Volvo’s XC90 has been around for a little over a year but in that time it’s already secured a stack of awards, including our coveted Car of the Year 2016, and is proving popular with buyers, too. It mixes sensible design with attractive looks and is even more spacious and practical than the old car.
But now the crowning glory of the XC90 range has been released in the shape of the T8 model. Combining a 2.0-litre petrol engine that is both turbocharged and supercharged, with an electric motor and battery pack, makes the T8 a plug-in hybrid, and one that has the potential to deliver some impressive performance and economy figures.
Only the keenest of eyes will be able to distinguish the T8 from its conventional siblings. Chiefly, it is the discreet badges front and rear that are the most obvious changes, but also the additional filler flap on the front wing, which gives access to the charging connections. This car doesn’t make a fuss about its capabilities; it is as discreetly handsome as all the other XC90s you can buy. That’s no doubt part of the reason why it holds so much kerb appeal. Where much of the competition has decided that bold or even brash is the way to design a large SUV, the more subtle Volvo approach is welcome.
It’s not just a pretty face, however, as the XC90 is even more of a family wagon than before. Up front there’s acres of space even with the wide transmission tunnel, the second row is comfortable and spacious, too, while the third row is one of the more useful in class, and is easy to access as well. The boot is useable in seven-seat mode and huge in five-seat configuration, and plumping for the air suspension means you can raise and lower the rear end for easier loading.
Once installed in that attractive cabin, there’s little to tell you that the XC90 T8 has a significantly different powertrain. It has four modes to marshal what’s available; Hybrid, where the car sorts out the best use of energy for itself, Pure, which uses electric only, Power mode where both petrol engine and electric motor work at the same time to give four-wheel drive, and finally, Save mode, where the battery’s charge is maintained until you choose to use it.
In Hybrid mode the petrol engine is dormant at low speeds and while the battery is charged, but should you prod the accelerator hard enough it chimes in. As with a regular hybrid you can add charge back into the battery by careful use of the brakes, helping it to reach the claimed electric-only range of 43km.
On the flip side, in Power mode the T8 is something of a subtle rocket ship. There’s 401bhp available with both engine and motor combined, enough to propel it to 100kph from rest in only 5.6 seconds. Using it this way means higher fuel consumption, of course. But if it suits the way you need to use your car, then it also has the potential to be very cheap to run. The specification is also quite lavish; sat-nav on the large 9.0in touchscreen, powered leather seats, aluminium trim, 19in alloy wheels and a power tailgate to name just a few.
If you have almost any combination of kids and adults, the XC90 T8 can cope with it, making it a superb family vehicle. On the other hand, if you have to commute in rush hour then having that saved electric mode is a handy bonus, especially as you can relax in the sumptuous cabin while you do it. It’s a luxury car for sure, but one that justifies the expense.