Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6

Specifications: Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD PHEV

  • Run by: Phil Hall since September 2022
  • Price when new: £69,240 (£69,240 including options)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre plug-in hybrid
  • Power: 350PS
  • Torque: 657Nm
  • Claimed economy: 353.1mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 18g/km
  • Insurance group: 42

Report 1: We welcome our new PHEV estate

Meet our new car, the Volvo V90 Recharge Ultimate T6 AWD plug-in hybrid. In a world when everyone is after an SUV, we're going to see what Volvo's huge estate is like to live with. 

Date: 16 September 2022 | Current mileage: 987 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 131mpg

The Volvo V90 was launched back in 2016, but our 2022 car is quite a different beast from the car that arrived some six years ago. The range has been updated with new trim levels (more on that in a bit) and powertrains. 

Our Volvo V90 is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an electric motor that has a combined power output of 350PS and a rapid 0-62mph time of 5.5 seconds. But it's more than just a fast estate as the battery can deliver an electric-only range of up to 52.2 miles with zero local emissions. Officially, the V90 Recharge will return 353.1mpg and 18g/km of CO2.   

Prices for the Volvo V90 Recharge start at £62,990 in 'Plus' trim, which is just over £10,000 on a standard V90 Plus with a B4 mild hybrid four-cylinder diesel engine. Ours is the top of the range V90 Recharge Ultimate which will set you back £69,240, which is again almost £10,000 more than the standard V90 Ultimate with a 250PS petrol engine. 

Despite its age, it's still one of the best looking estate cars going. Finished in Denin Blue and sitting on large 20-inch wheels, our V90 really does have a presence about it. It's a big car as well, measuring 4945mm long and 1895mm wide. 

If you're looking at a V90 estate, one of your biggest priorities is going to be luggage space, and it doesn't disappoint. Unlike a lot of plug-in hybrids that see the boot space reduced to accommodate the batteries, the V90 is unaffected. This means you get a generous (but not class-leading) 560 litres with the seats up and 1526 litres with the rear seats folded down. 

I'll go into a bit more detail on all the standard features the V90 Recharge Ultimate comes with, but it's pretty comprehensive and includes things like a panoramic sunroof, an array of semi-autonomous tech and a high-end audio system.

The first few hundred miles have been a joy so far but I'll be reporting back on what it's like to live with over the next six months. Does it justify the hefty premium over the standard petrol car? We'll find out...

Report 2: Ultimate, Core or Plus? A closer look at our Volvo V90's interior

We're big fans of the Volvo V90's interior finish. From the little details like the Swedish flag stitched to the leather seats to the choice and quality of cabin materials, the V90 feels genuinely special. 

Date: 7 October 2022 | Current mileage: 1218 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 157mpg

With Volvo updating the trim levels of the V90 for 2022, what comes as standard and what choices do you get? Out goes Momentum, R Design and Inscription trim levels, replaced by Core, Plus and the trim that our V90 comes in, Ultimate. However, these aren't direct replacements to the outgoing trims. 

We'll come to Ultimate in a sec, but what do you get with Core and Plus? Core is the entry-level trim, with standard features including leather upholstery, mood lighting (in the front), 2-zone climate control, Afterrun parking climate (blows in air from outside to keep the cabin cool 15 minutes after the engine is switched off), Road Sign Information, Lane Keeping Aid, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, LED headlights, a 12-inch driver display, rear camera, cruise control, wireless charging, Apple CarPlay and Google built-in (more on that in a separate post). I know we're focusing on interior features, but Core V90s come with 18-inch alloys, chrome window surrounds and a high gloss grille. 

The V90 Plus builds on this with a 4-zone climate control, integrated sun curtains in the back (great if you've got children), heated steering wheel, Harman Kardon sound system, 360-degree camera, BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross Traffic Alert, Keyless Drive and Pilot Assist. The V90 Plus looks a bit sharper on the outside too, with 19-inch alloys and gloss black window surrounds. 

