Long-term report: What we’ve learned after 8,000 miles in a Volvo V90 hybrid
Our time with the fabulous Volvo V90 T8 has come to an end and, if you hadn’t guessed, James Baggott doesn’t really want to let it go
I’m coming to the end of my time with the glorious Volvo V90 T8, so before it rolls off silently into the sunset I thought now would be the perfect time to look back at a few things I’ve learned about hybrid car ownership.
Now, I went into this with my eyes open – knowing I’d have to be pretty strict with my charging regime. The T8 has an electric battery set-up that takes around four hours to recharge from a three-pin plug giving a full charge that’s enough for around 25 miles of moderately exuberant use.
When the car is running on electric power alone, it’s an absolute dream. Silent, swift and calming, it dramatically affects the way you drive. There’s no full throttle starts from the lights, or heavy braking, instead everything is done as if there’s an egg under the throttle pedal. I end up playing a game with myself while driving which I lose if the petrol engine kicks in – something that happens when you stab at the go-pedal a little too hard.
So has this increased my fuel economy? Well, it’s certainly got better over the 8,000 miles I’ve spent in the car. I’m up to an average of around 40mpg now, but that’s been registered following a sustained period of town use where I’ve been charging pretty much every day.
If I head off on a longer motorway journey, one that will deplete the battery mileage far quicker, that fuel economy plummets to the low 30s. This is most certainly not an alternative to diesel on a long motorway journey, that’s for sure.
It really is quite satisfying and one of the most pleasurable cars I’ve ever “owned”. Living with the V90 really has been an utter delight. I’m a firm believer in estates and think they’re far more practical and enjoyable to drive than the SUVs that have overtaken them in popularity. Why? Well, they handle better, look smarter and you can stuff them with all the junk modern life generates and it’ll disappear.
In fact, I’ve long thought that at some middle point in the Volvo’s interior there’s an access to a portal to another dimension, because no matter what I put in the back, it swallows it up. Double bed frame? No problem. Scaffolding poles (don’t ask)? No problem. An eight-year-old’s teddy bear collection and luggage requirements for a trip to the seaside? A slight struggle, but still eaten whole.
The boot is absurdly big and hasn’t once left me in the Ikea car park scratching my head wondering how I’m going to get the 150 white wooden hangers (they were on offer), new sofa and 50p hot dog inside. That might be because it’s Swedish and the two firms have got “an agreement”, or it could be the fact it’s just very, very big.
It hasn’t all been sweetness and flowers, though. As much as I love the huge screen display that controls pretty much everything in the car, it’s not without its glitches. Lately, CarPlay has become particularly useless on it – randomly playing different songs to the ones pictured and refusing to read out text messages. I can’t really blame Volvo for that, as it’s probably Apple’s fault, but I do anyway.
Occasionally the brilliant 360 degree bird’s eye parking camera view has lost connectivity to one lens, meaning a blind side on the display. It works 95 per cent of the time, but it’s a frustrating glitch the rest of the time.
While I love the Volvo OnCall app that lets me check the charging time, set the sat nav in advance of my travels or importantly on cold or hot days, start the air conditioning before I get in, it has an annoying habit of telling me the car has been unplugged three seconds after I unplug it. However, that said, the fact it lets me remotely lock the car from my phone when I’ve forgotten has saved me a number of pointless trips back to the car.
More recently the door handles have been playing up too. The car has remote entry, so it senses the key in your pocket and unlocks the car when you slip your hand behind the handle. Well, at least that’s the idea, but it’s often forced me to pull the handle five or more times before opening.
Those really are only minor gripes and I stand by my previous statements that this is one of, if not the, best car on sale today. It’s far more handsome than the German rivals, incredibly comfortable and I love the tech. The multimedia system is the easiest to use on the market today and despite the huge cost, I really would argue it’s worth the money. Let’s face it, no one buys a car outright any more and with a decent PCP deal and good residual values, the T8 could actually be an incredibly tempting choice for many family car buyers.
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