JEREMY Clarkson may claim the BMW 5 Series Touring is “the best car in the world“, but the Grand Tour host’s car history suggests that accolade should instead belong to something entirely different: the Volvo XC90.
As well as bigging it up in his reviews, Clarkson has put his money where his mouth is and bought one for himself. And then another one. And two more after that.
Of course, owning older versions of a car doesn’t guarantee a glowing review of an updated model from Clarkson, and that has proved to be the case with the XC90 reviewed in today’s Sunday Times Magazine. The fact that he drove one that comes with a plug has a lot to do with it, though.
The Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine is the most powerful variant of the seven-seat SUV you can buy, but even that fact wasn’t enough to win over Clarkson. While he concedes the XC90 remains “an absolutely brilliant car” overall, the quirks of the hybrid setup put him off ever wanting to own one.
Even though Clarkson has driven a plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 before, he couldn’t seem to fathom the petrol-electric system this time around. Setting off, in particular, seemed to be a struggle for the columnist.
He wrote: “You get into the Volvo, turn the diamond-cut starter button and nothing happens. Confused, you pull the sex-toy gearlever back into the “D” position and try to set off. And nothing happens again, because you’ve got to pull the lever back twice before you engage Drive. I don’t know why.”
Clarkson’s confusion extended to turning off the XC90, too. He confessed that he struggled to tell if the Volvo had been properly powered down when he got home. “Is the car simply sitting there in electric mode? Or has it engaged the stop-start system and is waiting for you to take your foot off the brake so it can set off again?
It’s no secret that Clarkson is no fan of electric motoring, and has made more than one film declaring that electric cars “don’t work”. He’s also skeptical as to the efficiency of modern hybrids, claiming they “don’t travel as far on a gallon as claimed” and “run on electric only for a few miles before the batteries are flat”. His opinion has dimmed since they were first introduced, he claims: “Back then I was mildly curious about hybrid drive systems, but now they send me into a cold rage”.
That’s not to say he despised everything about his Volvo XC90 test car. Clarkson particularly enjoyed the interior, describing the cabin as “a lovely, light and airy space to sit”, and claiming that in combination with the car’s practicality and impressive safety credentials make it “by far the best seven-seater” car you can buy.
So, while Clarkson says he’d buy a brand new XC90 “without a moment’s hesitation” if he needed one now, he’d make sure it wasn’t the plug-in hybrid version. “One engine is much more environmentally friendly and thus much more Swedish,” he claims.
Read Jeremy Clarkson’s full review of the 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine at The Sunday Times website.