Volvo XC90 T8 review
Luxury seven passenger plug-in hybrid
The Volvo XC90 T8 is a luxury high performance plug-in hybrid SUV. It offers comfort, safety, and a level of efficiency previously thought impossible in an all wheel drive people mover. It's expected to offer about 14 miles of all electric range, and the equivalent total fuel economy of 59 miles per gallon.
The Volvo XC90 received a major redesign for 2016, after 13 years on the market with relatively few updates to its styling. In addition to a totally revamped exterior, the SUV now offers a new powertrain option, becoming the first seven seat plug-in hybrid SUV.
In 2016, the look of the XC90 was completely re-envisioned to compete with expensive luxury SUV models like the BMW X5 and the Mercedes GLE. This was part of a greater effort on the part of Volvo after its purchase by Chinese conglomerate Geely Holding Group, a Chinese multinational automotive manufacturing company to ditch its image as the dowdy, utilitarian, safety-first cousin to flashy European luxury nameplates. One look at the new XC90 shows the difference in Volvo’s approach.
The new XC90 leans forward with an aggressive, imposing attitude. Inside, the XC90 plug- in is pure luxury refinement. Soft leather, brushed metal and high-quality plastics line the cabin. The crystal joystick shifter is handmade by a renowned Scandinavian glassmaker. The console boasts every technological capability you’ll find this side of a Tesla Model S, but it feels more like analogue luxury than sitting at the controls of a spaceship.
A single touchscreen sits between the driver and passenger air vents, and save for an unobtrusive row of buttons below, the console is devoid of clutter. Using a relatively intuitive operating system based on expanding and contracting panels, the XC90’s touchscreen interface should be easy enough for most first-time drivers to use without searching for the manual. Or if you prefer, Volvo’s natural language voice command system can pull up directions, change the music, or tweak the climate control hands-free, as needed.
Sound comes from a 19 speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium system complete with a reverb setting tuned to mimic the atmosphere of the Gothenburg Concert Hall. Volvo designers went to every length to convince buyers that this is indeed a high-end luxury SUV, both inside and out.
Where many plug-ins and hybrids ask drivers to trade power for efficiency, the Volvo XC90’s proposition to buyers is quite the opposite. The plug-in T8 are rewarded not only with higher fuel economy but a shot of electric drive capability and that rockets the SUV to 407 bhp and 472 pound-feet of torque. The T8 can achieve 0 – 60 in just 5.9 seconds. Some of that extra power is necessary to compensate for the additional 550 pounds of curb weight (2.34 tonnes) brought to the T8 by its lithium ion battery pack and twin electric motors.
On the whole though, the effect is to give the SUV a more muscular, substantial feel, and the T8 especially benefits from the available air suspension system included at the Inscription trim level. Like most plug-ins, the XC90 provides several driving modes. The default is “Hybrid,” which fades power between the engine and both electric motors for optimal energy efficiency. “Pure” shuts the engine and puts the car into electric-only mode for up to 14 miles in typical conditions. “Power” and “All-Wheel-Drive” optimise performance for different terrains, engaging both the engine and motors for maximum output. “Save” mode shuts the battery’s contribution to save power for “Pure” operation later on.
The handling is more responsive than you might expect from Volvo. The XC90’s “twin engine” powertrain pairs a 2.0 litre supercharged and turbocharged engine with twin electric motors attached to the front and rear wheels. The SUV uses a 34-kW starter- generator to charge the battery pack when its regenerative braking system is in use. That system is noticeably more gentle than many other regenerative braking setups, which some drivers who miss coasting might find consider an attractive bonus.
Efficiency and Range
As the only seven-passenger plug-in hybrid on the market, the XC90 may not feel the same pressure to eke out the greatest possible range from its battery pack. This is decidedly a luxury performance SUV – albeit one that gets the energy equivalent of nearly 60mpg thanks to its plug-in capability. Volvo says it expects a 14 mile all electric range and a 59 MPGe rating. What this translates to is you will be driving the most efficient large SUV on the road, and your gas savings will be cut significantly.
Passenger and Cargo Room
The XC90 T8 plug-in is a spacious and inviting seven-seat SUV, with plenty of room for either seven passengers or a substantial cargo load. The front seats feature 10 way power controls, the second row reclines and slides – not necessary an expected feature on cars in this class – and the back row is surprisingly roomy. The entire cabin is decked out in premium leather and lavish flourishes to make even the seventh passenger feel a little bit privileged.
With the third row down, the XC90 provides up to 41.8 cubic feet of cargo space (depending on how the rear seats are adjusted.) The T8 comes with a standard hands-free tailgate and optional remote controllable air springs that lower the rear of the car for easy loading. Contributing to the XC90’s aura of spaciousness are large, intelligently positioned windows and a panoramic sunroof that come standard on all T8s.
The image that Volvo is trying to transcend with models like the XC90 is one of staid dependability and unsurpassed safety. The XC90 is available with all of Volvo’s critically acclaimed safety features, including blindspot monitoring, automatic breaking to protect drivers from accelerating into traffic and a pre-collision conditioning that adjusts the seating to embrace for impact. The XC90 also has an optional head up display which I found most useful in keeping my eyes on the road by projecting important information on the windshield.
The available pilot assist system is an automatic driving feature that brakes and accelerates along with traffic and steers to keep you aligned with the car ahead. A spacious, luxury SUV definitely worth considering.