To be honest, that's a pretty decent set of features that should suit most buyers down to the ground (and is likely to be the most popular trim level out of the three). However, we've specced our V90 in Ultimate trim and, as the name suggests, it's incredibly comprehensive. 

The V90 Ultimate gets a head-up display in the windscreen, Bowers & Wilkins audio system, heated front and rear seats and a panoramic roof. There's also Full-LED headlights, tinted rear windows and rear air suspension - something that'll help soften the ride thanks to the large 20-inch alloys that V90 Ultimate cars sit on. 

The standard interior finish with the Volvo V90 Ultimate is charcoal leather seats with charcoal accents and a checkered aluminium decor, but there are other choices. These include blonde leather seats and a grey ash decor, even finer nappa leather, while there's wool blend option should you want to avoid leather. 

Unlike a lot of rivals, Volvo tries to give you everything you want included in a trim, which explains why there's only two options that can be ticked - integrated booster cushions or a retractable towbar. It really is a lovely place to be with incredibly comfy seats, a strong level of fit and finish and no shortage of features. We're suitably impressed, particularly as it's now a six-year old car - it doesn't look or feel dated in any way. 

Report 3: How our Volvo V90's 360-degree camera takes the stress out of parking

The V90 is a big car. In fact, the Volvo V90 is almost 5 metres long, measuring 4936mm front to back, while it's 1879mm wide (and 1478mm high if you're interested). 

Date: 28 October 2022 | Current mileage: 1379 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 164mpg

It's size is even more noticeable after running the Ford Puma ST before it, with it's compact size making it a breeze to get into some pretty tight spaces. The Volvo's dimensions make this a bit more of a challenge, but thanks to the suite of cameras and sensors dotted round the car, parking and manoeuvring round tight spaces is much more manageable. 

Like many other luxury cars, our long term Volvo V90 comes with a 360-degree camera. Using the four cameras positioned round the car (one in each of the door mirrors, one in the badge on the front of the car and one above the numberplate on the back), it creates a single bird's eye view of the V90 and the surrounding environment. 

Working in tandem with the car's parking sensors and an overlaid trajectory of the direction that the car's heading in, it makes parking such a big car a less stressful experience. 

You're not just restricted to the 360-degree camera either - you can access a feed from any of the cameras by a tap on the central display, which can be handy when parallel parking and you want to avoid curbing those huge 20-inch alloys. 

The quality and clarity from the V90's cameras is excellent, but you're not invincible with the 360-degree camera. As we've found on cold mornings, the cameras suffer from condensation (and to be fair, it's something that affects most cars), which means you can be flying blind a little until it's cleared up. 

That means you can end up relying on the sensors, but these do seem a little over-sensitive. A number of  times we thought we were about to reverse into something thanks to the parking sensors beeping away like crazy, only to discover a decent chunk of space behind us once we got out of the car. On the odd occasion the park assist system has even jammed on the brakes when it thinks we've got too close. 

The V90's sensors also get easily triggered driving a low speed - especially at a couple of mini roundabouts local to me. I guess I should be thankful it wants to protect itself and its occupants so much, but it would be great if there was the option to change the sensitivity just a touch. 

Report 4: Putting Volvo's Pilot Assist to the test

A family trip gives us a perfect opportunity to get to grips with the V90's Pilot Assist tech.

Date: 11 November 2022 | Current mileage: 2133 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 42.2mpg

The arrival of half-term meant a family trip away to The Netherlands was on the cards, and despite the long journey I was looking forward to the drive in the Volvo V90. Why? Well, it meant I could really put the V90's Pilot Assist tech to the test and hopefully make the trip a bit less tiring. 

If you haven't heard of Pilot Assist, it's Volvo's posh name for its adaptive cruise control system and it comes as standard on both V90 and S90 models. 

