From £34,3507
The V90 T8 is a highly capable and efficient big estate, but it is not as versatile or as smooth-riding as a Volvo should be

Our Verdict

Volvo V90

The Volvo V90 is less dynamically poised than some rivals, but it's still a deeply compelling machine

  • First Drive

    Volvo V90 long-term review

    The Volvo V90 is a big estate ploughing its own furrow. We’re about to see if it is refreshing or misguided
  • First Drive

    Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine 2017 review

    The V90 T8 is a highly capable and efficient big estate, but it is not as versatile or as smooth-riding as a Volvo should be
1 November 2017

What is it?

If you’re looking for a large luxury estate equipped with a plug, your options are limited.

Mercedes has yet to apply the 350e powertrain to the E-Class Estate, it’s unlikely that BMW will offer a Touring version of its excellent 530e and the arrival of an Audi A6 Avant e-tron remains a distant, murky prospect.

That leaves the Swedes. Volvo, specifically, with the T8-badged version of its handsome V90 estate, which in solely oil-burning guise we’re rather fond of.

This flagship wagon uses a similar mechanical set-up to the T8 XC90 SUV, which is to say a force-fed four-cylinder petrol engine – the marque no longer indulges in a greater cylinder count for any model – that drives the front axle while an electric motor does so for the rear.

Bridging the two power sources is a 10.4kWh battery pack (larger, surprisingly, than the 9.2kWh unit in the XC90) that can be brimmed in as little as two and a half hours. Volvo has usefully positioned the unit as though it were the car’s spine, meaning boot space isn’t sacrificed in order to give the car its hybrid status, as is typically the case.

Claimed electric range is 28 miles – just about par the PHEV course in 2017 and enough for a reasonably short commute. Charge up at work and the V90 T8 could be the cheapest 400bhp estate car you’ve ever run.

The numbers reflect that power output: 0-62mph is summarily dispatched in just 4.8sec, while top speed is 155mph – more or less an exact match for the V8-engined B7 Audi RS4, which not so long ago seemed outrageously quick for an estate.

What that car couldn’t claim, of course, was CO2 emissions of just 46g/km. That means you’ll pay no tax for the first year of V90 T8 ownership, while combined fuel economy is 141.2mpg.

What's it like?

This is a dexterous powertrain, capable of persisting solely with electric power all the way up to 78mph or, by simultaneously engaging the twin-charged engine, locking itself into four-wheel-drive mode to improve low-speed traction on treacherous surfaces. Replenishing the battery on the move is a matter of selecting the battery-charge function within the slick central touchscreen, at which point the T8 morphs into a 312bhp front-driver. The wheelspin this can initiate is most unbecoming of a svelte Volvo estate, it must be said.

Engaging kickdown, however, unleashes a four-wheel-driven, petrol-electric total of 401bhp and a startling turn of pace that’s not always easily managed, given the car’s two-tonne-plus heft, with notable body roll owing to the laid-back suspension tune and disconcertingly spongy pedal feel from the regenerative brakes (highly effective they may be once caliper finally meets disc). Provoke this behemoth with care.

As is so often the case with dual-source powertrains, the V90 T8 is best left in its default Hybrid mode, in which the car itself manages the division of power. The digital dials have a novel, useful way of displaying the point at which the engine will ignite, which varies with remaining battery charge and throttle input, and under reasonably light loads the combustive element of the powertrain drifts in and out of effect almost imperceptibly. It’s at this point that the car is everything you want from a modern Volvo estate – effortless, cultured and unendingly sure-footed, slightly rigid ride notwithstanding. 

Push on and, as alluded to, compromises begin to reveal themselves. Our test car – optioned to an eye-watering £67,580 thanks in part to its adaptive damping with rear air suspension (£1500) and Bowers & Wilkins sound system (£3000) – is a beautiful machine in so many ways but, at 2011kg, it is certainly not the drivers’ car that its R-Design body kit might suggest. Under the duress of successive direction changes, all that metal takes up the slack in the springs in a slightly clumsy manner, leaving the car a step behind the topography of the road. The engine, though effective, also takes on a flat, industrial tone when stressed.

