Two-country test for 4×4

by huw Thomas, chairman, Welsh Motoring Writers

VolVo’s first XC90 (and first sUV) came in 2002. strong sales kept it going for 13 years up until launch of its replacement at 2015’s Frankfurt show.

For the first time, 2016’s XC90 featured a petrol-electric hybrid. s90 saloon and V90 estate are its ‘executive’ car stablemates. ‘XC’ is now for sUVs only – higher riding estates are badged ‘Cross Country’.

Next upper-medium ‘60s’ (new XC60 just arrived) and larger ‘90s’ are the fruit of Volvo’s integrated sPA (scalable Product Architecture) project. Drive-lines have been rationalised too. There is one 4-cylinder 2.0-litre unit and it’s 8-speed auto only. Diesel or petrol, turbocharging and/or supercharging vary the power outputs.

This year’s spanish trip was 10-days/2,500-miles. Two stops in France on the way down, four days in Aragon’s rural Matarranya. Then a couple of days on Catalunya’s coast before driving home over the Pyrenees with an overnight at Bourges.

Two aspects were new: a petrol-electric sUV rather than a Diesel

(away from an urban environment too); Dover-Calais crossing was with DFDs for the first time.

DFDs bought the assets of ‘sea-France’ in 2012. ships refitted and further vessels brought into service there is now real competition on the shorter Channel routes.

“T6” petrol and “D5” Diesel Volvos are front drive cars with variable All Wheel Drive at extra cost. sensor-triggered, a pressure-activated Haldex clutch set engages the back axle taking up to 100 per cent if needs be. AWD is standard on the new XC90.

The T8 hybrid is different. super and turbo-charged, a 320ps T6 unit drives the front while an electric motor, bringing 87ps to the party, runs the back. A starter-generator ‘third engine’ synchronises the two. A difficult trick to pull off but successful here.

Battery pack occupies the empty propshaft tunnel and does not encroach on interior space so the T8 has the same 7-seat (5+2) cabin as other XC90s. Even 7-up there is some luggage space. Fold the “+2s” flat and ‘boot’ area is large. Tip the mid-rear row forward too and loadspace is considerable. XC is Volvo’s domestic ‘load-lugger’ now.

Model line-up: Momentum & Momentum Pro; R-Design/Pro; Inscription/Pro: £48,655 – £69,550. D5 and T8 variants on all but no T6 Momentum/Pro. on test: T8 R-Design £64,355. R-Design D5 is £51,855. so, is the T8 worth £12,500 more than the D5?

For a 2.3-tonne plus car, 140mph and 0-62 in 5.6 seconds is quick. smooth petrol power another bonus. stop-start crawl is electric-silent with enough ‘forward creep’ to minimise effort.

Air suspension (£2,150 all models; standard on Inscription Pro), delivers greater ride comfort and adaptive dampers. Business Car and Road Taxes are low (£10, 1st year RT; £140 thereafter) and hybrids are ‘london Tax’ exempt.

Hybrids do well in (soon to be reformed) computer-driven official tests. Combined 134.5mpg though translated to an average 27 (brim to brim). Best: 34 after a long, sweeping descent from high Pyrenees to lerida with much brake-energy recharging, light throttle and every effort to stay within ‘eco mode’. Trip computer average: 29.

Claimed electric range is 24 miles and, fully charged, 20 was there in “Pure” setting. short journeys can be frugal if (plug compatible) charge points available but a D5 (137mph; 62-7.8 secs) will do 35mpg day in, day out. “AWD” can be dialled if going gets tougher. Braked trailer max. 2,400kg (D5/T6-2,700kg). Ins.Grp. 43 (D5-34).

The XC90 is a front rank sUV. ‘scandi-premium’ interior looks good. Connectivity, communications and navigation have been enhanced as has its autonomous braking which now can detect large animals and covers junctions.

For countries like Wales (and most of Europe) Diesel remains the obvious (larger car, higher mileage) choice. opt for that however and rivals include impressive vehicles from land Rover/Range Rover, Audi and Porsche.

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