Easily set via the steering wheel's controls, Volvo's Pilot Assist not only allows you to set the maximum speed you want to travel at, but it will regulate this speed and maintain distances depending on the traffic around you (you can also toggle how close you want to follow the car in front as well). Not only that, but it'll help with the steering, gently turning the wheel to follow the lane of a motorway (as well as an A-road).

This doesn't mean you can sit back and flick through Twitter while the car does all the hard work, of course, as you're required to have hands on the steering wheel all the time.

From driving through Surrey and Kent, along the top of France and into Belgium before crossing into The Netherlands, Pilot Assist was active for 90% of the time and it was incredibly helpful. It made what could have been a tiring 300 mile journey into a much more stress-free driving experience. Pilot Assist can't take all the credit though. The V90 is effortless on long drives and incredibly comfy thanks to those terrific seats.

Report 5: Is our Volvo V90 a proper fast estate?

With 350PS and a 0-62mph time of only 5.5 seconds, the V90 looks like a proper fast estate on paper. What's it like in reality?

Date: 2 December 2022 | Current mileage: 2847 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 88.9mpg

While most people associate large Volvo estate cars as being a sensible family car, as we've seen with the V60 Polestar Engineered we ran last year, that's not always the case. 

Our V90 might weigh in at just over two tonnes, but it's performance figures mean it'll trouble some pretty decent fast estates, making it a bit of a sleeper car (if you ignore the large 20-inch wheels it sits on). With the hybrid engine delivering 350PS and a 0.62mph of 5.5 seconds, it feels properly quick. Boot it on a slip road as you join a motorway and it engages warp speed. Even from a standing start there's a firm push in the back as it accelerates away.

What's really impressive though is the way it does it. While some buy cars like the Audi RS4 Avant for its drama and aural noise of that V6 engine, the hybrid power of our Volvo V90 is all about refinement. As it propels you along it feels effortless, with the engine never sounding strained or running out of puff. 

It'll come as no surprise though that unlike some other fast estates, our long-term V90 doesn't lend itself to a demanding B-road blast. In these instances, the V90's size and weight make their presence felt. The rear air suspension though means you shouldn't be jolted about as you run over ruts in the road, though, while the all-wheel drive system is coming into its own now the conditions have got considerably more slippery with the arrival of Autumn. 

Our Volvo V90 is in its element on motorways and A-roads, where it'll whisk you along in a fast, comfortable and composed bubble. 

Report 6: In praise of a heated steering wheel

With winter weather properly hitting the UK for the first time this year, it gave us our first real chance to see what our V90's like in cold conditions.

Date: 21 December 2022 | Current mileage: 3067 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 84.7mpg

When our V90 arrived back at the start of September, frosty mornings were something that felt like a long distant memory. Trips to the seaside were still on the agenda, so scraping ice off windscreens was well and truly at the back of my mind.

Fast forward some three months and with the temperature plummeting in recent days, some of our V90's creature comforts have come to the fore. 

The most obvious ones are the heated seats and heated steering wheel. While heated seats are becoming more commonplace, a heated steering wheel is a bit more of a luxury. With temperatures barely getting above freezing in the past week, this has helped keep my hands nice and toasty on these cold drives. There are three heating levels as well, but unless you've got asbestos hands, I honestly can't see why you'd need to crank it up above its first setting. 

Both this and the heated seats are controlled via the V90's central touchscreen display. Volvo isn't the only manufacturer to have taken this route, but it is a bit of a faff when you're on the move. In contrast, it was a breath of fresh to get behind the wheel of an Audi Q5 the other day with physical buttons and dials to control the climate settings. 

It's not just about keeping warm, as the slippery conditions have also meant that the V90's all-wheel drive system has been a welcome feature. Selected from one of the V90's drive modes, Constant AWD adjusts the power distribution between the front and rear to deliver better traction and stability. It's been really useful, though I wish it wouldn't revert back to the V90's standard drive mode when you switch the car off. 

