The XC90’s high performance engine seems out of place in a super-safe Volvo


There is something rather odd about driving a Volvo in an enthusiastic, almost sporty manner. The T8 is, after all, an SUV with all the high-sided, heavyweight issues associated with the genre.

Yet for the last five days I’ve been encouraged to press on by a high performance power plant that really has no place in a Volvo – a brand that puts safety at the core of its USP.

I’m not suggesting the Xc90 isn’t safe – just that I’ve been using the right foot with just abandon that there have been some buttock-clenching moments behind the wheel.

With it’s low profile tyres (no good for mounting kerbs), aggressive styling (not quite Q7 but imposing) and startling turn of speed, I can understand why Land Rover must be looking at the T8 as a credible rival to the Range Rover Sport…

The Volvo XC90 T8 – the only reason to have a late onset family…


I’m 52. The chances are I won’t be having any kids in the near future. I didn’t forget to have them – life just passed that opportunity by and I’d rather test cars than pushchairs.

Being landed with somebody else’s sprog for the day is great, it’s just I want to hand them back in the evening, walk the dog and watch Peaky Blinders instead.

The T8 version of the XC90 is the only reason I can think of to try for a late onset family. With seven seats and whopping proportions, it’s way too large to drive on my own.

I need some child-like dummies to sit in the back, so I don’t feel a fraud. Or a late onset family, if the worst comes to the worst.

It’s that good, the T8. But you need a good reason to drive an family-orientated SUV this big that races to 60mph in under six seconds.

Sadly, Volvo doesn’t offer a two-seater, convertible T8, yet…

Less chavy than a Range Rover Sport, the XC90 T8 is a top SUV


I thought it was going to lean on corners, run out of puff on the motorway – be hassled by angry BMW X5-types. That’s what I thought, until I drove the XC90 to Royal Windsor Horse Show yesterday.

In fact, the T8 proved itself even better than the BMW – and more than a match for the chavy Range Rover Sport (why do RRS drivers always opt for personalised number plates?).

In ‘sport’ driving mode, the Volvo absolutely bundles along. The petrol engine might sound like a diesel when pushed hard but boy, does it shift well.

Sure, there’s a little bit of lean on a winding country lane but overall, I’d say this is the best driving SUV out there – and that’s quite a compliment in today’s packed SUV market…


Royal blue Volvo XC90 T8 for the Queen’s birthday bash


MAY 13 Car Couture drove the D5 diesel version of the XC90 a few months back – this is the barn-storming, highly anticipated T8 model, hybrid power at its finest and looking every inch a winner.

The T8 only has a few subtle additions that reveal it’s true identity as one of the most powerful SUVs on the market. There’s the badge on the boot, a second filler cap on the front wing (to plug in) and a crystal cut gearlever.

Otherwise it’s the same XC90 that will be ferrying schoolkids for years to come – a brilliant machine that has been winning awards since the day it was launched.

Painted in royal blue it looks amazing. Muscular, meaningful and mighty tough. I can’t wait to drive it to Windsor today for the Queen’s 90th birthday bash in the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Will all that technology get the better of me? Find out tomorrow…

The baffling trade-off of owning a stunning Lexus 450h hybrid


The RX 450h is a slightly baffling vehicle. Just what is the point of hybrid technology when the vehicle doesn’t return exceptional economy and isn’t that quick either?

Admittedly, emissions are fairly low at 120 g/km – making it cheap to run as a company car – but the similarly priced BMW X5 xDrive40e petrol-hybrid reduces CO2 emissions to a lowly 78 g/km.

Not only that, the BMW, like the Audi Q7 and the Volvo XC90 T8 hybrid, offers the option of seven seats. A feature missing from the Lexus for some reason.

So while I love the look of the Lexus – by far the prettiest of the bunch – it’s what drives the RX 450h that ultimately lets it down…

In the near silent Lexus RX 450h you only have to worry about pedestrians stepping out…


There is something rather lovely about rolling around town in the 450h – you sit in a silent cabin as the electric motors do all the work.

The only worry is the pedestrian who doesn’t hear the Lexus approaching and steps onto the road without looking.

And the cabin is a truly great place to sit. I can only imagine the seats were designed primarily for the US market because they are big and squidgy. Perfectly supportive but super sumptuous too.

The Lexus has grown on me but somehow it just lacks the dynamic nature of key hybrid rivals, like versions of the Porsche Cayenne and Volvo XC90. It’s an ‘almost car’ – almost rather good…

There’s an unwelcome mushroom in my Lexus RX 450h…


I’m loving the widescreen infotainment screen in our Lexus 450h test car this week. The sat nav screen is massive, the graphics are clear and somehow the screen doesn’t dazzle you at night either.

So why then is the control stalk that acts as a mouse so damn difficult to use?

BMW suffered abuse when their iDrive system first came on the market about 13 years ago. But the mushroomed-shape mouse in the Lexus requires the dexterity of a neurosurgeon.

It’s so sensitive that any road surface other than smooth will jog the cursor on to the next icon. And every time the mouse is clicked, it gives off an annoying sound.

It’s fiddly and awkward – possibly designed by a five-year-old and lets down the rest of the interior big time…

The Lexus RX 450h just doesn’t perform like you would expect a hybrid to


As already noted, fuel economy is not a strong point for the RX 450h. To the man in the street, this might seem a little odd, given that this is an expensive petrol-hybrid car.

To the long in the tooth motoring writer, it’s a little strange too. Today I drove the Lexus around Cirencester and the slightest blip with the right foot brought the petrol engine in to play.

I know this because the RX has a huge infotainment screen that dominates the top of the dashboard in w-i-d-e-s-c-r-e-e-n. And I mean wide.

In the ‘CAR’ setting, you can monitor a diagram of the Lexus showing where the energy is coming from to drive the wheels.

Now, I tried damn hard to keep it in electric motor only but it’s almost impossible. A decent diesel SUV would do better, if I’m totally honest.

So, just what is the point of the RX 450h. Great technology but rather useless in the real world…

May the force be with you… The Lexus DarthVadermobile


Listen up Lexus. A friend of mine, who invented the phrase ‘does what it says on the tin, has been equally wowed by the Star Wars design job on our RX 450h test car.

Her take on the futuristic design was summed up in the name she would give it – something probably trademarked anyway but here goes… DarthVadermobile.

We’ve had the Ford Probe, the Mitsubishi Lettuce and the Mazda Bongo, so why can’t we enjoy the perfectly formed Lexus DarthVadermobile?

Badminton Horse Trials today. The Lexus will stand out in a sea of Range Rovers and Mitsubishi Shoguns. And hopefully the force will be with us…

A lamb in wolf’s clothing? The Lexus RX 450h doesn’t perform like it looks


The wicked styling may not be enough – the Lexus RX just doesn’t drive well enough to tempt people away from the Porsche Cayenne and BMW X5.

The problem is the CVT automatic gearbox. It just doesn’t put the power available to good use. The 450h feels like it’s straining, the steering isn’t quite on the money and there’s body roll on cornering.

This latest RX is far better than the previous model but it lacks the driving dynamics to make it a great SUV – or live up to those incredibly stylish looks.

And why is the fuel economy so poor for a hybrid? Around town you might get up to 45mpg if you drive carefully and the electric motors do the work. But in the real world, I can barely hit 30mpg.

That means the RX 450h with all its technology is trounced by your average diesel SUV – many of which are faster off the mark too….