In-depth reviews

Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 hybrid review

The Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 is a plug-in hybrid SUV with decent performance, seven-seat practicality and around 30 miles' electric running capability

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£69,275 - £69,275
Fuel Type:
Hybrid Petrol

Pros

  • Strong performance for an SUV
  • Great family practicality
  • Upmarket appeal

Cons

  • Engine refinement could be better
  • Some rivals have longer electric range
  • Economy is quite poor on long journeys
Car typeElectric range Fuel economyCO2 emissions
Plug-in hybrid27-43 miles83-217mpg28-76g/km

The original Volvo XC90 was the first SUV from the Swedish brand, and was very popular among families looking for an upmarket, sensible but stylish seven-seater. The latest iteration brings all that and more with the introduction of its plug-in hybrid Recharge model, which combines a petrol engine and electric motor to reduce running costs by running on electric power only for shorter trips when needed.

The 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder engine is fairly efficient anyway, and smaller than those used in rivals such as the BMW X5 xDrive 45e, Mercedes GLE 350 de and Range Rover Sport P400e. Clever tuning means the XC90 Recharge’s smaller engine still delivers plenty of performance regardless.

And if seven seats aren't vital, there's a growing number of electric SUVs like the Audi e-tron, BMW iX and Mercedes EQC to consider. Another option would be the Lexus RX 450h L. That's a conventional hybrid, not a plug-in, yet it does have seven seats, matching the Volvo's practical edge. It's roomy inside and even the rearmost seats are spacious.

Volvo quotes a range of up to 42 miles on electric power alone, although around 25 is more realistic. This is thanks to an 18.8kWh battery and 143bhp electric motor. This supports the petrol engine in the default 'Hybrid' driving mode, where there’s a combined 448bhp on offer for a rapid 0-62mph time of 5.4 seconds.

It would be uncouth to outpace hot hatchbacks away from traffic lights, as the XC90 is much more about relaxing progress and easy motorway driving. The plentiful performance means that it's really easy to drive smoothly whether you're threading down a country road or navigating the city. 

Any plug-in hybrid has to be efficient, too; we found the updated, bigger battery of the updated car (2019-on) gives it a real-world range of well over 20 miles in varied driving, or if you spend most of your time around town, you could easily eke out up to 25 miles. Do be careful of wheel size if you're anxious to get the best electric range, however: choosing the biggest alloys can reduce the range by a couple of miles.

Official fuel economy stands at a best of 235mpg, while CO2 emissions range from 28 to 76g/km. Unlike pure-electric cars, the XC90 Recharge doesn’t qualify for any subsidies or grants, and at well over £77,000, it’s on the pricey side. It's also best to ignore the standard claimed fuel economy figures, as they can be misleading where they factor in electric running during the testing procedure.

It's best to decide whether the XC90 will suit your needs based on whether you have easy access to a power socket at home and do mostly short journeys to make the most of the electric running. Longer trips that rely heavily on the petrol engine will see the XC90 return only 25-30mpg.

There are still plenty of reasons to pick the big Volvo, though. While it's a little less practical than its petrol or diesel-engined siblings, the XC90 is one of very few seven-seat plug-in hybrids on sale, so between that, the huge boot, a decent towing capacity of 2,400kg and very respectable off-road capability, it's easily one of the most utilitarian plug-in cars you can buy, and it's a superb family car by any standard.

There's 262 litres of boot space even in seven-seat mode, increasing to 640 litres in five-seat form. Fold all the seats down and the Volvo is cavernous, with a total of 1,856 litres of boot room. There’s no drawback in terms of passenger space, though; it's identical to the regular XC90 thanks to clever packaging of the battery in the 'spine' of the car, while all trim levels offered with this Recharge T8 get plenty of kit.

The XC90 Recharge is only offered in Plus and Ultimate trims. It's easiest to think of the former as the sporty one, and the latter as the luxury one, although both have lavish levels of equipment, with cruise and climate control, a nine-inch tablet infotainment system with sat-nav, a 12.3-inch digital dial display, heated and power-adjustable leather seats with memory function, excellent safety technology (which you can read more about later in our review) and LED headlights.

Ultimate is the top trim level, with different interior trim and an upgraded Bowers and Wilkins sound system, along with air suspension and a head-up display among a few other upgrades. What is hard to forgive is that you have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but otherwise the only option you're likely to want is the admittedly pricey panoramic glass roof.

The charging cables can be stored in the shallow underfloor boot space, but you have to pack neatly to get them in. The alternative is to hook the cable bag to one of the four lashing eyes in the boot space, but it's annoying to have it cluttering up the boot all the time. You get a seven-metre three-pin cable as standard, along with a Type 2 cable of the same length, that you'll need to access some public charging points.

Recharge times depend on the power supply you’re plugged into. As with the smaller XC60 that uses the same 18.8kWh battery, fully recharging from a home wallbox or public charging point capable of speeds up to or over 3.7kW will take around five hours. There's no rapid charging with the big Volvo, (very few plug-in hybrids offer this) so even if you plug into a much faster AC public car charger (the Volvo is compatible with any Type 2 AC charger up to 22kW, but not DC rapid chargers), it'll still take five hours to charge up. 

The XC90 is super-refined in electric mode, but this changes as the petrol engine kicks in; it does make an interesting and not-unpleasant supercharger whine under hard acceleration, but while cruising it's still a really quiet and comfortable car. It's worth adding optional air suspension; it gives the XC90 a cushy, loping ride comfort even on bigger wheels. For a more detailed look at the Volvo XC90 Recharge, read on for the rest of our in-depth review...

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