What is it?
Having been one of the first to offer plug-in hybrid (PHEV) powertrains in its saloons, estate cars and SUVs, Volvo lauded 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. Gothenburg’s first PHEV offering was fully eight years ago now, though – and plenty has changed since. 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.
So having first pitched its PHEVs as diesel-electric options, and then as quite highly priced petrol-electric pseudo-performance options, Volvo is finally getting down to brass tacks and making its bigger plug-in options a bit more value oriented. You can now opt for slightly cheaper and less powerful T6 Recharge-badged versions of the V60, XC60 and V90, and both of the ‘V’-prefixed estates will get you access to that highly desirable 10% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax classification for your next company car.
Being the biggest and the most expensive T6 petrol-electric option of the new trio, the V90 might not be the one to do the most fleet business for Volvo, but it does occupy something of a notional sweet spot within that little line-up within a line-up. It’s got traditional ‘big Volvo’ practicality and luxury accommodation levels, as well as four-wheel drive for those who want it; but you can still get one out of the showroom with an associated CO2 rating of 50g/km or less, and at a price competitive with what you might pay for an equivalent Mercedes, BMW or Audi PHEV - so long as you don’t go mad with the optional equipment.
The V90 T6 Recharge does rate slightly less favourably for lab-test fuel economy and C02 emissions than some of its rivals, mostly because it retains the 11.6kWh drive battery that Volvo’s T8 hybrids have used for a while – and many rivals have bigger ones and greater all-electric range. What’s important to note, however, is that the car sits right on the cusp of the 50g/km BIK tax threshold; so, with the way new cars are now tested and classified for carbon emissions taking in the influence of optional equipment, if you lavish too many weight-adding and energy-sapping cost extras to your car, you’ll miss out on the tax saving you may be aiming for.
Our test car was in R-Design trim, with optional 20in wheels, adaptive dampers and air-sprung self-levelling rear suspension. Thusly configured, it qualified for a sub-51g/km carbon rating, and you can add Volvo’s various driver assistance, ‘tech’ and ‘lounge’ option packs, too, without fear, and the expensive Bower & Wilkins stereo if you want it. Ours had all of that stuff, but just a retractable towbar on top of all those things would have pushed it out of the 10% company car tax band and up to 13% instead.
Now imagine having to explain to your nearest and dearest that a towbar or some heated rear seats were effectively costing you £700 a year in tax. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?