There's also the Volvo On Call app, which allows you to pre-heat the car before you set off, among other things. 

Report 7: Charging a PHEV

To get the most out of a plug-in hybrid you need to charge it regularly. We find out how easy it is to keep topped up and what happens if you don't plug it in once the battery's depleted.

Date: 20 January 2023 | Current mileage: 3438 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 88.5mpg

The big attraction for many buyers of plug-in hybrid vehicles (or PHEVs for short) is the impressive claimed fuel economy figures. Take our big Volvo V90 PHEV with it's claimed combined figure of 353.1mpg. Those kind of numbers embarrass even the most efficient diesels on the market. 

Trouble is, to get anywhere near that number you're going to have to top up the battery regularly. And that means before the battery has completely run out of juice. Pootle round town once there's nothing left in the battery and the petrol engine is doing almost all of the heavy lifting. 

Doing a longer journey than the battery's range? Again, once you've drained the battery and your car's having to work harder than an equivalent petrol or diesel-powered car thanks to the dead weight of the heavy batteries it's now got to contend with. Result? Usually worse MPG than the petrol or diesel equivalent. 

With that in mind, I've tried to be pretty diligent with charging our Volvo V90 Recharge. I've avoided public charging (not least because the availability of public chargers near me is scarce) and stuck solely to charging at home. 

It couldn't be simpler with the luxury of a driveway. There's a flap on the nearside wing of the V90 to plug it in and you can expect it to take around 5 hours from the supplied three-pin plug. There's also a 3-phase charging cable with a max 16A/11kW capacity bundled with the car if you want to charge on the move.

While the electric range is a claimed 54.1 miles, the colder temperatures have seen a range of just under 40 miles displayed on the dash when fully charged. But as long as I keep on top of the charging, I've been able to use the V90 as a pure electric car for the last month or so. It's only when we've had the odd long journey that the engine is really forced to wake from its slumber and do some work. 

It's not perfect, but a plug-in hybrid fits in with my needs better than an EV. That said, I'd be tempted to save £10,000 or so and buy the B5 petrol variant and get myself a little city car for those short little trips that the V90 seems a bit overkill for. 

Report 8: It's all about the V90's boot

Think big Volvo estate and you naturally think cavernous boot. Our V90 doesn't disappoint here with 560 litres of space on offer. But do you need that kind of boot space?

Date: 17 February 2023 | Current mileage: 3684 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 85.3mpg

Despite offering a huge 560 litres of boot space, the V90's luggage space is behind rivals like the Mercedes E-Class, which enjoys an extra 80 litres of space. And how can we forget the more affordable Skoda Superb the trumps both with a huge 660-litre boot.

Should that mean you should ignore the V90 if you're after a big load carrier? No, unless you're a jobbing antique dealer the V90's boot space should cope with pretty much anything. In the almost 6 months I've been running the V90, I've never needed that extra space that its rivals provide.

It's able to swallow enough luggage for a week away for a family of four with space to spare, while the dog is almost embarrassed by the amount of space she has in the back. Other times I've been able to shove a road bike in there (admittedly with the wheels removed), while there's enough space to happily fit two kids bikes in there when needed. If you've got a young family and are looking for something to happily suck up prams, travel cots and all the other things that come with small children, the V90 won't disappoint. 

All this space has it's downsides though. If the boot's not packed tightly (and you need a lot of things in the boot to pack it tightly), things easily roll around as there's no way to partition the load area of the boot. I'd probably look at getting the optional load compartment divider and dog gate if it was mine for keeps. 

Other gripes? Well, our car comes with a optional chrome bumper cover. Great at protect the bumper edge from scrapes and scratches, but the chrome finish jars with the rest of the car's black trim. On the plus side though we've got a rubber boot mat (along with rubber mats inside) that's been a godsend over the winter months as it's incredibly easy to hoover out and wash any mud away. 

