Monday, 26 December 2016

COLUMN – Christmas 2016

Here is another chance to see my column from the Christmas edition of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. It wouldn't be Christmas without some talk about family and food. But it wouldn't be a motoring column without talking about a car. This month I managed to get behind the wheel of the Volvo XC90 with a T8 twin-engine hybrid; a car with eco credentials as impressive as its luxurious kerb appeal.As always a full review can be found on the Reviews page.

So we find ourselves arriving at another festive season. As another year comes to an end it’s time to go out with a bang. By now I would expect you will all be getting into the spirit of things. Trees are up. The house now has more lights than the average runway, and the radio stations have resorted to playing the same songs that have been around since the 1970’s (you know the ones). It’s all very happy and joyous.

Now at this point I realise you might be thinking that I am a miserable so-and-so. I am actually rather fond of Christmas. I enjoy spending some quality time with the family, and taking a hard-earned break from work. It’s nice to not to be driving everywhere (ironically); it gives me a chance to put my feet up with a nice warming whisky.

And the food. Oh the food. I try to avoid the ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner. It takes half a day to make, by which point there is too much food and you spend until New Year’s Eve rolling around, groaning. I prefer party food. Finger food that can be cooked in half an hour and gives a bit of variety. And that’s before we even get to the desserts. My choice this year? It would have to be the white chocolate and amaretti cheesecake from Aldi.

I suppose I should probably talk about cars for the last time this year. My final review of the year is of one of the best cars of 2016; the Volvo XC90. It was no ordinary XC90 either. This was the T8 twin-engine hybrid. Up front is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine producing 320PS and 400Nm. There is also an electric motor at the back, producing 87PS and 240Nm, and a large pile of batteries in the middle of the vehicle. As all this is controlled by a rather clever brain, the results are staggering.

CO2 emissions are 49g/km. That puts it in the Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) category. It’s exempt from London’s congestion charge, and being a plug-in hybrid it gets preferential treatment in city centres; free parking at charging points being just one of them. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 134.5mpg, and you can also run in pure electric mode for about 20 miles or so. The hybrid mode is wonderful, and you don’t notice the petrol engine kicking in or switching off. The drive is seamless, and quite honestly you don’t feel like you’re driving a hybrid. For electric vehicles to be successful in the future they must not feel alien, and Volvo has made a step in the right direction.

But that’s not the end of the story, because scroll the drive selection wheel to power, and you can unleash all the T8 has to offer. 0-62mph takes just 5.6 seconds, and in a car that weighs 2.3-tonnes that’s no mean feat. The top speed is 140mph. The 2.0-litre petrol engine is lively, and that’s particularly exciting to me as it is the same unit (albeit de-tuned) as can be found in the 2017 V60 Polestar. The electric motor adds instant torque, and gives that initial shove in the back.

Being an XC90, this car is the first word in comfort and luxury. Every square inch of trim is of the highest quality. The seats are sumptuous, sculpted leather numbers. The portrait multimedia screen sits wonderfully in the centre of the dashboard, and the dials are crisp and clear. As tested, the T8 inscription costs a whopping £73,830, but I have to say it is absolutely fantastic.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year; I’ll see you in 2017!

Dan

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