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Driven: 2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid. Image by Volvo.

Driven: 2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid
Volvo has given its plug-in estate a new battery pack and some new tech, but will that be enough to ensure the V90 beats its premium rivals?

   



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Ever since its introduction, the Volvo V90 has been snapping at the heels of rivals from BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and it has enjoyed plenty of success as a result. In a bid to keep the aging Volvo on a par with its competition, Volvo has given it a new and improved touchscreen, and the plug-in hybrid version tested here has a new battery with a bit more range. But will that be enough to usurp the class leaders?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2022 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD
Price: V90 Recharge from £62,280
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and electric motor
Transmission: eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Battery: 18.8kWh
Power: 350hp
Torque: 350Nm (petrol engine) and 309Nm (electric motor)
Emissions: 18-25g/km
Economy: 213.8-294.0mpg
Range: 46-55 miles
0-62mph: 5.5 seconds
Top speed: 112mph
Boot space: 551-1,517 litres

Styling

From the outside, the latest-generation V90 looks much like any other, but then it doesn't need to look very different. The original V90s still look modern today, despite being more than six years old, and the brand new cars don't need much in the way of accoutrements to remain easy on the eye. It's clean and classy and a masterclass of modern design. This must be one of the best-looking estate cars on the market.

Interior

Design-wise, the V90ís cabin looks much as it ever did, with a clean Scandi image that suits the exterior design. A digital instrument cluster lurks behind the wheel, while thereís a big portrait-orientated touchscreen in the centre of the dash. Pretty much everything is controlled from there, and to help out, Volvo has fitted a new operating system that uses Google technology to make it sharper and more intuitive. It works very well, and the Google Maps navigation system is a godsend, but there are still issues, including the climate control system. Itís fiddly and awkward, and you canít help but think a row of physical buttons would have been better. And the same goes for the controls for the hybrid system, which are hidden in a sub-menu when they should be immediately accessible. All that said, the Volvo offers very good quality Ė both in terms of materials and construction Ė and the design will win over plenty of customers. Add in the new tech, and itís even better than before.

Practicality

Volvo estates live and die by their practicality, so itís a good job the Volvo is every bit as big on the inside as it is on the outside. The length may make parking entertaining in some places, but thereís no arguing with the Volvoís 551-litre boot Ė especially considering the all-wheel-drive, plug-in hybrid powertrain. Boot space is plentiful, then, and so too is passenger space. Four adults can sit in comfort, although we werenít convinced by the cloth-trimmed seats in our test car. They felt a bit hard and unforgiving on longer journeys. Space-wise, however, thereís no faulting the V90.

Performance

This Recharge T6 version of the V90 uses a similar 2.0-litre petrol engine to other '60'- and '90'-series cars, but it combines that with an electric motor and a chunky 18.8kWh rechargeable battery. If you keep that battery topped up and most of your journeys are short, Volvo claims you'll get more than 200mpg, although that's probably a bit fanciful. Even so, by easily topping 30 or so miles on a charge, the V90 has the potential to be very efficient for those with a suitable lifestyle. It's also very powerful, with 350hp heading to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox, allowing a startling 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds.

Perhaps more impressive than the V90's performance, however, is its refinement. The 90-series Volvos have been blighted by their lack of a six-cylinder engine, but Volvo has managed to get its four-cylinder units to get somewhere close. Unless you really put your foot down, you'll barely notice the engine at all, and it only sounds unpleasant if you really push it. But with plenty of performance in reserve, you rarely need to do that.

Ride & Handling

The V90 is set up for comfort, rather than handling, and thatís fine by us. As much as we love a driverís car, thereís something relaxing about a supple, quiet, spacious car for covering long distances with ease. And thatís exactly what the V90 does. On the motorway, the engine is hushed, the ride is pliant and the cabin is quiet, allowing you to bumble along in peace and quiet Ė perhaps with some relaxing Radio 4 programme in the background. On winding roads, itís less accomplished, but the steering is well weighted and that makes it pleasant enough to cruise around in. It has a degree of rough-road capability thanks to its all-wheel-drive system, but a lack of ground clearance means thatís only really there to help you get moving in slippery conditions. Still, thatís all most people need and, being Swedish, the V90 is pretty good at it.

Value

Plug-in hybrid versions of the V90 start at around £62,000, which makes them remarkably expensive, especially when the 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid 5 Series is about £7,000 cheaper. Admittedly, monthly payments matter more, but the price is still high. That said, you get plenty of standard kit, including leather upholstery and alloy wheels, as well as the new touchscreen, and the Ultimate model tested here gets some extra goodies, but the 5 Series is hardly Spartan. It's a difficult price difference to justify.

Verdict

There's no doubt the latest updates have improved the V90, which was already a very likeable car. This plug-in 'Recharge' model is smooth and comfortable and powerful, and it's probably our favourite version of the V90. But while this is a very good car, it has some astonishing rivals, including the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series. For our money, the BMW 545e Touring is still the hybrid estate to beat, but the Volvo is now closer to the Bimmer than ever before.



James Fossdyke - 30 Jan 2023



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2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.

2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.2023 Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD. Image by Volvo.







 

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