Volvo xc90 T8

Style

The look of the XC90 has been updated a couple of times since its introduction in late 2015. Volvo’s goal is to compete with luxury SUV models such as the BMW X5, Mercedes GLE Class, and the Acura MDX. This is part of a larger effort by Volvo to ditch its image as the drab, utilitarian, safety-first brand.

The XC90 still looks substantial and somewhat bulky, but in recent years has taken on a more forward-leaning and aggressive attitude. The most dramatic change to the 2020 version is the transition from a convex to a concave front grille. It’s a beautiful touch. A larger piece of chrome also dresses up the lower bumper.

Inside, the XC90 plug-in is pure luxury refinement. Soft leather, brushed metal, and high-quality plastics line the cabin. The console boasts every technological capability you’ll find this side of a Tesla, but it feels more like an old-world luxury rather than sitting at the controls of a spaceship. The Inscription trim's crystal joystick shifter is handmade by a renowned Scandinavian glassmaker.

Volvo xc90 T8

In 2020, Volvo offers a blonde seat interior inside the charcoal environment. That says a lot about the vehicle’s muted color palette—various shades of blonde and ash. New exterior colors include Thunder Grey and Metallic Pebble Grey. The Volvo XC90 Inscription version comes with a Birch Light Metallic exterior and 21-inch, multi-spoke diamond-cut alloy wheels.

A 12.3” digital driver display is now standard on every Volvo model. In the XC90 T8, it sits between the driver and passenger air vents, and save for an unobtrusive row of buttons below, the console is devoid of clutter. The overpacked interface inside the screen is more challenging.

The Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid is the only seven-seat plug-in hybrid SUV on the US market. The 2020 version is also available in a six-seat configuration.

Performance

Where many plug-ins and hybrids ask drivers to trade power for efficiency, the Volvo XC90’s proposition to buyers is the opposite. Power for the gas-only, turbo XC90 AWD, which gets 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, peaks at 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Those who spring for the plug-in T8 are rewarded not only with higher fuel economy but a shot of electric drive capability and that rockets the SUV to 400 total horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. Where the T6 accelerates from a stop to 62 mph in 6.5 seconds, the T8 can accomplish the same feat in less than 6 seconds.

Volvo xc90 T8

Some of that extra power is necessary to compensate for the additional 550 pounds of curb weight brought to the T8 by its lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor on the front axle. The effect is to give the SUV a more muscular, substantial feel, and the T8 especially benefits from the available air suspension system included at the Inscription trim level.

The XC90 T8 uses an integrated starter-generator to shut down the gas engine when possible and ensures that electrons always flow to the rear-mounted motor. Except when the T8 is in pure electric mode, the vehicle always operates as an all-wheel-drive vehicle—even when the 11.4 kilowatt-hour battery is depleted.

Like most plug-ins, the XC90 provides several driving modes. The default is “Hybrid,” which fades power between the engine and both electric motors for optimal energy efficiency. “Pure” shuts the engine and puts the car into an electric-only mode for up to 18 miles in typical conditions. In our test drive, we used a modest touch on the accelerator to get 21 miles of pure electric driving.

“Power” and “All-Wheel-Drive” optimize performance for different terrains, unleashing more power to both the engine and motor for maximum output. “Save” mode shuts the battery’s contribution to saving power for “Pure” operation later on.

Critics say the XC90’s ride is more comfortable and its handling more responsive than you might expect from its maker. But it’s still not entirely up to par with some European luxury counterparts. Even with the optional air suspension system, some critics noticed that the ride can occasionally get a little bumpy—particularly with the available 21-inch tires.

The Volvo XC90’s “twin-engine” powertrain pairs a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged gasoline engine with an electric motor attached to the rear wheels. The switching from gas to electric and back is virtually unnoticeable. For 2020, Volvo replaced the vacuum brake system with a hydraulic setup. So the smoothness of the powertrain transitions is now matched by an equally refined feel on the brake pedal, despite its added duties for energy regeneration.

Efficiency and Range

As the only seven-passenger plug-in hybrid on the market, the XC90 may not feel the same pressure to eke out the highest possible range from its battery pack. This is decidedly a luxury performance SUV—albeit one that gets the energy equivalent of up to 55 mpg thanks to its plug-in capability. The EPA says it can go 18 miles purely on electricity.

For 2020, Volvo upped energy-storage capacity from 10.4 to 11.6 kilowatt-hours. That 14 percent increase was achieved strictly by improved battery chemistry. The battery pack, which is packaged in the raised central tunnel, is the same size as the previous version. Volvo argues that the central raised tunnel is an ultra-safe location to position the battery.

