Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine review
The Volvo XC90 T8 is a fantastic plug-in hybrid SUV and was arguably the first car to successfully nail the brief in the large premium off-roader class. Like Volvo’s other T8 models, it uses an efficient but powerful petrol engine working in conjunction with electric motor, as this pairing delivers the cleanest running potential.
There are some interesting alternatives to the XC90, though. This is a large and premium seven-seat SUV that features some clever technology, so there aren’t many direct rivals. The competition consists of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is not as upmarket, but also uses a petrol motor and electrification to deliver good fuel economy. It’s cheaper than the XC90 T8, but not as fast or as refined.
If you want a new BMW X5 plug-in, you’ll have to wait until a new version hits UK dealers during 2019, so a used, previous-generation BMW X5 40e might be a better bet. However, the latter car is only a five-seater.
Some of the Volvo’s other rivals use different technology. The Audi Q7 e-tron is based on the seven-seat Q7, but unlike the Volvo, there’s a turbodiesel 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel engine under the bonnet, while the electric motor and battery are under the boot floor, so the Q7 only seats five.
Finally, the Lexus RX 450h L is a premium hybrid SUV that seats seven, but while it also uses a petrol engine (a V6 here) and electric motor, you can’t plug it in, so the battery can only be charged by the engine on the move and when you brush the brakes when slowing down.
The XC90 T8 you can plug in. Do so and the Swedish brand claims you can drive for up to 28 miles on electric power. That’s thanks to the 10.4kWh battery and electric motor. This supports the 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine in the default 'Hybrid' driving mode, so there’s 385bhp on offer, which is enough for a 5.8-second 0-62mph time.
These figures are enough to rival some performance hatchbacks, but there’s more than just speed to the Volvo’s positive traits. The XC90 T8 delivers its power in a predictable swell. There’s plenty of acceleration potential to make easy progress – even in a car this big that weighs 2,274kg.
Any plug-in hybrid has to be efficient, too, and according to the official claims, the XC90 T8 is one of the most frugal and green large SUVs on sale. Official fuel economy stands at a best of 108.6mpg, while CO2 emissions are 59g/km. However, unlike pure electric cars, the XC90 T8 doesn’t qualify for any subsidies or grants, and at over £60,000 it’s on the pricey side.
There are still plenty of reasons to pick it, though. While it's a little less practical than its petrol or diesel-engined siblings, with a 262-litre boot even in seven-seat configuration, there’s a respectable level of luggage space.
This increases to 640 litres in five-seat form, which is plenty, albeit 135 litres less than in the petrol or diesel. Fold all the seats down and even the T8 is cavernous, with a total of 1,816 litres of boot room. There’s no drawback inside, though, as space is identical to the regular XC90 thanks to clever packaging of the battery in the spine of the car, while all trim levels with this T8 Twin Engine get plenty of kit.
The entry-level model in the XC90 range is Momentum, which gets cruise and climate control, a nine-inch tablet infotainment system with sat nav, a 12.3-inch digital dashboard display, 19-inch alloy wheels, heated part-leather seats, some excellent safety technology (which we’ll come to shortly) and LED headlights.
Unlike its smaller plug-in hybrid sibling, the XC60 T8, you can get the XC90 T8 in this trim level, helping affordability. Of course, you can step up to R-Design, which gets all of the equipment above, but also features different seats, mesh grilles outside, 20-inch alloys and sportier styling. R-Design Pro adds 22-inch alloys and adjustable air suspension
Inscription is the top trim level, with power-adjustable leather seats, different interior trim and upgraded ambient lighting inside, while the Pro version of this model features air suspension, 21-inch wheels and ventilation for the seats.
The charging cables are stored in the boot, and you get a 4.5-metre three-pin cable as standard. However, a 4.5-metre Type 2 cable for a faster charger or wallbox is a £50 extra, which should really be included at this price.
Recharge times depend on the power supply you’re plugged into. As with the smaller XC60 T8 that uses the same battery, a 6Amp supply will top the battery up in seven hours. This drops to four hours for a 10Amp supply, while a faster 16Amp supply beats this by an hour.
The XC90 is refined in electric mode, as there’s barely any noise. This changes as the petrol engine kicks in, as it drones noisily when you work it hard, but at least the car is comfortable.
On air suspension especially the ride is absorbent, and you feel the fluidity the sophisticated suspension setup gives. Even the entry-level trim rides on fairly big wheels, so cracked tarmac and violent bumps do upset the body, but most of the time the XC90 is relaxed, refined, smooth and easy to drive.
For a more detailed look at the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine, read on for the rest of our in-depth review