Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge review: Burly and in a hurry

PHOTO: Torque

Volvo's Recharge range of plug-in hybrid models are aimed at eco-conscious drivers. In Singapore, Volvo offers the XC40, XC60, S60 and XC90 Recharge models.

The carmaker's focus on sustainability and the environment is laudable. It is also in line with the brand's espoused values.

That said, the Recharge models have another, less publicised feature. All of them are also the most powerful and quickest variants in their respective line-ups.

Volvo XC90 Recharge: Swede speed for seven

Walk up to the XC90 Recharge and it is hard to believe this ginormous SUV can be quick. At nearly five metres long and 1.8 metres tall, you cannot miss its presence in carparks.

The XC90 Recharge is hefty, too. With the additional electric motor and battery, it weighs in at 2.3 tonnes, or 201kg heftier than the XC90 T6. However, it is also this additional drivetrain that enables the Volvo XC90 Recharge to surprise hot hatch drivers with its stupendous performance.

PHOTO: Torque

Lurking beneath the XC90's bonnet is a turbocharged and supercharged 2-litre inline-4 capable of 315hp and 400Nm, which are hardly modest figures. Boosting this output is the electric motor, which delivers another 87hp and 240Nm.

Their combined output is 402hp and 640Nm - figures you would expect from a high-performance coupe or saloon, not an "eco-friendly" plug-in hybrid.

With "Power" mode selected (there a total of six modes available), nailing the accelerator to the floor catapults the XC90 from rest to 100km/h in 5.6 seconds. That's like an elephant with a cheetah's speed.

Mid-range acceleration is equally impressive, too. It takes but moments to get from 40km/h to 90km/h, which is useful when you're merging onto an expressway.

When it is just the electric motor working, the XC90 Recharge silently glides from one destination to the next. The refinement also goes up a notch since there is no sound or vibration from the internal combustion engine.

Interestingly, the XC90 Recharge is also the first model to debut Volvo's Care Key system, which lets the buyer set a speed limit for themselves, their friends or relatives.

The pure electric range is symbolised by the blue gauge on the right. According to the car, it can do 29km solely on electric power.
PHOTO: Torque

Swede electric, limited

Silent running, however, does not last very long. The lithium-ion battery in the Volvo XC90 Recharge has a usable capacity of 9.1kWh, a fraction of what conventional electric vehicles offer.

With a gentle driving style on uncongested roads, 35km on electric power alone is possible. Expressways are also okay, but higher speeds sap the battery even faster.

Ideally, the XC90 Recharge driver would have access to a charging point, so that the battery can be easily topped up. This will extend the SUV's pure electric range and reduce the need to visit petrol kiosks.

That said, the XC90 will need plenty of fuel if the driver frequently uses the "Charge" function. This keeps the engine running for it acts as a generator to charge the battery.

Clean lines and gorgeous displays; the cockpit has not aged a day.
PHOTO: Torque

Lounging around

Apart from its performance and eco-friendly potential, the Volvo XC90 Recharge also excels at cossetting its occupants.

This mode is only available in Inscription trim, which is the top specification. Goodies here include perforated Nappa leather upholstery, grey ash or blackened ash inlays and a Crystal Geartronic gear knob.

I liked the upholstery, but didn't find the Crystal knob, from Orrefors Sweden, appealing. From afar, it seems like it's made from plastic. Then again, perhaps I don't have an eye for design.

Looking around the cockpit, it is hard to believe that the XC90 has already been around for five years. It does not look old at all.

The 12.3-inch adaptive driver display and 9-inch tablet-style infotainment system are both still relevant. The fonts used in the latter are particularly pleasing.

Occupants in the third-row won't be pleased with their legroom, though, especially if they're taller than 1.6m. The space here, which is unchanged, is only good for kids.

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An eco-warrior or high-performance SUV?

The Volvo XC90 Recharge is potentially one of the most eco-friendly seven-seater SUVs around.

Driven in a normal manner in the default Hybrid mode, I averaged around 10.8 litres per 100km or 9.2km/L. That is not bad considering how heavy this SUV is.

If I had consistent access to a charging point and employed a gentle driving style, then this 2.3-tonne SUV would consume very little fuel. Emissions would be kept to a minimum, too.

Well, that is how Volvo intended it to be used.

But realistically, charging points, though increasing, are not always available. And honestly, it is impossible to resist deploying the 402hp under your right foot.

Like its Recharge siblings, the XC90 Recharge is really a high-performance model that happens to have zero-emissions capabilities. Perhaps it is time Volvo admitted this, because it won't be long before everyone else figures it out.

PHOTO: Torque

Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid 2.0 (A)

Engine 1969cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbocharged and supercharged, hybrid
Max power 315hp at 5700rpm
Max torque 400Nm at 2200-5400rpm
Electric motor power 87hp at 7000rpm
Electric motor torque 240Nm at 3000rpm
Total system power 402hp
Total system torque 640Nm
Power to weight  174hp per tonne
Gearbox 8-speed automatic with manual select
0-100km/h 5.6 seconds
Top speed 180km/h
Consumption 43.5km/L (combined)
Price including COE $380,000 (no VES rebate/surcharge)
Agent Wearnes Automotive

This article was first published in Torque.