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First drive: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription plug-in hybrid car review

Volvo XC90
Volvo

Review

Deliveries of a unique plug-in hybrid sport utility model are expected to be subject to significant delays when the vehicle reaches the UK market next year.

Even though order books on T8 Twin Engine versions of the Volvo XC90 opened four months ago, exceptional demand across Europe means supplies are unlikely to begin reaching British dealerships until March at the earliest.

But the good news for customers is that the wait for the ultimate Swedish SUV will be well worth the while.

Fleet News went to Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg for an exclusive first drive of a production-ready example of the swish and silent T8 and came away impressed by the only car of its kind to boast seven seats.

Instead of locating the 9.2kWh battery under the rear cargo floor, Volvo engineers came up with the idea of slotting it into the space between the front passenger seats usually reserved for the transmission tunnel. As a result, Volvo can now claim that as well as imposing no compromise on load volume, its novel solution also means the additional 195kg power pack weight is in the best possible place to have no adverse effect on handling.

Displaying all the benefits of being designed as a PHEV rather than being adapted, the T8 is a svelte, smooth-riding luxury hold-all with two-litres of conventional turbocharged and supercharged power up front and electricity providing four wheel traction when it’s needed.

After a 3.5-hour charge from a domestic supply, the car accelerates smartly and keeps pace with main road traffic for around 27 emission-free miles in ‘pure’ mode while other settings allow charge to be saved, all-wheel drive to be locked, extra grip for slippery terrain or a mixture of petrol and electric for maximum performance.

Left to its own devices, the default hybrid mode has the T8 delivering armchair comfort in a calm, quiet and reassuring manner irrespective of speed, whether surging ahead for fast overtaking manoeuvers or pottering along silently through city streets.

The T8 contradicts its neat looks with spacious accommodation and load volume that stretches from 316 litres in seven-seat mode to 1,816 litres with second and third-row seats folded for maximum carrying capacity. Exterior detailing on the top-line Inscription includes a matt silver front grille with chrome surround and chrome side moldings.

Inside, soft leather upholstery is complemented by leather trim for the instrument panel and door tops and climate control includes third-row seats as well as operating across four zones. A panoramic glass sunroof has tilt and slide facilities, auxiliary heating can be programmed to provide a warm welcome on chilly winter days and an unusual touch of bling comes with a gear selector topped with Orrefors crystal glass.   

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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