2020 Volvo XC90 T8
Lean, mean and green
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- 16 Dec 2019
By James Park
Stereotypes change over time. However, at least personally, the word ‘hybrid’ still conjures up images of weirdly shaped (I blame Toyota) vehicles that sacrifice everything else for fuel economy. We now have hybrid cars that can dish out considerable power as well as decent fuel economy… but more on that later.
On the average, hybrids do have smaller gasoline (sometimes diesel) engines optimized to eke out as many kilometers for the tank of fuel as possible. These are assisted by electric motors to put out enough torque and horsepower not to be too embarrassed during everyday driving situations.
We now also have plug-in hybrids. Compared to the regular kind, this type of vehicle usually has bigger battery capacity – thus longer electric-only range – and one can charge it separately by plugging it into an electric socket. People who don’t want to deal with ‘range anxiety’ of owning a pure electric vehicle can purchase a plug-in as a nice compromise.
Now we come to the good part. If you are looking for both power and economy in a mid-size crossover with enough sitting space for seven passengers, look no further than the Volvo XC90. You won’t have to look loo long because such vehicle is as common as an Amish person at an electronics store.
The biggest CUV offered by the Swedish company, the XC90’s plug-in version starts with both turbocharged and supercharged two-litre four good for 313 horses and 295 lb-ft of torque. Addition of two electric motors jacks up the numbers to 400 horsepower and whopping 472 lb-ft of instant twist. More amazingly, if driven without too much abandon, the car can supposedly get 9.1 litres per 100 km in city and 8.4 litres on highway.
The big crossover is deceptively fast. Stereotypically speaking, a driver of XC90 would more than likely be a mature person who’d be disinclined to engage in teenage hooliganism. But if the driver so desires, he or she can blow the doors off many so-called sports cars at a traffic-light drag race.
One problem, however, has to do with the car’s weight. Because of the added weight of motors and batteries, it takes harder stomp on the brake pedal to bring it down to stop.
Introduced in 2015 as a 2016 model, the XC90 grabbed spotlights everywhere and was awarded the North American Truck of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show. Other accolades are too numerous to mention.
For the 2020 year model, the same boxy but sophisticated design carries on with few minor changes – front grill, bumpers, taillights, etc.
Step inside the vehicle to sit on one of the most comfortable seats in the autodom. Volvo do seats right. The rest of interior exudes rich atmosphere of luxury and sophistication. Materials used throughout shouts quality; fit and finish are top notch and every control is within easy reach.
As with every other modern Volvo vehicles, the tablet-like touch screen is still cumbersome to use. Instead of going through the screen, one wishes for separate controls for HVAC, disable button for auto on/off and so on.
Volvo does not claim to be a luxury brand but demands luxury money for their products. The base Momentum starts from $61,250 before taxes and mandatory fees. R-Design from $71,250 and the top-of-the-line Inscription demands $72,900. Those are starting points, as mentioned.
Made available to this writer is the Inscription model with designations like T8 and Polestar Engineered added on. It starts from $85,800 and goes up to $101,500 after such goodies as four-zone auto climate, heated/cooled leather front seats with massage function, Bowers & Wilkins premium audio to name just a few.
Thanks to the electric motors that generate almost instant torque, the heavy vehicle gets off the line awfully fast. The eight-speed automatic transmission shifts as smoothly as it should.
The driver can switch between several drive modes. Eco focuses obviously on saving fuel and Hybrid is the default mode for everyday driving. The system switches between gas and electric seamlessly. In these modes, digital gauges show the amount of regenerative braking, battery range, etc. Switch to Sport mode and the traditional tachometer appears and the system optimizes for more spirited driving.
The XC90 plug-in is fast but as a heavy utility with high center of gravity, not really graceful in the handling department. Then again, nobody buys such vehicle for track days. As it is, the big CUV is smooth and serene. It’ll be even better if the fantastic Bowers & Wilkins audio could pipe in V8 rumble, but it is what it is.
In the end, the vehicle delivers on power, economy and luxury. And as a Volvo, all the active and passive safety equipments are present and counted for. It is bit pricey, but after driving it for awhile, one would probably agree that the money is well-spent. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)
2020 Volvo XC90 Inscription T8 Plug-in Hybrid
As tested: $101,500
Engine: turbo/supercharged 2.0 litre 4 + 2 electric motors