It’s got two engines, is powered by petrol and electricity and has some breathtaking numbers for an SUV. We find out what it’s like to live with
What do we have here?
There are some companies that slowly dwindle away, losing touch with modern values and trends and in turn fail to attract new buyers.
You only have to walk down your local high street to see it in action.
But some companies get a lifeline and that’s exactly what has happened to Volvo when Ford sold the Swedish firm to Chinese car maker Geely in 2010.
No model signifies this more than the second-generation XC90. Launched in 2015 and replacing the 12-year old first-gen car, the XC90 is spear heading an all-new design language for Volvo, which has been followed up by the S90, V90 and smaller XC60.
With clean lines, a gaping grille, slick “Thor’s Hammer” LED daytime running lights, it’s more stylish than the whole of Ikea put together with a stronger brand identity than Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The new car is also ginormous in size, 143mm longer, 73mm wider but 8mm lower than the model it replaces (4950x2008x1776mm). It’s roughly the same size as the new Land Rover Discovery but 200mm lower.
The luxury-SUV is available with a choice of three powertrains - petrol, petrol-hybrid and diesel.
The petrol gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 316bhp and 295lb ft of torque. The hybrid is an electric plug-in and uses the same engine along with an electric motor to develop a combined 401bhp and 472lb ft of torque.
With a claimed pure electric claimed range of 26 miles using a 65kW battery and an eyebrow raising 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds, it uses the petrol engine to power the front wheels and the electric motor to power the rear.
The diesel gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 232bhp and 354lb ft of torque.
Pick from six trim levels: Momentum; Momentum Pro; R-Design; R-Design Pro; Inscription; and Inscription Pro.
Momentum gets 19in alloys, LED headlights with active high beam, a 9.0in touchscreen central control unit, leather upholstery with electrically powered driver’s seat, City Safe with pedestrian and cyclist detection and front collision warning with full auto brake, driver alert with lane departure warning and rear park assist.
Momentum Pro adds Nappa leather, electric passenger seat, heated windscreen, heated steering wheel, active headlights, LED fog lights and Volvo On Call.
R-Design is the sporting option with 20in alloys, drive mode settings, leather/nubuck sports seat, perforated leather steering wheel, wheel mounted paddles, sports floor mats and pedals, tinted windows and unique styling.
Drive Mode Settings and adjustable steering force allow you to choose between different settings for the engine, transmission, steering and the optional air suspension.
Prices kick off at £48,655. We’re testing the T8 Twin engine plug-in hybrid in R-Design trim which costs £63,605.
However, our test car is fitted with £6,550 worth of additional equipment including Winter Pack (£200), Apple CarPlay (£300), a Bowers & Wilkins sound system (£3,000), rear camera assist (£400), blind spot and cross traffic assist (£500) and four-corner electronic air suspension (£2150)
How does it drive?
Use the swivel starter button to turn the car on to the sound of silence, something that is maintained as you whisper away on electric power alone.
As your speed increases the 2.0-litre petrol engine kicks in with little disturbance, other than a slight change to the background noise and a change to the needles on the instrument panel.
As you make further progress you do hear the engine more but it’s not too loud or invasive.
Pick up is swift and in the right gear pretty instantaneously, however, the gearbox takes a moment to kick down in standard mode if you suddenly want to accelerate hard.
Volvo’s Drive select mode helps you set up the XC90 to suit your driving mood. Hybrid setting combines the engine and electric motor for best everyday use.
Pure electric runs the SUV off the battery when fully charged with power being sent to the rear wheels, meaning if you have a commute shorter than 40km and can charge at home and work, then the XC90 can be run purely on electric power. If charge runs out then the combustion engine starts automatically.
Power mode prioritises performance and uses both engine and motor to deliver explosive performance, utilising the electric motors instant torque curve.
AWD gives the XC90 maximum grip available with power being sent to all four wheels.
There are a few ways to additionally help the battery’s charge. The first is to use B mode on the auto box to enhance regenerative braking. The second is to use Charge mode which uses the engine to charge the battery and the third is Save mode which retains the electric charge for another time.
Performance on tap is simply stunning when the battery is fully charged. The stats tell the story – 401bhp – 472lb ft of torque and an eye-brow raising 0-62mph time of just 5.6 seconds – for a car the size of a Maldivian island.
The steering wheel mounted paddles work well and respond to gear change requests rapidly. They are also nicely lined with an anti-slip rubber.
The ride is a mixed back. On the whole, the XC90 wafts and lopes down the road. Gently pitching from side to side, corner to corner and front to back as it works tirelessly to iron out those annoying lumps and bumps on the road.
In the main, it succeeds and is comfortable, if sometimes a little nauseating on a rough country lane.
On A-roads and motorways, it’s sublime and performs brilliantly as a long-distance cruiser.
In town, over rough scars, through potholes, across rain water gulleys, the XC90 struggles. It can crash and thump much more than you’d expect.
Fancy driving adventurously and you’ll soon have your mind changed as the XC90 lists through the first few bends. However, it has a rather special trick. Pop the SUV into Power mode and the air suspension lowers as the beast squats and suddenly that body roll is eradicated and replaced by a tighter and agile machine.
