Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo and supercharger, plus electric motor
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-60mph: 5.3 seconds
Top speed: 140mph
Rising from the console of Volvo’s new XC90 T8 is a crystal gearstick. At night it glows pale lilac. It’s the highlight of an interior that is already brimming with Skandi flourishes, what with all the matt wood veneer and subtle chrome touches. But I can’t shake the impression that the clear gear looks like a posh loo freshener, or maybe a small ergonomic sex toy, which means I don’t really want to touch it… Also, when I do move it to select a gear, there’s always a slight hesitation before the engine engages which catches me out so usually I’ve moved it again, so the car then deselects the gear – it’s a bit puzzling as neither the car nor I seem to know what we want.
Anyway, once I get over my squeamishness, wrap my fingers around the stick and shift it into Drive and wait a few seconds before easing my foot down on the throttle, the car soon gets down to business and, oh my, what a ride it delivers. The whole package is so smooth, so plush, so silent, so pampering, so… you start to feel like you’ve checked into a chichi hotel rather than climbed into a 4×4.
We all know Volvo are world beaters when it comes to super-safe, risk-averse cars. When the XC90 was launched last year it was easily the least crashable car they’d ever built. With this new model, the T8, they want to add eco credentials to the XC90’s already impressive palmarès.
Power comes from its two engines – a 320bhp 2-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine which works in tandem with an 87bhp electric motor. The car automatically defaults to Hybrid mode which then optimally blends power from both engines, but if you choose Eco you’ll get up to 25 miles from the rechargeable battery alone. Select Power and the car throws everything into the mix – you’ll hit 62mph in 5.3 seconds and top out at 140mph. Combine all this and you get an incredible 134 miles to the gallon.
Inside, the understatement continues, but here it seems so much classier. Light streams in. It’s like driving a mobile sun porch – perfect for parking up beside a view and having a doze. All the controls are so perfectly balanced you could drive this big beast even if you were feeling as weak as a kitten. There’s no wrestling.
At the centre of the elegant dash is a large touchscreen. It’s the hub of everything. You can scroll through endless pages detailing all the clever tasks the car will gracefully do for you. My favourite was the self-park function. It’s brilliantly simple and brings gasps from passengers as you magically park without lifting a finger – or touching the sex toy, I mean gearstick.