You may recall that I recently reviewed the new Volvo XC90 and absolutely loved it. That was the D5 diesel version, but there is an all-new powertrain aiming to take Volvo to all new heights. Called the T8, it is a twin-engine system with both turbocharged petrol and electric motors working harmoniously to offer a blend of driveability and efficiency. Yet despite the green credentials this is, on the surface, still an XC90. It promises solid build quality, top-class refinement and, above all, uncompromised luxury. But how would it make good on those promises? I unplugged it, got in and set about finding out.
Looks – 10/10
The XC90 is a handsome beast. This time around I was driving an Inscription model, which is more luxury than the sporty R-Design I tested previously. The basic body shape remains, with a smooth, sleek design. At the front the Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights are a standout feature, and the square shape of the car is just rounded enough at the edges to balance out size and stature with sleekness. 20-inch alloys sit nicely under the arches. To the rear, twin exhausts are neatly integrated into the rear bumper. The smooth, sweeping lines on the boot blend nicely with the rear lights. A subtle roof spoiler completes a well-rounded body shape. Finished in Crystal White my test car looked very executive, and turned heads wherever it went.
On the inside the XC90 is in a world of its own. It might well be a bold claim, but I think this is one of the best interiors on sale today. Short of buying a Bentley, there are fewer more luxurious-feeling cabins in any car. My test car featured a walnut finisher to compliment the Nappa leather interior. The multimedia screen is like an iPad mounted into the dashboard. The seats are sumptuous and welcoming. There are small details which make a big difference: there is a twist-knob to start the engine as opposed to the usual push button. The drive select wheel is a scroll and click. The T8 also gets a clear gear selector which sets it apart from other models. The interior just feels high end. It’s well built, and all the materials are of the highest quality. Put simply, it’s just a wonderful place to be.
Handling/Performance – 9/10
The XC90 T8 uses a twin engine system. At the front there is a 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine which powers the front wheels. It produces a monstrous 320PS and 400Nm of torque. At the back there is an electric motor which powers the rear wheels. That produces 87PS and 240Nm of torque. Shove the XC90 into ‘Power’ mode and unleash over 400PS of power. The T8 is a seriously quick car; able to get from 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and on to a top speed of 140mph. Power is always available thanks to the instantly-available torque of the electric motor, and once the petrol engine gets into its stride it pulls right through the rev range. Even in ‘Pure’ electric mode, the XC90 still feels mobile. I should also say that the hybrid system transitions smoothly; the switch from electric to petrol to both is barely noticeable from behind the wheel.
My test car was fitted with the optional four-corner air suspension (£2,150) and I couldn’t imagine an XC90 without one. I haven’t driven the standard setup, but have heard that it is a little firm. With the air suspension the car adapts to both the road and the drive mode to deliver the required performance. It can hunker down in power mode to minimise body roll. And in everyday ‘Hybrid’ mode it floats over bumps, isolating the driver from the broken surface of our roads. The easy access function also helps short folk (like me) get out without the need to abseil. There is, however, one quirk to the handling. You see the 4WD system in the T8 is slightly different; with the petrol engine driving the front and electric motor driving the rear. Under full acceleration this is slightly imbalanced, and I found there was a tendency to understeer with a full 320PS going to the front wheels.
Economy – 10/10
In addition to the heavy-hitting performance figures, the T8 boasts some impressive economy figures. Thanks to the twin-engine hybrid setup, and the very clever brain that operates it seamlessly and effectively, CO2 emissions in the T8 are a mere 49g/km, putting it in VED band A. Road tax will be free in the first and subsequent years. Company car drivers will attract a 5% BIK, and for capital allowances 100% First Year Allowance (FYA) is available to companies. Combined fuel consumption is quoted as 134.5mpg, but in truth this is very subjective. Drive on short journeys to the village and back, and you won’t use any fuel at all. Go on long motorway drives and once the battery runs low you’ll use quite a lot. It all depends on the type of driving you’ll be doing.
Practicality – 9/10
The XC90 is a proper 7-seater. Even with the rearmost seats up, you can still fit a few shopping bags in the boot. And I actually found the rear seats usable. Granted, I’m not the tallest of men. But I could have travelled in the back, and that shows how spacious and comfortable the XC90 is. The Sensus Connect system featured the optional Apple Car Play (£300) which makes the integration of your iPhone completely effortless. The four-corner air suspension (£2,150) adapts the dynamics to suit your chosen drive mode, but can also be raised and lowered from inside the boot to aid loading, which is a nice touch. The level of tech on the XC90 is simply mind-blowing, and in particular the safety features. From City Safety- which includes pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection- to semi-autonomous pilot assist- which takes all the effort out of motorway driving- the Volvo does it all. The only downside to the T8 is having to charge it, and in particular how this model is less suited to longer commutes than its diesel sibling.
Fun – 10/10
Getting your head round all the tech in the T8 is great fun. There are so many menus to navigate and settings to customise that can set the car up exactly to your taste. And if you stick it in power mode, the resulting thump in the back will surprise passengers and fellow motorists alike. The most expensive option on my test car was the £3,000 Sensus Connect with premium sound by Bowers and Wilkins. Volvo say that this sound system can turn the XC90 into an acoustic replica of the Gothenburg Concert hall. Unfortunately I can’t verify that; I’ve never been to Gothenburg. But what I can tell you is that the Bowers and Wilkins sound system is absolutely superb. It’s so crisp, so clear. Your favourite songs come to life, and you become encapsulated in the XC90’s cabin. It’s like a safe haven; a happy place.
And there you have it; the Volvo XC90 T8. The refinement and luxury is still there, and is complimented by some enviable fuel consumption figures. The 4WD system is slightly different in the T8, and this did affect the handling characteristics. I can really see the appeal of the T8, and for the amount of short journeys I do it would really save me some money on fuel. Prices for the T8 Inscription I tested start at £64,555 although stick a few options on it and you end up at the £73,830 of my test car. For more information head over to your local dealership or log on to the Volvo website. The XC90 T8; proving that powerful 4×4’s don’t need to be thirsty.
Total Score – 48/50