HELLO! Road Test: How did the Volvo XC90 Hybrid drive on a family trip to Norfolk?

We review Volvo's plug-in hybrid car, which combines safety and comfort

The Volvo XC90 Recharge is a plug-in hybrid, both petrol and electric, and seats seven. Check out our review of the family-friendly car below...

The Volvo XC90 Recharge reviewers

We’re a family of four, and were heading off for a family holiday with two of the kids’ friends in tow – so we needed a car that would seat at least six.

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First impressions of the Volvo XC90 Recharge

This is a big car! It’s gorgeous to look at – ours was a white, sparkly colour and while it was a bit of a challenge to get its width into the residents parking bay outside our London flat, there’s no doubt that this is a good looking vehicle with curb side appeal. The interior was just as impressive – roomy, leather seats and a very high spec sound system (Bowers Wilkins speakers) make this car feel very premium.

And the huge inbuilt display really does look “just like an Ipad” – as the kids declared when they first saw it. Connecting your phone to the system is very simple for nav and in-car communication, and the wireless charging pad means that you don’t have to worry about losing power either.

The Volvo XC90 Hybrid is gorgeous to look at

How the Volvo XC90 Recharge drives

This is a glorious car to drive. The first trip was a small in-city taster, picking the kids up from school. While this is a big car – with room for seven – it’s not stressful to drive through town, and as the first hybrid I’d ever driven, I fell instantly in love with the ability to power across London using electricity only. I’m very aware of the poor air quality where we live in central London and knowing that this school run was not contributing to the pollution felt great – not to mention how peaceful it is to drive the car in electric mode.

We live in a block of flats with no way to charge the car at home – the reason we’ve yet to convert – but being able to charge on the motorways during our trip to Norfolk, and then convert to electric when in more built up areas felt like a good compromise.

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Hitting the motorway in the XC90 was a dream – both for me, who likes to get where we’re going fast but isn’t so caught up with acceleration capabilities, and my husband, who appreciates a feeling of power at his fingertips. This car has real power, but not scarily so – it’s effortless and smooth and you feel totally in control and relaxed at its higher speeds. The 0-60 abilities (around 6s) were enjoyed by the husband.

The car has room for seven people

As I’ve mentioned, this is a big car, but I’m going up from a five seater SUV – if you have a bigger family and are already in a people carrier, I think your perspective would be different. But I loved it. It was big in a powerful, safe and luxuriously roomy way – the only times I struggled with its size were when we were motoring down small country lanes and came up against someone coming towards you – though I’m pretty sure once you were fully accustomed to its dimensions you wouldn’t think twice.

The Head-Up Display was a novelty to me as a regular working mum rather than a professional car reviewer – and I loved it! It was a bit of a surprise when I first saw my speed and the national speed limit beamed onto my windscreen, visible at all times, not just when looking at the dashboard. When I approached a speed camera and the view in front of me adjusted to alert me of the fact, it felt genuinely sci-fi if I’m honest – but completely brilliant and not at all distracting. It’s the thing I missed most when I went back to my regular car.

What the Volvo XC90 Recharge is like for passengers

Everyone gets a comfortable ride in this car and there are a few additions that really make life simple. The back seat has its own power supply and dedicated aircon, and even the second row benefits from personalised air supply and cup holders.

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The middle seat can be folded down completely if not in use, but even with three abreast, it’s perfectly comfortable – I’m frequently relegated to the back seat when not driving as my teen gets carsick. In this car it was not an ordeal at all – all three seats on the second row are independent and move and operate independently.

The ability to open up the entire ceiling to see out through the glass roof, made it feel even more open and roomy at the back, but the sunshade option is also fantastic for a warm summer’s day – and the back windows have their own integrated sunshades too, resulting in fantastic flexibility which really does make you feel like Volvo have thought of everything.

My kids are out of car seats but the XC90 is very well set up for multi car seat requirements. Inbuilt boosters are available in the back seats if your kids are of appropriate age. It’s also quite possible to get three car seats positioned side by side in the middle row – though accessing the third row of seats if you do this can be a little fiddly.

The middle seat can be folded down to create more space

The front seats are beyond comfortable – with varying degrees of seat and steering wheel heaters for mum and dad. It was July when we road tested our vehicle so we only needed it once for a post-sea swim warm up, but it was appreciated, and again, fully flexible.

And it’s worth noting that not only does this car feel solid and safe, its safety credentials back this feeling up – it has a maximum five-star safety rating from the Euro NCAP thanks to the addition of functions such as automatic emergency breaking, which comes as standard across all Volvos.

What's the Volvo XC90 Recharge hybrid option like?

Since we don’t have the ability to charge the car at home, and our holiday cottage also didn’t have a drive, we weren’t able to fully test out the car’s electric capabilities. I’m excited for the infrastructure to improve so this is a real option for our family - I know that from 2030 all Volvo cars will be electric only so feel this infrastructure shift must certainly be in the works. Driving the car in electric felt really fantastic – no less powerful and just slightly calmer and quieter.

Downsides of the Volvo XC90 Recharge

The only downside I can really think about for this car is that if you don’t NEED the extra space or the extra set of seats in the boot for your immediate family, this car might be too roomy for requirement. For my usual family of four I think an XC60 would probably be ample and would take care of the few complications of owning a very large vehicle – such as the fact that parking bays are a bit narrow. But this car has been made to make life easier for larger families, and as such, it does exactly what it set out to do. It feels luxurious, spacious and is really enjoyable to drive.

The MPG capabilities get listed as cons in many of the reviews I looked at – of course running costs are important. But I can’t help but think that you can’t really expect a very large, comfortable and luxurious car to be the most cost-effective to drive on the road. I’ll hand over to Gareth for a more expert opinion on this, and other aspects, in his analysis on the car.

Volvo XC90 Recharge expert opinion

Our motoring expert Gareth Herincx gives his lowdown: Volvo’s epic SUV is every bit as good as it looks. A superb premium choice, it's oozing Scandi style inside and out, feels totally planted on the road and is effortless on long journeys. Go for the plug-in hybrid (badged 'Recharge') version and you can travel for up to 30 miles in electric-only mode if you keep the battery charged up, making it surprisingly cheap to run on short commutes.

There's stacks of space for all the family and the seats on the third row are the same size as those on the second (unlike some seven-seaters). Also, each row is slightly higher than the one ahead of it, boosting visibility.

Volvo XC90 Recharge facts

  • Price: from £65,540
  • Engine (plug-in hybrid): 2.0-litre petrol turbo/11.6kWh battery (combined 385bhp)
  • Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.8 secs
  • Economy: up to 100.9mpg
  • Emissions: 60g/km
  • Luggage capacity (262 litres with all seven seats in place, 640 litres with middle seats folded, 1,816 litres with all rear seats flipped)

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