Volvo V90 plug-in hybrid long-term test
In theory, the V90 T6 plug-in hybrid estate car is ideal for someone living on the edge of a city. Our editorial director is finding out if it makes sense in reality...
The car Volvo V90 Recharge T6 Inscription Run by Jim Holder, editorial director
Why it’s here Can a large plug-in hybrid estate really deliver great fuel economy as well as carry-all practicality?
Needs to deliver A premium experience all round, from interior comfort and capability through to driving dynamics, while also hitting diesel-like efficiency
Mileage 5023 List price £58,300 Target Price £55,866 Price as tested £66,940 Dealer price now £47,926 Trade-in price now £43,174 Private price now £42,601 Test economy 45.3mpg Running costs (fuel plus electricity) £471
24 January 2022 – The perfect car, but is it sold at the perfect price?
The Volvo V90 is such a perfect family car that I would recommend it in a heartbeat. It is stylish, supremely practical, effortless to drive and across the months and many thousands of miles I and others drove it we could pinpoint only minor quibbles to highlight.
I stand by that assessment even though the V90 is not the premium-badged family estate that we recommend most highly; that accolade belongs to the BMW 5 Series Touring, which shades it, most notably for space and efficiency. I don’t doubt that verdict for a second - but as the V90’s four-star verdict highlights, these are very fine margins.
So it is that if anyone were to ask me which to choose between the Volvo and BMW, I’d ask them where the most convenient dealer was, or which brand they felt more drawn to, and urge them to research the latest Target Price discounts, which can swing quite dramatically based on stock, because separating the two purely as cars is no easy task.
Why do I love the V90 so much? In simple terms, it does everything very well, but perhaps the greatest asset is that the end result of those all-round capabilities is that it makes life simple. We’re a pretty active family of four, tackling everything from school runs to outings with bikes, paddleboards and kayaks, and yet nothing we could throw at it ever phased it. It didn’t just have space, it delivered it with comfort and refinement.
Giving that glowing endorsement, it seems only fair to mention the gripes, all of which are frankly minor. Overall, it was terrifically easy to use, especially the Google assisted navigation and - praise be - voice commands, but there were instances of it being hard to get to the controls you wanted to easily while using the steering wheel-mounted buttons, and of the digital radio cutting out even when conditions hadn’t changed. It’s also worth saying that the rear seats don’t fold completely flat; although boot space is impressive, some might find that irritating, and it naturally eats into the usable space.
However, whether I’d recommend this plug-in hybrid version is another matter - and again for a far broader, and debatable, reason, than whether it is any good. In fact, I’d go so far as to say in its execution it is brilliant, both because it delivers smooth and silent transport over short distances, brought me an average fuel economy akin to running a diesel overall, and because many of those emission-free miles were completed in towns.
But my hesitation comes down to the premium you have to pay to go plug-in hybrid. While I have few doubts that it is the right thing to do environmentally, especially if you live or travel in built up areas, the post Target Price discount variance is never less than eye-watering, sitting somewhere between £15-20,000 depending on the exact model you go for.
Given that our experience suggests the fuel economy is so close, the only savings will come from lower tax, potentially lower congestion charge timings in time and better residual value calculations. In truth, it feels unlikely that even someone who could take advantage of every saving could ever bridge the gap, meaning that buying one has to be an emotional decision; if you are that invested in saving the planet an have a budget this size, however I’d argue you’d be better off buying one of the many hugely capable fully electric cars that are now available. So therein lies a conundrum.
Does that mean I’d talk you out of buying one? Not a chance. If this is the car that suited your whims and needs, I’d say go for it. My strong suspicion is that most people would be better served by going one way (diesel) or the other (fully electric) but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if there wasn’t a single owner who had a word of complaint about the choice they made, for whatever reason they made it. Yes, the V90 is a car that’s good enough to make you overlook its vices - even if they do come at a spectacularly high price.
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