Where Tes­las fear to tread

On some trips a big, comfy diesel with a 500-mile range and ho­tel lev­els of com­fort is very hard to beat. By Ben Oliver

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars -

is to be lauded for its an­nounce­ment that ev­ery new model launched from 2019 will be elec­tri­fied to some ex­tent. But per­haps like a few other Volvo own­ers, I walked out to my V90 on the morn­ing I read the news and felt like my clean, so­phis­ti­cated but con­ven­tional diesel had been sub­tly dis­owned by its maker.

It seems diesel’s days are done, de­spite the case that can be made to the contrary. Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters cau­tion us not to buy them, know­ing that puni­tive taxes and an even­tual ban are on the way. I re­cently bought a nearly-new car of an­other make from a main dealer, and the sales­man’s des­per­a­tion to con­vince me that one of his in-stock diesels would be best for the use the car will be put to (it re­ally wouldn’t) gave him away. Sales of new cars are down, but sales of diesels more so.

So I thought I’d make a road trip ide­ally suited to a diesel, and which you’d still think twice about in a fully elec­tric car: from the Sus­sex coast to Belfast, di­ag­o­nally across much of the UK. It’s a round trip of 1010 miles, al­most all of it on mo­tor­way with the Volvo tick­ing over in eighth and re­turn­ing a best-ever 508 miles and 41.8mpg from a sin­gle tank. I made a sim­i­lar trip in harsher cir­cum­stances across Swe­den in a petrol V90 for a story in the April is­sue, and my diesel was even less stressed. A Volvo’s abil­ity to com­press long jour­neys is ex­tra­or­di­nary. I filled up near Brighton, lis­tened to five or six al­bums, ate on the boat and filled up again in Belfast. The petrol would have needed an ex­tra stop.

The pur­pose of the trip was to com­pete in the Gran Fondo North­ern Ire­land, a 110-mile bike race – or me­an­der, in my case – start­ing in Belfast and head­ing south over the Mourne moun­tains to the border with the Repub­lic, and back again. I am aware of the ab­sur­dity of driv­ing 1100 miles to cy­cle 10 per cent of that.

The Volvo’s boot wasn’t trou­bled by the pres­ence of a 7kg rac­ing bike – which it of course swal­lows whole – nor the as­so­ci­ated tools and ly­cra. In­stead the car proved its worth af­ter­wards. The ride it­self was fast, glo­ri­ously scenic, mostly dry and I sur­prised my­self with a top-third fin­ish. But cel­e­bra­tions at the fin­ish line were cur­tailed by tor­ren­tial rain, high wind and plum­met­ing tem­per­a­tures. My five-mile ride back to the ho­tel with tired and stone-cold mus­cles was prob­a­bly the most mis­er­able I’ve had. By the time I reached the car in the ho­tel car park my hands had ceased to func­tion.

So I threw the bike in the back, sat in the front pas­sen­ger seat and let the fierce seat heaters re­an­i­mate me while I con­sumed ev­ery calo­rie in the cabin. It’s a nice ho­tel but the Volvo was a bet­ter place to re­cover.

And more im­pres­sively, de­spite driv­ing home two days later, just when the aching is al­ways at its worst, it de­liv­ered me feel­ing like I could do it all again.

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