In this line of work, you often get asked what your favourite car is. Normally, the interrogator expects you to say something exotic, like a Ferrari or Bugatti, so you can imagine the strange looks I get when I reply: ‘A Volvo V90’.
In fact, even writing that down makes me wonder if I’m mad, but then every time I get behind the wheel of one I simply cannot find anything to dislike. And I’ve certainly been driving them a lot.
Over the past two months, I’ve been running a Volvo V90 D5 as a daily driver. Volvo lent it to me while I waited for ‘my’ V90, ordered from the factory in the summer, to arrive. The latter is the hybrid T8 version, so some time with the diesel alternative would allow a comparison and give me a great answer to that perennial question – should you opt for a diesel or hybrid?
Let’s start with the common aspects of them both before I try to work that out. First there are the smart looks to admire. This is one handsome estate, and although it’s rather long – 16ft long in fact – it masks those dimensions perfectly with good looks, a sweeping roofline and a tidy back end.
It’s incredibly comfortable to drive too, with superb seats in both models and a brilliant touchscreen that controls absolutely everything inside. Standard specification on a V90 is pretty incredible. My favourites include super-bright LED headlights, a nine-inch centre console touchscreen, front and rear parking sensors (which really are needed) and the power-folding rear backrests and headrests, which make loading big things so much easier. Even heated front seats come at no extra cost.
But back to the powerplants. The diesel D5 PowerPulse AWD I’ve been enjoying for the past few months has been smooth and refined. With 235bhp on tap and a whopping 480Nm of torque it’s perfectly at home on the motorway.
However, most of my driving is in town, where a diesel makes little sense – as such, I’ve been getting just over half of the claimed combined fuel economy of 57.6mpg. Most weeks I was lucky to tickle 35mpg, which is rather disappointing.
With options, the Inscription Pro model weighed in at £59,715, with just under £10k spent on extras such as a £3,000 Bowers and Wilkins sound system and £1,500 on adaptive dampers. Both seem expensive, but having lived with them I’d be loath to be without.
Both options were ticked on the T8 Twin Engine hybrid model too. As were nappa soft leather sports seats (£1,050) and the Xenium pack, which adds power panoramic sunroof, 360-degree parking camera and parking assist for a further £1,800.
One needless option, but one that makes the whole experience feel even more premium, was the walnut wood shell for the key – £165 might seem extortionate, and it is, but my word it’s lovely and something nice to show off.
All in, a T8 in my spec will extract £70,240 from your bank account – a shade over £10,000 on extras. As many people rightly pointed out on Twitter when I shouted about its arrival, £70k is a lot of money to spend on a Volvo, but for one of my favourite cars on the road? I don’t think that’s too bad.
Now, I’ve only had a few days to spend with the T8 before writing this initial report, but I’m already impressed with the hybrid setup. It charges in three hours on my 7kW home charger, or during a working day from a three-pin plug socket, allowing me to travel around town without using a drop of fuel. You get 25-ish miles on a charge and it’s swift, silent and smooth to drive. It feels incredibly luxurious.
Stick your foot to the floor and the 2.0-litre engine kicks in too – combining with the electric motor to provide 303bhp and 400Nm of torque. That’s enough to see it crack 60mph in five seconds flat and on to a top speed of 155mph. That’s fast by sports car standards.
I’m chuffed with the 20-inch diamond cut alloys (£800) too, and the Osmium Grey metallic paint (£700) really tops it off. You’ve got to admit, she’s a cracking looking car.
So far, my fuel economy has ranged from 23mpg after a drive back from the dealer with no charge to 143mpg on a trip around town. I’ll be interested to see how that levels out over the 8,000 miles I’ve got to test the V90, but so far at least it looks like the hybrid is the right car for me.