The steering is also transformed, weightier in feel, more direct and less namby-pamby. In hybrid mode, the steering is delightfully light at low speeds, allowing you to finger twirl the wheel around car parks.
What's it like inside?
Sumptuous, cool and classy design with a modern look and tech.
High-quality materials dominate the interior of the XC90, with soft touch plastics covering almost every surface (even low down on the doors), essentially where leather wrapped surfaces don’t extend to. Carpet coat the side of the footwell as well.
The aluminium drilled trim is delightful, showing off different patterns depending on how the light falls on it, while the chrome trim surrounds of major features and a piano black trim finish completes the luxurious feel.
In the centre of the dash is the all-in-one control panel. A 9.0in touchscreen that controls the majority of functions in the SUV, including ventilation, entertainment, navigation, telephone and driving aids.
Between the seats is a crystal wedge, made of handmade Swedish crystal, gear selector which glows white at night. There’s a diamond effect finish to the start and stop swivel knob and the rotary Drive Mode dial.
On the move, the infotainment screen can be distracting. There is no doubt that it’s an impressive piece of kit, essential an iPad to control the cars electronic functions but it’s best to pull over and operate it when you can fully concentrate.
Ahead of the driver is a secondary digital screen for the instrument binnacle. Used in conjunction with the steering wheel mounted controls for lane assist, cruise control and trip computer.
In addition to showing your speed and power delivery, it’ll also confirm when the car is being recharged by the engine or a charging point, how much pure electric range is available and when the T8 switches between combination and electric propulsion.
Overhead is a huge panoramic sunroof complete with electric retractable sun screen. It also opens to around 40%.
Both front seats are electrically adjustable with three memory settings, lumbar support and electrically adjustable knee rest support.
In its lowest position, there is still a good view out and plenty of head room. The seats are cocooning but a little on the firm side.
The steering wheel has good reach and tilt adjustment meaning most should be able to find a comfortable driving position.
As you might expect in a car this size but isn’t always the case, practicality is excellent. The door has a long and very usable storage compartment, there’s a drop-down tray between the door and the steering wheel and a long ‘R” shaped river of metal between the seats containing small compartments and two cupholders.
The central armrest rises to uncover a small cubby complete with a couple of USB ports while a button on the dash releases the cover to a good-sized glovebox.
In the back, the rear bench is split into three separate chairs which can individually slide back and forth, to prioritise space in the second or third rows, using a bar underneath while a lever down the side (pulley for the central seat) adjusts the angle of the backrest.
Pushed back, leg and knee room is excellent, all the way forward and an adult’s knees may brush the back of the front seats. The front seat floor mounts ahead impact on where your feet can go while the head room is good despite the sunroof.
Each side passenger can control their own air temperature with the four-zone climate system. There’s a 12V socket but no USB ports while a small fold down armrest has two cupholders. There are coat hooks on the b-pillar and the doors have an averaged sized storage bin.
The XC90 is wide enough to accommodate three adults across the back however the back rest of the middle seat is less comfortable.
To gain access to the third row of seats, pull a lever on the top of either of the outer middle row seats, tilt forward and slide.
It creates a narrow opening and it quickly becomes apparent that the third row is only suitable for children unless the middle seats are pulled at least half way forward.
Each rear seat gets a built-in cubby and cupholder, while head room is more limited.
The electrically operated boot has a large wide opening. The lip is rather high but you can significantly lower it with a switch on the inside to aid loading and unloading.
There’s no threshold step so getting items in and out on a flush floor is made all that much easier.
With the third row of seats up, the boot has 314-litres of capacity, significantly more than its equivalent seven-seat rivals - Land Rover Discover and Mercedes-Benz GLS (258 and 295-litres, respectively).
The floor is flat and wide, there’s a bag hook on either side, one 12v socket and a small tray on the right-hand side. There’s some shallow under-floor storage where the electric charging cables are housed.
A lever on each third-row of seat collapses them flush with the boot floor. Although, there are some voids left meaning smaller items could fall through into the third-row footwell.
There’s also no space to store the load cover when all three rows of seats are occupied.
On an official combined cycle, the XC90 T8 is claimed to return 134.5mpg. However, when driving in hybrid mode, our electric charge only lasted around 20 miles. During this time, we achieved 82mpg.
It took 2hours 45 minutes to recharge the battery using a 7kW Type 2 connection.
With little battery life remaining our economy average dropped to just 28mpg over 120 miles of country, town and motorway driving.
The XC90 emits 49g/km of CO2 meaning company car drivers qualify for a 9% BIK tax banding.
This model falls into insurance band 43.
The Volvo comes with a three-year 60,000-mile warranty. It also gets three years roadside assistance for breakdown and recovery throughout Europe.
The XC90 T8 is a classy SUV with amazing performance, the potential for stunning economy and can seat seven people.
However, you need to treat it like an electric vehicle and make sure it’s always charged otherwise you won’t get anywhere near the available fuel economy figures.
Overall, the XC90 is classy, comfortable and has plenty of technology.