Volvo is, in my eyes, one of the most exciting car brands at present. Their new models are a refreshing blend of luxury and style. They continue to be one of the safest car brands.
Polestar, once merely a Volvo tuning arm, will soon be releasing its first production model under its own brand. Called the Polestar 1, it’s a hybrid sports coupe: offering 600PS and 1,000Nm with an electric range of 150 miles. Properly exciting stuff.
The car I want to talk about here is the Volvo V90. It’s a big, luxurious estate car. I tested the D5 AWD R-Design. It’s the ‘sporty’ one: with more aggressive body lines, 18-inch alloy wheels and sculpted body-hugging seats.
Under the bonnet was a 2.0-litre D5 diesel engine that produces 235PS and 480Nm of torque. With all-wheel drive and an 8-speed Geartronic automatic gearbox this big estate car is rather sprightly: 0-62mph takes 7.2 seconds and the top speed is 145mph. This is no hardcore racer though; it’s a quiet, comfortable cruiser with some overtaking oomph.
With the optional Active Four-C chassis the V90 can firm up and hunker down. Body roll is minimised and this sizeable car has some decent cornering prowess. And then in comfort mode it’s wonderfully soft and smooth; eating up the miles while the occupants are relaxed.
The interior design of the current range of Volvos is brilliant. Every last detail is thought out: from the aesthetics and ease of use, to the finish of the materials. There are no scratchy plastics whatsoever. For the R-Design you get soft, perforated leather to the steering wheel and gear knob. The contour sports seats are finished in leather and alcantara.
With its 2.0-litre engine the V90 is reasonably economical: 57.6mpg combined and 129g/km CO2 emissions. Road tax is £165 in the first year and £140 thereafter. However as this model starts at £46,570 (my test car was just shy of £54,000) you’re looking at the £310 VED surcharge for years 2-6.
As a rally fan (and competitor) I am often staggered at the power than can be achieved from engines these days. World rally cars, with their 1.6-litre, turbocharged engines produce 380PS. Last year that was 300bhp.
Then you have the Peugeot 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport. It has a 1.6-litre, turbocharged engine. It produces 270PS and 330Nm. That’s quite a lot, especially when you consider that this is a ‘normal’ road car. It has 12,500-mile service intervals, drinks normal petrol and doesn’t need a team of mechanics to operate it.
In truth, it’s far from ‘normal’. Whilst it may only be front-wheel drive it does have a Torsen limited-slip differential. Through its 6-speed manual gearbox 0-62mph is dealt with in 6.0 seconds and the top speed is 155mph.
Inside you get big, bucketed sports seats and dials that turn red in sports mode. The 308 has a relatively understated interior, with its small steering wheel and distinct lack of buttons: functionality revolving around the 9.7-inch touchscreen.
I wish it had a better exhaust system. You get the odd little ‘pop’ when you lift off, but it feels artificial. Even worse is the symposer system which enhances the engine note in the cabin; which is arcade-game quality engine noise.
The 308 GTi is reminiscent of the iconic 205 GTi when it comes to agility on a B-road. Because it is small and light, and has that Torsen diff, it corners with immense capability. It’s excellent fun and puts a big smile on your face.
Prices for the 308 GTi by Peugeot Sport start at £28,595. Unfortunately for the Peugeot that’s right in the firing line of the superior Hyundai i30 N.