Should I buy one?

Those for whom the car’s modest electric range can bear the brunt of their daily mileage will own something of tremendous versatility. Anyone else who wants a sprightly V90 might be better off settling for the smoother-riding D5 AWD and save themselves £14,000 in the process.

Volvo V90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design

Where South Downs; On sale Now; Price £58,400; Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, turbocharged petrol plus electric motorPower 312bhp at 5700rpm (petrol), 86bhp (electric); Torque 295lb ft at 2200-5400rpm; Gearbox 8-spd automatic; Kerbweight 2011kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 4.8sec; Fuel economy 141.2mpg; CO2 rating 46g/km; Rivals Mercedes C350e Estate, Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Join the debate

Comments
19

1 November 2017

Made your mind up.

marineboy

1 November 2017

I went to the showroom and had a look. Incredible feat of packaging, a massive car with a relatively small boot, at least in appearance/aperture etc . The sloping roof line looks great, but the space is very restricted. My old v70 knocks the spots of it as a carrier of crap as it does not have a sloping roofline. Style over substance.

It does look fantastic. To me anyway.

But the compromised boot is an issue and my dogs would hate it, which is a real shame as I genuinely like the look of the car.

Spanner

1 November 2017
Spanner wrote:

The sloping roof line looks great, but the space is very restricted. Style over substance.

Do you mean the sloping roofline or the angled tailgate (this car has both)?

The 850 estate manages to look confident and purposeful without resorting to either sloping roof or angled tailgate but I suspect these days its the 'lifestyle' estates that sell rather than load-luggers.

1 November 2017

Time for Lotus to help Volvo with the ride and handling?

2 November 2017

They did it before to great effect on the 480 coupe of the late 80s and its hatch/saloon equivalent 440/460.

1 November 2017

You can give it all the fancy names(Twin Engine) you like but at the end of the day it’s a 2.0 4 pot diesel, like he one in a base £19,000 v40, Hybrid that comes in at over 2,000kg.

And all for £58,400 for an estate with limited space and practicality

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

1 November 2017

Its a petrol !!

1 November 2017

saying "From £34,350" at the top of the article a tad misleading! I was goping to buy one at that price.

1 November 2017

I'll start by correcting yet again our resident Volvo hater as the V90 T8 is powered by a forced induction petrol engine and not the diesel engine he's ranting on about. 

You'll find 2L 4 cylinder forced induction petrol engines are the norm for hybrids in this class as both the BMW 530e and MB E350e also run exactly that, albeit in much lower tunes and RWD only. 

The 315bhp version of the twin charged 2.0 4 cylinder petrol engine is only available in the S/V/XC90 T8 in the UK, although a 367bhp version of this engine powers the S/V60 T6 Polestar.  Other markets benefit from an S/V/XC90 T6 in 315bhp format.  This engine is not available in the V40 as stated and if it were ever available, I very much doubt it would be on sale for £19,000.

Yes it's a lot of money but the German competition would likely cost similar in estate form if they were also offering 400bhp and AWD, and then you would need to spend thousands on optional extras to match the standard specification of the V90.  It might not have the load bay of Volvo's of old but that hasn't stopped other estates with a loss commodious load bay from selling, such as the 5 Series Touring or A6 Avant.   I think Volvo have got the balance just right as in my opinion it's a stunning looking car. 

I also believe it's definitely time Volvo consulted with Lotus on the ride/handling front as it's obviously still an area of weakness, with the exception of the Ohlins equipped S/V60 T6 Polestar, which is a shame when they have nailed pretty much everything else. 

 

1 November 2017

I went by the Spec at the end of the report. £58,400 for a 4 pot petrol engine, crazy too! I don't hate Volvos by the way just the crap ones so there's no need to raise the issue like a fanboy.

Proof XC60 is excellent and by far there best car.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

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