by: Mike Ginsca,
The Volvo XC90 was among the first luxury SUVs to be offered in a hybrid powertrain. Granted, it wouldn’t get you very far. Only about 20 km or so. But over the years as battery technology improved, Volvo increased the range of the XC90.
Engine – The only engine that Volvo offers across its entire model range is a 2.0L inline-4. Everything from the S60 to the V90 to this XC90 has it. But depending on trim, it can be turbocharged, turbocharged & supercharged, or a hybrid with the supercharged & turbocharged variant of the 2.0L engine. This particular Volvo XC90 is the latter with a combined output of 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. Due to the instant torque of the electric motor, there is little hesitation when setting off from a stop or overtaking traffic.
Of course, being a hybrid, it can be driven purely on the engine alone or on the electric motor. While the maximum range on electricity alone has improved since 2016, it’s still not the greatest. The 2019 Volvo XC90 can go as far as 32 km on a single charge. Depending on how long your commute is, the 32 km range may be enough. But for most it’s not which means having to plug it in when getting to work and then again when getting back home.
Thankfully charging it back to 100% from 0 is relatively quick. From a level 2 charging station, it can be done in about 2 and a half hours. You’ll be looking at roughly twice as long from a regular 120V wall outlet and level 3 charging is not available.
Transmission – An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission available across the Volvo range. When the engine powers the XC90, the transmission is smooth and relatively quick between gears. However there is no true manual control. You can pull on the crystal shifter to put it into a stronger regenerative braking mode and then pull on it again to downshift but you can’t push up on it to upshift. The computer will automatically upshift and default back to regenerative braking mode when it decides. Also there are no paddle shifters on this Momentum trim.
Braking – As mentioned, there are two modes for regenerative braking. In normal D mode, you hardly notice it. But in B mode, it is much stronger however not so strong that you can drive the XC90 with just one pedal. You still have to use the braking pedal which will at first apply more regenerative braking before applying the disc brakes. Depending on how efficient you are and the terrain that you drive over, you can actually get up to half a charge just by using regenerative braking.
Handling – The XC90 was never meant to be a sports SUV like the Jaguar F-Pace SVR for example. That said, the 275 wide tires all-round offer enough grip to let you take the three-row SUV fairly quickly around corners. Steering feel is also not too bad for an SUV of this size and class. Again, it doesn’t have the same feel as in a sports SUV but it isn’t completely numb feeling either.
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Ride Comfort – Although this demo vehicle does not have the optional air suspension, it still provides a relatively smooth ride over rough city streets. The seats further add to the comfort by providing a supportive seating position and soft leather cushion.
Interior Space – Front and rear occupants have a good amount of leg and head room but if you’re an adult, the third row is not a place you want to find yourself. Space for your legs and head is extremely tight. Fold the third row however, and cargo space is very generous for this class of vehicle.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – When in full electric mode, the Volvo XC90 is quiet as one would expect. However, when driving on a highway, there is quite a lot of road noise from the tires. Engine noise is relatively subdued when it does kick in but as far as 4-cylinder engines go, this one doesn’t produce any nice sounds. It’s just some noise.
Interior Design – The Swedes know how to design things and it shows in the interior of the Volvo XC90. It has a minimalistic design with only a few physical buttons which themselves are well integrated into the dash or steering wheel. The iPad-like touchscreen is the predominant feature of the dash with silver trim and soft touch plastics rounding off the dashboard. While it looks modern and minimalistic from a design point of view, some will want more physical buttons for quick access menu items such as fan speed or temperature control.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The iPad-like touchscreen controls every feature of the vehicle. While it does keep the design looking timeless, it can be frustrating to constantly go into a menu then a submenu just to change the fan speed. Happily though, the XC90 can respond to voice controls. Using the voice command button on the steering wheel, you can verbally say what you want changed like the driver temperature or the radio station or navigation to a specific destination.
This being the top T8 engine option, you’d expect it to be fully loaded. But it isn’t. New for 2019 is the addition of the base Momentum trim with the hybrid powertrain. This means that the starting price of a luxury hybrid Volvo 3-row SUV is $74,950 CAD. $7,500 less than the next trim up, the R-Design. While it is a base trim, you still get lane keeping aid, forward collision alert with emergency braking, a slew of airbags, panoramic sunroof, heated and power front seats, power tailgate, and full LED headlights to name a few. But if you want some optional features, you’re limited to just the Momentum Elite package that costs $9,500 CAD. It includes just about every optional feature that is available on Volvo models but you can’t choose to have just the surround view cameras or just ventilated seats for example. You must have all of it or none of it.
Exterior Design – The 2019 Volvo XC90 T8 has the same exterior look as when it was first unveiled in 2016. 3 years on and it still exudes luxury and a timeless design that looks like no other SUV on the market. For the 2020 model year it’ll receive some minor updates to the exterior styling with a full new generation around 2022.
Overall the Volvo XC90 can still hold its own in a very crowded SUV market. It looks great inside and out, is available with every feature one would ever need, and is a bit less expensive than the comparable German rivals.
Thank you to Volvo Canada for providing the vehicle. www.VolvoCars.com/ca
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Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.