If you do most of your driving close to home and have the opportunity to keep your car plugged in most of the time, you’ll get a lot of use out of the XC90’s 11.6-kWh battery. Your visits to the gas station will be about 50 percent less frequent. Do you regularly take your car on longer trips or have a long commute? If so, then you’ll still be driving a very efficient large SUV. But obviously, your gas savings will be less significant than for those who can frequently plug in.

After the T8’s battery is depleted, the luxury hybrid SUV delivers 27 miles per gallon.

Charging

The Volvo XC90 comes with a 3.5-kW, 16-amp onboard charger, and a Level 2 charging cable supplied by AeroVironment. Volvo says the XC90’s 11.6-kWh battery pack can charge to full capacity in as little as 2.5 hours using a 240-volt Level 2 charge station and about seven hours using a standard 110-volt outlet. The XC90 is not compatible with high-speed DC fast-chargers, which is mostly irrelevant in a plug-in hybrid with a modestly-sized pack. With the equipment provided, and at its battery capacity, you will not need to install a dedicated home wall-mounted charging station.

Passenger and Cargo Room

The XC90 T8 plug-in is a spacious and inviting seven-seat SUV, with plenty room for either seven passengers or a substantial cargo load. The 2020 version adds a six-seat configuration with two captain’s chairs in the second row. That creates easier access to two individual seats in the third row. Some reviewers complain that the lack of armrests in the middle aisle was a design misstep.

Volvo xc90 T8

The front seats feature 10-way power controls and the second row reclines and slides—not necessary an expected feature on cars in this class. The back row is surprisingly roomy. The entire cabin is decked out in premium leather and lavish flourishes.

With up to 85.7 cubic feet of cargo capacity, the XC90 is among the leaders in its class. With all three rows in position, the SUV has 15.4 cubic feet of stowing behind the third row, suitable for shopping bags and carry-on luggage. With the third row down, the XC90 provides up to 41.8 cubic feet of cargo space (depending on how the rear seats are adjusted.) The T8 comes with a standard hands-free tailgate and optional remote controlled air springs that lower the rear of the car for easy loading.

Contributing to the XC90’s aura of spaciousness are large, intelligently positioned windows and a cloth-lined panoramic sunroof that come standard on all T8s. The only downside to the SUV’s surprising roominess is that it left no room for a spare tire.

Safety

Volvo has no intention of abandoning of a safety-first approach, even as it aims for a more luxury-oriented consumer base. The SUV consistently aces the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s five crashworthiness safety tests.

The XC90 is available with all of Volvo’s critically acclaimed safety features, including blind-spot monitoring, automatic braking to protect drivers from accelerating into traffic, and pre-collision conditioning that adjusts the seating to embrace for impact. The XC90 also has an optional Heads Up Display, which keeps the driver’s eyes on the road by projecting important information on the windshield.

The available Pilot Assist system is an automatic driving feature that brakes and accelerates along with traffic and steers to keep you aligned with the car head. Unlike other adaptive cruise control systems, this feature is just as useful in city traffic as it is on the open highway. The system isn’t designed to allow hands-free driving, but it can be convenient if you need to adjust the defroster or stretch your fingers.

Price

The 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 comes in three trims. The base-level Momentum trim starts at $67,500. The sportier R-Design trim level comes with styling touches to the front fascia, Nappa leather upholstery, and paddle shifters—bumping the price to $72,700. The top-of-the-line Inscription trim level brings the price to $73,800. The fully loaded XC90 T8 Inscription that we drove had a sticker of $86,990, after tallying options like a $3,100 Luxury package and $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system, as well as the $995 destination charge.

Depending on the trim level, the XC90 T8 plug-in costs about $15,000 more than the gas-only T6. These prices don’t include a $5,002 federal tax credit or additional incentives in states like California, which offers an additional $1,500 rebate for plug-in hybrids. Subtract those discounts and factor in the significant performance boost that comes from the T8’s electric-drive system, and the SUV begins to make a compelling case. It’s spacious, luxurious, and has more than decent fuel economy.

The numerous optional features available at any trim level make it possible to add thousands of dollars to the price. Features like heads-up display and remote-controlled rear airlift are tempting. However, these items complicate the cost analysis when comparing the XC90 to even more expensive SUVs that may offer a few of those features as standard.

Volvo xc90 T8

Purchase Process

The Volvo XC90 T8 is available at Volvo dealerships nationwide. Visit Volvo’s website to request a price quote and be put in touch with dealership near you.

Volvo XC90 T8 specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $67000
Est. tax credit: $5000
Technology: Plug-in Hybrid
Body type: SUV
Seats: 7
EPA Range: 18 miles electric + gasoline
Battery size: 12 kWh
Charging rate: 3.5 kW

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