PUBLISHED: 17:15 17 May 2016
Copyright: Jonathan Fleetwood 2010
The Volvo XC90 has reached new levels of performance and eco-efficiency with a high-power, plug-in petrol hybrid, says motoring editor Andy Russell
Volvo always planned a plug-in hybrid version of the second-generation XC90 and it’s clear it has been designed from the ground up.
Unlike hybrid rivals which have sacrificed the third row of seats to put the drive battery under the boot floor, the T8 Twin Engine has led to no such compromise in Volvo’s seven-seater. In fact, the only obvious giveaways that this is a hybrid are a charging flap on the nearside front wing, badging, and a charging and eco driving gauge in place of the rev counter.
How does it work?
The XC90 T8 combines the 320hp supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine from the Volvo T6 model driving the front wheels with an 87hp electric motor driving the rear ones. The power units can work separately, for up to 27 miles on pure electric alone at up to 78mph, or together to give all-wheel drive when needed. With no need for a propshaft the length of the car, the drive battery is integrated into the chassis and housed in the transmission tunnel. The driver can select different driving modes: Pure – electric motor only, hybrid – default mode combining electric and petrol for optimum balance between performance and efficiency, Power – electric and petrol for maximum performance, All Wheel Drive – electric and petrol for improved traction, Off Road – an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential function help negotiate tricky terrain below 25mph, and Save – retains battery charge for later use.
Charging takes 2.5 hours using a 16-amp fast charger, 3.5 hours with a standard domestic supply and six hours with a six-amp supply. Regenerative braking also trickle charges the battery with a ‘B’ position for the eight-speed automatic gearbox to double engine braking effect downhill and when towing.
The XC90 is the first Volvo to use its flexible Scalable Product Architecture – improved crash protection and innovative crash avoidance support – which will underpin future models. There will be T8 versions of the new premium S90 saloon and V90 estate.
How does it drive?
With near-silent running in electric mode, you’re barely aware of the hi-tech powertrain switching seamlessly between electric and petrol.
It sets off briskly in electric mode up to urban speed limits. Out of town, with both power sources working together, put your foot down and 2.3 tonnes of SUV is fleet of foot, although it doesn’t feel as quick as the figures suggest and gets vocal. Far better to back off a bit and enjoy the smooth refinement.
In hybrid mode, with plenty of battery charge, I could hover at 60-70mpg on the open road. On engine alone, that halved. If you can do the daily commute just on battery, the T8 comes into its own.
The standard coil-spring suspension can be upgraded to air suspension, which enhances the ride quality but does create some initial body roll through fast corners.
The T8 costs around £14,000 more than the turbo diesel Volvo D5 and £10,000 more than the conventional petrol T6. Available in the same Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trim levels, the T8 also adds a powered tilt/slide panoramic sunroof, four-zone climate control, 12.3in active driver information display, crystal glass gear-lever knob, drive mode settings and adjustable steering force, air-conditioning for the third row of seats and the ability to pre-set the cabin temperature before getting in the car.
Cabin & boot
While the T8 retains the XC90 seven-seat set-up, with plenty of space in the first five seats, the T8 loses some load capacity. But there is still up to 293 litres including underfloor storage to the window line with all seats in use, 671 litres in five-seat mode and a maximum 1,847 litres to the roof with them all folded flat.
The new fascia is a big step forward in simplicity with a highly-intuitive nine-inch touch screen tablet-style Sensus interface to control heating, in-car entertainment, navigation, phone, car set-up, connectivity and numerous apps, doing away with lots of little buttons and switches.
The XC90 is a highly-innovative, highly-desirable SUV and the T8 technology, environmental credentials and performance take it to another level. To justify the extra cost, even with the savings in running costs and personal and company tax breaks, you need to make the most of pure electric motoring.
Price: (Momentum) £60,455
Engine: 1,969cc, 320hp, four-cylinder turbo petrol driving front wheels and 87hp electric motor driving rear wheels
Performance: 0-62mph 5.6 seconds. Top speed 140mph
MPG: 134.5 combined
CO2 emissions: 49g/km
Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 5 per cent
Insurance group: 42-43 (out of 50)
Warranty: Three years or 60,000 miles
Size: L: 4,950mm; W: (including door mirrors) 2,140mm H: 1,776m