Volvo's XC90 T8 SUV – Green Car Journal’s 2016 Luxury Green Car of the Year™ – emerged a completely redesigned model in the 2016 model year, the first time the enduring XC90 has had a complete makeover since 2002. It rose to the top to claim the award at the 2016 Washington Auto Show over finalists that included the BMW X5 xDrive40e, Lexus RX 450h, Mercedes-Benz C350e, and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid.
Even though immediately recognized as a Volvo, virtually nothing carried over from the previous generation save for some mechanicals. The T8 ‘twin engine’ XC90, the more efficient sibling to Volvo’s conventionally powered XC90 T6, is a plug-in hybrid that uses Volvo's efficient 316 horsepower, 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged Drive-E four-cylinder engine. This engine powers the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.
A 46 horsepower starter-generator motor located between the engine and transmission provides start-stop capability to enhance efficiency. This motor also enables regenerative braking and can provide additional power to the transmission when maximum performance is required. An 82 horsepower electric motor drives the rear wheels. The battery and both electric motors are liquid-cooled. Battery coolant can also be refrigerated under very hot conditions. Volvo’s new XC90 design locates the lithium-ion battery in the tunnel between the front passenger seats, not beneath the trunk as is the case with many PHEVs. Thus, cargo capacity in this seven passenger plug-in SUV is no less than the conventionally powered T6 that has no batteries.
The T8 has several drive modes. Hybrid is the default and uses power from the gas engine and electric motor as needed for optimum efficiency. Pure mode offers all-electric driving, with the AWD mode driving all four wheels on demand. Save mode conserves battery power for later use. In Power Mode, maximum electric torque is provided from start for great acceleration at low speeds with the Drive-E engine taking over at higher speed.
Drivers have the ability to motor exclusively on battery power up to 13 miles according to official EPA estimates with a total gas-electric range of 350 miles. EPA also rates the T8 at 53 MPGe (mile-per-gallon equivalent) on battery power with a combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 25 mpg during hybrid operation.
The 2016 XC90 is longer, wider, and taller than the previous XC90. It uses Volvo' s Scalable Product Architecture platform that is destined for most future Volvo models. The XC90 T8 comes in base Momentum, more luxurious Inscription, and sportier R-Design trim levels. All include a two-panel panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and third-row seating as standard equipment. The illuminated shift lever is genuine Orrefors crystal, probably the first time any automaker has used real crystal glass in a production car.
A Sensus Connect infotainment system brings tablet-like features and convenience to the dashboard of this Volvo model. This system is said to have more processing power than any iPad with incredibly quick response. The touchscreen uses infrared lasers rather than capacitive touch sensors so the smart, intuitive interface can be used while wearing gloves, or even with a pencil or other object.
Volvo’s entire suite of standard safety systems are included plus advanced driver assist items like Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Information display, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control, and Park Assist Pilot automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. World firsts include Auto Braking at Intersections if another vehicle comes into its path from oncoming or side traffic, and should the car swerve off the road its Run Off Road Design pre-tensions seat belts and crushable supports in the front seats absorb crash forces. Safety is, after all, one of this marque’s longstanding core values and the XC90 addresses this in a big way.