performance figures that will make you want to ‘drive’ this car, not dawdle. On the road you’ll notice that there’s lots of power low down from the engine, making overtaking slow-moving traffic a joy on the motorway. The air suspension helps dampen the T8’s ride, making it feel sportier in cornering than it should, but in all honestly, it is a car best enjoyed in a straight line, ie, eating up the motorway miles. Talking of which, the four-cylinder engine is a little gruff in the mid-range but once up to 70mph+ it’s quiet enough to enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra in all of its glory. Or, perhaps more practically, to hold a noise-free hands-free phone conversation if required. If you want to utilise the electric motor to the best of its ability, it’s worth noting how we found it faired in our seven-day test. The official all-electric range after a full charge is 27 miles. We drove it during early March and in the eye of the ‘Beast from the East storm.’ On a typical day we managed 20 miles on electricity alone. Luckily, a friend who drives a hybrid X5 allowed me to charge the T8 on his drive and I found that it reaches full charge in around 2.5 – 3 hours, which is pretty good. A bit like Brexit, the jury is still out on whether or not high-powered hybrid petrol engines are good for the environment or just for the user’s tax code. On paper the T8 ticks all of the boxes: low CO 2 , high combined economy, low personal taxation,but, as with other cars of its ilk, only those who can utilise the electric motor by charging regularly and who avoid long journeys on their regular commute will really benefit. In simple pounds and pence terms it will also save a higher rate taxpayer around £4,000 per year over what they’d pay in BIK for an XC90 diesel Inscription Pro. And that is very appealing. As a car to own or to drive, we cannot fault the XC90. Good looking, supremely comfortable, cavernous inside, well equipped, very safe and beautifully put together, it’s certainly a refreshing alternative to a Range Rover, that’s for sure. Whether or not you’d want to pay more to own or lease a T8 over the XC90 diesel, however, will depend on your circumstances. It is also worth noting that Volvo has a range of smaller hybrid models in its range, all of which still offer the tax savings of the larger XC90 but will give you improved petrol or diesel-only fuel economy. And, to put the cat among the pigeons, Volvo’s latest model, the XC40, has just been awarded the European Car of the Year award and in diesel guise, which is certainly food for thought. CC&V VERDICT A beautiful, well-built and well thought-out car. Easily a match for the best from Range Rover, BMW and Audi. Just think about your recharging options to make best use of the fuel-saving tech Rating: Company Car & Van | April 2018 | 07

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