The all-new Volvo XC90 is fabulously styled and extremely capable. Designed at the outset for hybrid technology, the addition of the T8 Twin Engine plug-in to the model range brings performance, economy and sophistication all in one package.
- Dramatic, appealing design inside and out
- New T8 delivers performance, economy and sophistication
- Safety focus
- Needs air suspension (£2,000 option) to achieve the best ride
- All functions accessed via main screen adds complexity to the user interface
- D5 diesel is effective but not charismatic
The all-new XC90 isn't just a show piece for the company, it demonstrates Volvo's design language and technical direction for the foreseeable future. The innovation and styling we see in the new model will cascade down to the smaller vehicles within just a handful of years. It is bold and fresh yet manages to retain a familiar look at the same time. Designed from the outset to run a hybrid drive train, the extravagantly named T8 Twin Engine plug-in petrol-electric hybrid version is now available, complementing the existing D5 diesel and T6 petrol models. The T8 is the most powerful of all, yet registers the lowest CO2 figure of just 49g/km. This means the entry Momentum specification T8 - sneaking in at just under the £60k threshold - is also eligible for the government's £2,500 grant. For company car drivers, the T8 model also commands just 5% BIK tax compared with 27% for the diesel.
Also new is the R-Design trim level, with a slightly more dynamic styling package. It is easy to pick out from its stablemates with horizontal grill slats (rather than vertical), more complex lower front bumper design, matte mirrors and two unique colours: red and blue. It sits between the Momentum and more luxurious Inscription.
The interior of the XC90 is beautifully constructed. The layout is bold, simple and driver-focused with fine leathers, crisp aluminium finishes and a variety of materials from which to choose for dash and door inserts. The 12-inch TFT instrument display ahead of the driver is clean-looking and easy to read. The dashboard is uncluttered with almost every function accessible via the main display. It keeps the facia neat but adds complexity to the user interface. Apple Car Play (a £250 option on the T8 and oddly a £300 option on the D5 and T6) is slick and easy to use for those with Apple phones.
The D5 and T8 are expected to make up 95% of the XC90 sales (comprising 82% for the diesel and 13% for the plug-in hybrid). The clever turbo- plus super-charged four cylinder diesel unit is efficient and willing enough although it is not especially charismatic and performance is adequate rather than exciting. The T8 changes this and delivers a seemingly never ending, smooth surge of power. The petrol engine is quiet and sophisticated and in tandem with those almost silent motors, it isn't just the quickest XC90 but also the most refined. It has the usual array of modes one expects from a hybrid including Save, to retain charge ahead of an urban journey section and Dynamic, bringing in all available power from both sources. The T8 can travel up to 78 mph in Pure mode on electric propulsion alone. There is no on-the-go charging from the engine as the significant drain would reduce the petrol engine's efficiency considerably, so the maximum electric range of 27 miles is obtained via mains charging alone. Charge from a standard 10A outlet takes three and a half hours (two and a half hours from a 16A outlet).
On the road, the XC90 has a large footprint but is extremely easy to pilot. The standard suspension is a little unforgiving on all models (including the T8 with its anti-roll bar and damping upgrades for the additional weight). The single option we would recommend is the air suspension, which literally transforms the car, giving it a much suppler ride about town, a smoother experience at speed and vastly increasing cornering confidence.
The batteries sit centrally within the chassis, not just for sensible weight distribution but for optimal safety, keeping them well out of harm's way. The XC90 is packed with numerous other safety features too, including side air bags protecting all three rows of seats. Driving the XC90 - particularly in built-up areas - some of the more vocal features can still feel a little invasive, with falsely triggered warnings occasionally breaking the calm. That said, they serve to reassure passengers of Volvo's continued focus on safety.
In summary, while the D5 diesel is effective, the T8 elevates the XC90 into a true luxury seven-seater SUV, delivering performance, economy and sophistication in an extremely pleasing package.
Need To Know
Best Models: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (with air suspension)
Quality & Reliability
Value for Money