Report 9: Volvo V90 vs Audi A6 Avant

If you're looking at a big, premium estate, then you've got some great options. So how does our Volvo V90 compare to the Audi A6 Avant, one of its closest rivals? We've spent the last week in one to find out...

Date: 17 March 2023 | Current mileage: 4231 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 82.4mpg

While luxury SUVs have taken the limelight away from premium estates, buyers still have some decent options out there if you're in the market for a posh load-lugger. One rival to our Volvo V90 is the A6 Avant and we've been running the PHEV version for the last week. 

The model we've got on test is the Audi A6 Avant S Line 50 TFSI e quattro S tronic to give it its full name. This means there's a 2.0-litre petrol engine married to an electric motor that delivers a combined power output of 299PS - 51PS down on our V90, while it's also a bit slower 0-62mph taking 6.3 seconds (compared to 5.5 seconds). The official pure EV range of the Audi A6 Avant is also a little down on the Volvo V90, with a 41-mile range some 10 miles less than the V90's 52.2 miles. 

How does this translate to behind the wheel? The A6 Avant feels that more laboured under acceleration compared to the V90, which just feels that bit more effortless getting up to speed. The A6 Avant is a bit sharper maybe, but not by much.

While the V90 plug-in hybrid doesn't sacrifice any boot space compared to the standard car, the A6 Avant does. The battery placement means that the A6 Avant PHEV loses some 160 litres in the boot, dropping from 565 litres to 405 litres. That's 155 litres less than the V90.

Inside and it's a draw. The interior of the Audi A6 Avant is beautifully built, but the V90's feels that bit more modern. The downside is that it's a bit more of a faff to use on the move thanks to its touchscreen reliance. 

While the A6's S Line trim isn't quite a match for our V90's Ultimate spec (the Black Edition is probably a closer comparison), how does the bottom line compare? Our Volvo V90 costs £69,240 while the starting price of the A6 Avant S Line is £60,325 (£62,265 for the Black Edition). However, while our V90 Ultimate comes fully loaded for that price, the A6 Avant Black Edition needs a number of optional extras to match what the V90 enjoys, bringing the price up just above it to £70,435. 

Report 10: We say goodbye to our V90

After eight months it's time to hand back the keys to our premium estate. It's been the perfect family car, but it does have a catch...

Date: 21 April 2023 | Current mileage: 4351 miles | Claimed economy: 353.1mpg | Actual economy: 80.1mpg

It might be a cliché, but it's a mark of a good car when you get back to the airport car park after a pretty rubbish day and you immediately relax as you fall into its seat. Bung the heated seat and steering wheel on and even a schlep round the M25 on a cold and damp evening doesn't irritate as much as it should. 

And that's the beauty of the Volvo V90 - it's just such a comfy, relaxing and dependable car that can shelter you from the noise and rubbish of the outside world (helped by the stunning Bowers & Wilkins stereo). It excels on long journeys where it's such a capable and effortless cruiser, while the space it provides means it's perfect for a growing family. 

It's an easy car to recommend if you're looking for a large, fast estate, but I'd probably get you to think twice about opting for the PHEV version that we've been running. Not that there's been an issue with it - it's performed admirably over the last six months, giving me a decent electric range on those regular short trips and a nice boost on longer runs, but as I've touched on before, you're paying a hefty premium for one compared to a petrol equivalent. 

While it's green credentials will certainly make it a more attractive proposition for some, you'll be paying upwards of £10,000 for the privilege compared to the B5 petrol version. Now you might be able to claw some of that back from tax savings, better residual values and charging prices, but you'll have to own it for a long time to get that back. 

If the PHEV will fit in with your life, you won't regret it - the smooth power delivery is excellent, while the way it can shove you up the road to 62mph in 5.5 seconds is impressive for such a large car. 

It's not faultless but I'm really going to miss the elegant and sophisticated Volvo V90. If you end up buying one, I don't think you'll be disappointed.