Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine engines, drive and performance

The Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine delivers strong economy, but it also boasts impressive performance for a big car thanks to its plug-in powertrain

0-62mph Top speed Driven wheels Power
5.8s 140mph Four 390bhp

The Volvo XC90 T8 has many strong points. We’ve already seen its efficiency potential, while quality and standard equipment are on its list of positive attributes, too. You can also add ride quality, power and half-decent handling to its abilities. As the car was designed as a plug-in from the outset, there are very few drawbacks compared to a regular XC90.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine hybrid engine, 0-62mph and acceleration

There’s just one engine available in the T8: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol that’s both turbocharged and supercharged to boost power on full throttle without harming efficiency when cruising. The petrol engine makes 299bhp and drives the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, while the electric motor produces 86bhp and drives the rear wheels. That means four-wheel-drive capability and a total of 385bhp.

That’s as much power as the latest hot hatchbacks, so even though the Volvo is much heavier, performance is still startling given the XC90’s size and weight. It’ll accelerate from 0-62mph in 5.8 seconds and hit 140mph, which isn’t bad for a family SUV.

However, with the electric motor supporting the petrol engine, there’s lots of smooth acceleration available from low speed. It’s most noticeable from a standstill, where the motor fills in for the engine until it can deliver maximum performance, especially in a bigger, heavier car like this. There’s a good swell of acceleration on even half throttle, and as long as you keep it like this, refinement is good.

Ask for everything from the hybrid setup and the petrol engine starts to get more vocal, with a nasally drone as the engine struggles to contend with the car’s bulk. It’s a problem all T8 Volvos suffer from. It’s not unbearable and is only a small price to pay given the performance potential, but it seems at odds with the car’s refined cruising ability. At motorway speeds, it’s particularly quiet and comfortable though.

In electric mode, there’s enough low-down power to drive around town without troubling the petrol engine – and not crawling along, either. The XC90 delivers decent acceleration from just its electric motor.

Handling

On standard suspension, the car feels relaxed and composed in most situations, riding over the majority of surfaces sweetly. The higher ride height compared to a saloon car means more travel in the suspension, so unlike a regular car that doesn’t have as much travel to absorb bumps, the XC90 feels mostly plush and smooth over bad roads.

You can tell the wheels are sizeable, though, because they bounce back with more energy if you hit a nasty bump, but otherwise the T8 feels settled. The extra weight of the battery pack is noticeable, though: the T8 weighs around 250kg more than a diesel automatic XC90, so it's not as agile. However, the comfort on offer is definitely a welcome trade-off for extra agility.

Go for £2,150 optional air suspension (or one of the ‘Pro’ trims, which get it as standard) and the suppleness is improved further over the standard setup. While the adjustable air suspension still can’t control the big wheels as well as we'd like over difficult, bumpy roads, most of the time it’s controlled but comfortable, which gives a nice relaxed feeling to the way the Volvo rides.

There’s still plenty of grip, but through faster corners you do notice some body lean as the weight of the battery tests the suspension’s resolve. The steering is light too, so it’s easy to add too much lock in a quicker corner and upset the body. It never affects security or stability though, but it does give a nice responsive feeling initially.

It’s worth mentioning the XC90 T8’s regenerative braking, too. While the power of the conventional brakes are fine, helped by the motor working in reverse to slow the car down and divert electricity back into the battery to recoup energy that would otherwise be wasted, the feel through the pedal is a little dead.

As the motor does all the braking when you lightly brush the brake pedal, it’s difficult to get a sense of just how much pressure to apply to slow sufficiently, which means bringing the car to a halt smoothly can sometimes be difficult unless you’re very gentle.