Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine review

The Volvo XC90 T8 is a plug-in hybrid SUV with decent performance, seven-seat practicality and some 20-25 miles of electric running

£66,645 - £71,945
Plug-in hybrid

Pros

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

Cons

  • Others have longe electric range
  • Engine refinement could be better
  • Economy is quite poor on long journeys

 

Car type Electric range  MPG CO2
Plug-in hybrid 28 miles 113mpg 52-55g/km

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 a powerful petrol engine working in conjunction with an electric motor, combining to give the XC90 almost 400bhp despite its low emissions.

There are some interesting alternatives to the XC90, though. The competition consists of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which is not as upmarket, but also uses a petrol motor and electrification to deliver good fuel economy, while alternatives like the Range Rover Sport P400e and the pure-electric Audi e-tron are more premium. 

If you want a new BMW X5 plug-in, you’ll have to wait until the new version hits UK dealers, but it's not a seven-seater. The Lexus RX 450h L is a premium hybrid SUV that does seat seven, but while it also uses a petrol engine and electric motor, you can’t plug it in so you don't get the useful pure-electric range of the XC90.

Plug the XC90 in and the Swedish brand claims you can drive for up to 28 miles on electric power thanks to the 11.8kWh battery and 86bhp 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. Add the optional Polestar kit and the petrol engine's power is upped from 299 to 312bhp, making it 398bhp in total. 

That means the XC90 can rival some hot hatchbacks for the 0-62mph dash, but there’s more than just speed to the Volvo’s positive traits. The XC90 T8 delivers its power in a predictable swell, and 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 2019 facelifted car gives it a real-world range of some 22 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: speccing the biggest 22-inch wheels could reduce the range by more than five miles according to Volvo's figures.

Official fuel economy stands at a best of 113mpg, while CO2 emissions are 52 to 55g/km. However, unlike pure-electric cars, the XC90 T8 doesn’t qualify for any subsidies or grants, and at over £65,000 it’s on the pricey side. It's best to ignore the standard claimed fuel economy figures, as they can be misleading where they factor in electric running when tested.

It's best to decide whether the XC90 T8 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, as with the petrol engine running the XC90 will only return some 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 276 litres of boot space even in seven-seat mode, increasing to 640 litres in five-seat form. Fold all the seats down and the T8 is cavernous, with a total of 1,816 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 T8 Twin Engine get plenty of kit.

The XC90 T8 is only offered in R Design and Inscription 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 dashboard 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.

Inscription is the top trim level, with different interior trim and upgraded ambient lighting inside, while the Pro versions of both feature air suspension and a head-up display amongst a few other options. What is hard to forgive is that you have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but otherwise the only options you're likely to want is the £1,295 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 4.5-metre three-pin cable as standard, however a 4.5-metre Type 2 cable that you'll need to access charging points costs £50 extra. On a car of this price, it should really be included.

Recharge times depend on the power supply you’re plugged into. As with the smaller XC60 T8 that uses the same battery, a regular domestic socket will top the battery up in six hours, while a 3.6kW charger will do the same in four hours, and a 7kW wallbox will do it in two and a half.

There's no rapid charging with the big Volvo, as is the case with many plug-in hybrids, so even if you plug into a much faster AC public car charger (the Volvo is compatible with any Type 2 AC charger, but not DC rapid chargers), it'll still charge up with two and a half hours. 

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 when you work it hard, but on a steady throttle 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 T8 Twin Engine, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.