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2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine: driven

More than 400bhp and reasonable fuel economy? The new hybrid Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine promises both

Some headline figures for the new Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine: 402bhp (in total, we’ll come back to this), 134.5mpg, 0-60mph in 5.3 seconds. Remarkable stuff, even if we take the computed fuel economy figure with a pinch of salt – this car weighs well over two tonnes, after all.

This big Volvo (it’s a seven-seat SUV) is a hybrid. A rather luxurious hybrid at that. Yet, thanks to its combination of a 316bhp supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder driving the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, plus an 86bhp electric motor driving the rear wheels, it puts out an official CO2 emissions figure of only 49g/km. That means it entitles the buyer to a £2500 government grant and 5% benefit-in-kind taxation for company car drivers, as well as the facility to write off its full purchase price against tax in the first year. Good news, as prices start just shy of £60,000.

It’s certainly a good-looking beast, with fairly familiar proportions enlivened by some very attractive detailing in the lights and brightwork. The same goes inside, with simple shapes and a dashboard that gently envelopes the driver, plus exquisite finish, including a wide range of materials and colours. It’s certainly up there with the Range Rover for interior ambience.

Though maybe not for off-road prowess. We won’t dwell on that here, as the T6 (petrol) and T5 (diesel) derivations offer more conventional four-wheel drive. Instead, the T8 stuffs batteries and a motor where the prop-shaft would otherwise live.

Away from the dirt, the XC90 impresses with its strong refinement. The seats are comfortable and the cabin a genuinely delightful place to spend time. There’s little noise from the engine even when you rev it hard, though there’s no disguising the fact that it’s a four-cylinder, and its voice is less than silken. But you can pull away on electric power alone, if there’s enough charge, and the engine joins proceedings seamlessly. Hit sport mode and the throttle remaps for quicker response; the big Volvo can be hustled to a surprising degree, with impressive body control.

There’s a ‘but’ coming: the ride is really too fidgety for a car in this class. The suspension actually makes a bit of a racket in the process too, though you’d hear it less if mechanical quietness elsewhere and hushed progress in general weren’t the order of the day. There is a partial cure, however. Just over two grand buys electronically controlled air suspension (not such a huge amount more than the base price; spec a B&W sound system and you’ll pay more), which nails the body control thing even better, hunkers the body down a bit when you’re tanking on, makes less of a meal of surface imperfections, and keeps itself to itself in the process.

Is this the car that means you can have it all? Well, the tech makes it wallet-friendly in the big costs, especially if it’s a business purchase. Yet you’re not stuck with pedestrian performance as a result. Few such spacious and luxurious cars combine those talents.

Words: Glen Waddington

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