Testing the XC90's plug-in hybrid powertrain
Our Detroit team is about halfway through its long-term evaluation of a Volvo XC90 T6 AWD, and they’ve had some fun adventures with our 2016 Motor Trend SUV of Year. Meanwhile, the folks back at the Los Angeles headquarters recently got a taste of the fancy Swedish crossover thanks to the short visit of a 2017 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD plug-in hybrid.
Like the T6, the T8 features a 2.0-liter I-4 that’s both supercharged and turbocharged. It makes 313 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque (3 hp less than the T6) and is mated to an eight-speed automatic, which drives only the front wheels. The E-AWD refers to the electric motor at the rear axle that contributes 87 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. (Our long-term XC90 T6 AWD features a traditional all-wheel-drive system.) Volvo says total system output is 400 hp and 470 lb-ft.
Providing juice to the motor is a 9.2-kW-hr lithium-ion battery pack residing in the center tunnel. The EPA says the XC90 T8 will run 14 miles (22 km) in zero-emissions electric mode, though real-world results will vary. Fourteen miles is realistic in easy, breezy city driving (with ample opportunity for regenerative braking), but we found range drops big time with the air conditioner on full blast and six adults in tow. When plugged into a Level 2 plug, the battery reaches full charge in 2.5 hours. Additionally, a charge mode commissions the gas engine and regen braking to recharge the battery while driving, but we discovered it maxes out at 5 miles (8 km) of range.
A supercharger, turbocharger, and electric motor are a lot to manage, but the XC90 does a fairly good job of orchestrating the complex system. Responsibilities between the engine and electric motor are divvied up by three main drive modes. Pure uses only the electric motor. The default mode is Hybrid and optimizes the entire powertrain for efficiency and performance, but it tends to lean on the electric motor as much as possible. Hybrid mode operates seamlessly most of the time, though it occasionally flounders when accelerating from a standstill with little juice in the battery—in this situation the electric motor bows out sooner than usual, and the engine will occasionally come on a tad too strong, resulting in neck-snapping lurches like a mad bull.
Fortunately, Power mode eliminates most of that unpredictability and is fun, too. Here, the powertrain is focused on speed with the engine and electric motor giving everything they’ve got. (The former stays running at all times in this mode.) Acceleration is smooth and quick—we recorded a 0–60-mph time of 5.0 seconds flat. That’s 1.6 seconds quicker than our long-term XC90 T6 and 1.2 seconds better than the BMW X5 xDrive40e eDrive PHEV. (System output for the BMW is rated at 308 hp and 332 lb-ft.)
On the figure-eight course, the XC90 T8 clocked a 26.5-second lap time (tied with the BMW) and behaved as expected for a 5,132-pound (2,328 kg) crossover. The test crew noted lots of body lean through the corners and said braking power could be better. The XC90 T8 needs 115 feet to stop from 60 mph, which was actually 6 feet better than our T6 long-termer but 4 feet beyond the X5 xDrive40e eDrive. In normal driving, brake application was touchy and finicky at times, an endemic behavior to most hybrid vehicles.
That said, the XC90 T8 is an exceptional cruiser in the city or on the highway. Our tester rode on big 21-inch wheels, but road noise and imperfections were never an issue. Adding to tester’s cruiser cred was the optional Convenience package ($1,800 USD) with Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous system, which worked as advertised.
Our testers also did well in our fuel economy testing, returning Real MPG numbers of 26.7/28.1/27.3 mpg (8.8/8.4/8.6 L/100km) city/highway/combined—the EPA gives the XC90 T8 a combined rating of 25 mpg (9.4 L/100km). Road trippers will appreciate the T8’s decent efficiency but will likely wish for more range. To make room for the hybrid hardware, the T8 is fitted with a relatively small 13.2-gallon fuel tank, which is more than 5 gallons smaller than the T6. The EPA gives the T8 a total range of 350 miles (563 km), but the fuel gauge often showed empty by around the 300-mile (483 km) mark.
On the plus side, the battery and electric motor don’t eat into interior passenger or cabin space. Like the nonhybrid XC90s, the T8 will carry seven passengers and a good amount of their stuff. Our tester was fitted with the Inscription package, which seems like a steal at $3,500 USD—LED headights, Volvo’s signature Thor’s Hammer daytime running lamps, gorgeous walnut wood trim, and plush Nappa leather are just some of the items on the package’s long list. Opting for the performance and fuel economy benefits of the T8 will set you back at least $68,795 USD. It’s a lot of coin, but nothing else combines utility, Swedish sophistication, and 14 miles (22 km) of Mother Nature–approved travel.
|2017 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$87,205|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.0L/313-hp/295-lb-ft turbocharged + supercharged DOHC 16-valve I-4, plus 46-hp/111-lb-ft front and 87-hp/177-lb-ft rear electric motors; combined 400 hp/442 lb-ft|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||5,132 lb (52/48%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||194.9 x 75.7 x 69.9 in|
|0-60 MPH||5.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.9 sec @ 97.1 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||115 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.84 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.5 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB||26.7/28.1/27.3 mpg*|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||24/27/25 mpg*|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||140/125 kW-hrs/100 miles*|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.77 lb/mile*|
|*in charge-sustaining mode|