The XC90 had already made a positive impression at its launch last year but now Fleet News has been behind the wheel of a UK spec XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid.

By designing the car from the ground up to be a hybrid, Volvo has managed to package the battery pack and two powertrains neatly within the chassis –
optimising weight distribution and passenger space.

Dubbed ‘twin engine', the car functions like a normal hybrid; starting on battery and offering near-silent running until energy from the petrol engine is required. It can also operate as a full EV, giving around 27 miles to a full charge – enough for a moderate commute. The battery can be re-charged within two to six hours when plugged in.

The upshot of this for fleet drivers is a BIK rate of just 7%. So despite the list price of £60,450, a 40% tax payer will only be hit by monthly deductions of £140. It is also exempt from road tax and the congestion charge.

Volvo claims a combined fuel economy figure of 134mpg; such efficiency is impressive when you consider the 2.5-tonne SUV is a proper seven-seater with 347 litres of boot space with the individual rear seats in place.

But the XC90's party piece is found when you delve into the drive control settings and select ‘sport'. Then the 2.0-litre turbo/super-charged engine joins force with the electric motor delivering 407bhp to all four wheels. The result is a 0-60 mph time of just 5.3-seconds. This makes it not only the fastest but also the most efficient XC90.

In entry-level spec, the car still benefits from a full leather interior, panoramic sunroof, city safety with
active cruise control and a 12.3-inch TFT screen in place of traditional dials.

All the vehicle functions are controlled through a 9-inch hi-resolution touch screen which includes connected services such as music streaming and service booking. It's a very neat set-up – although changing the radio station or temperature while driving requires surgeon-like dexterity.

The XC90 handles its bulk well on the road but despite the available power reserves of this flagship model it's certainly a relaxed cruiser at heart.

When the engine does cut in, the noise is rather intrusive for a luxury petrol car and spirited driving or charging on the move will soon see the fuel economy plummet towards the mid-30s.

In terms of rivals, the BMW X5 and the Audi Q7 offer plug-in drivetrains at this price point but both are only available with five seats. The Range Rover Sport is the only other hybrid seven-seater available but its imperious luxury coupled with strong off-road ability comes with a significant price tag.