The Volvo XC90 Recharge is a seven-seat, all-wheel drive, plug-in hybrid SUV that can be driven on electric power, which makes it fairly unique.
Volvo has been successfully transformed over recent years with the help of investment from Chinese car company Geely. As well as ensuring more of a premium feel, electrification has also been developed – plug-in hybrid technology in the case of the XC90.
Some large SUVs haven’t turned out well – not that we’re thinking of the Rolls Royce Cullinan – but we think that the Volvo XC90 looks good – on the outside and on the inside. Our test car was in ‘Pine Grey’, which was a strange sort of colour – grey with a bit of brown and seemingly some green – but we liked it.
The XC90 is a seven-seater. It’s big on the outside (4,953mm long) and big on the inside (a 640-litre boot with five seats in use, or 1,816 litres to the roof with all five rear seats folded). The rear set of seats didn’t seem to have any particularly user-friendly way to fold them down or get them back up.
The XC90 Recharge has a 303hp, 4-cylinder, two-litre petrol engine as well as an 87hp electric motor powered by a battery.
The XC90 has a premium feel. It’s refined and quiet at motorway speeds, and comfortable at virtually all times thanks to its good ride quality, which only gets upset when faced with large potholes or speed bumps, when the impact won’t be helped by the large wheels and low profile tyres. This is a big, heavy car (weighing 2,258kg) so don’t expect any sharp, sporty handling. However performance is good, with a 0-62 mph time of 5.8 seconds.
People moving to the Volvo XC90 from other brands such as BMW are likely to move the gear selector from Reverse to Drive, and then find that they’re going nowhere, because the gear selector doesn’t shift straight from Reverse to Drive, but it goes into Neutral instead. You then have to pull it down again to select Drive. There’s a ‘B’ mode on the gear selector to increase the level of regenerative braking.
There are drive modes of Constant AWD, Pure, Hybrid, Individual, and Off-road. Strangely, the XC90 doesn’t start in Pure (ie. electric), but it starts in Hybrid instead. In Hybrid mode the car can easily switch to petrol power, which is bad.
And even more bizarrely, the drive mode switch has been moved – it used to be a switch that was positioned between the front seats that you used to rotate, to a button that’s now been hidden in the touchscreen. Many people are likely to just drive the car and have no idea how to change the drive mode (you need to swipe the touchscreen to find the secondary car functions screen, then search amongst lots of icons for the drive mode button), resulting in too much use of petrol and not enough use of zero-tailpipe emission electric propulsion. There are also other buttons that are hidden away for ‘Save’ and ‘Charge’.
The XC90 was confronted by a flooded road at one point. However with its huge wheels and high ground clearance (217mm), it was hard to know that you were even driving through water. One very limited off-road test resulted in the XC90 getting stuck on a muddy slope thanks to its road tyres failing to secure any grip.
The infotainment system of the XC90 is pretty much as it was when the car first appeared. There’s a vertical central touchscreen with one ‘home’ button at the bottom, and four different panels on the home screen. You need to swipe the screen to access other car controls.
There are more user-friendly satnav systems, as well as ones that have better mapping. And asking the voice control system for BBC Radio 5 resulted in the car spewing out a very long stream of numbers.
One feature on the central screen that is still impressive is the (optional) overhead view of the car and its surroundings when parking.
The official combined WLTP fuel economy figure for the Volvo XC90 Recharge is 83.1-104.5 mpg. As with all plug-in hybrids, in the real-world this could vary between 30mpg and 1000mpg depending upon how many miles are driven on electric versus petrol. Our own real-world economy after a week of mixed driving was 44.1 mpg – which is better than a petrol-engined XC90, but (predictably) way off the official figure.
The official electric range of the XC90 Recharge is 27 miles; we averaged 21-25 miles (in winter). The total range on the petrol engine was 360 miles.
The XC90’s charging port is on the left front wing. For many people this may mean that they have to drive forwards into a parking space to charge and then reverse back out onto a road.
The Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 AWD Inscription is available from £69,715. Our test car had various options including Lounge Pack (£1,950), Lighting Pack – which includes the impressive ‘Active Bending Headlights’ (£875), Climate Pack (£575), and various single options including 21-inch alloy wheels (£1,450), metallic paint (£715) and Parking Camera 360° Surround View (£525). With all the options, the total price of our test car was £76,755.
Volvo XC90 Recharge trim levels are R-Design, R-Design Pro and Inscription. The XC90 range is available from £56,135 (for the B5 Petrol AWD Momentum).
The Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 AWD offers the capability for electric motoring (for up to around 25 miles in the real-world) for up to seven people, as well as all-wheel drive. This makes it one of only a few cars that offers this combination. As well as being big and spacious, the XC90 Recharge is also refined and has a premium feel. Our main concern is that it doesn’t start up on pure electric, and the switch to control the hybrid system has been moved from its obvious position between the front seats to be hidden away in the touchscreen. If manufacturers want to continue to justify selling plug-in hybrids, they need to make it really clear and easy for drivers to control whether the car is on petrol or electric, otherwise the reputation PHEVs have for poor real-world economy and emissions will only get worse. The Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid T8 AWD gets a Green Car Guide rating of 8/10.