This week we’ve had the plug-in hybrid version of the new XC90 in entry-level trim – the Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum – in for review.
The new Volvo Xc90 is proving to be an overwhelming success story for Volvo, despite just a single diesel engine and a single petrol engine on offer, and even then the engines on offer are just 2.0 litres in size.
That said, with the exception of uninspiring engine notes, there’s little to dislike about Volvo’s new Drive-E engines, although a little more power in either the petrol or diesel wouldn’t go amiss.
But Volvo has that covered too with this week’s review car – the Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum – which delivers the new T6 petrol engine to drive the front wheels and mates it to an electric motor to drive the rear wheels and produce a Twin Engine plug-in electric hybrid promising 400bhp of get up a go.
The promise is performance of a lively 5.6 seconds to 62mph and official economy verging on the ridiculous at 134.5mpg, which sounds like a brilliant recipe, especially if you’re a business user when the BIK (Benefit in Kind) rate is a very friendly 5 per cent.
So why, you might ask yourself, doesn’t everyone buy the T8 Hybrid instead of a petrol or diesel? After all, it’s a lot quicker and a lot more economical than either, not to mention cleaner too.
The simple answer is price; you can get a Momentum-spec D5 diesel from around £46k and a T6 petrol from around £50k, but the very clever T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid will cost you at least £60k, and by the time you’ve added the toys you want – or opted for Inscription or R-Design trim – you’ll be well past £70k.
So is the big premium for T8 XC90 one worth paying?
XC90 T8 Inside and out
We’ve already made it clear we think the XC90’s interior is the best there is this side of proper bespoke when we’ve had the XC90 in before. But they were both range-topping Inscription XC90s and this is an entry-level Momentum trim XC90, so it’s going to be a bit basic, isn’t it? Well, actually, no.
True, you have to slum it without Nappa leather and the front passenger has to prod levers to move their chair, but the Momentum still gets the big tablet infotainment touchscreen we know works so well, still has Sensus Navigation, still has lots of safety stuff like City Safe and Front Collision with Auto Brake, still has endless space for people and stuff and still has oodles of class and endless style.
Volvo has thrown extras at this Momentum XC90 too, with the Xenium Pack adding stuff like the 360 Camera and Park Assist Pilot. the Winter Pack adding heated front seats, washers and steering wheel and Heads-Up, the Family Pack boosters eats and sun curtains and Illumination throwing in lots of pretty lights.
We’ve also got some properly nice Walnut (£220) and privacy glass, and it all conspires to make the XC90’s interior exceptional, even in Momentum trim. Oh, and the gearlever is Swedish Crystal, which sounds a bit tacky – but isn’t.
As for the exterior, it’s still big, it’s still striking, it still looks cohesive and it’s still imposing. But it’s all those things in a more human package than the Teutonic offerings, and the only difference you’ll notice between the Momentum and the Inscription is the smaller 19″ wheels and the black grille.
XC90 T8 Performance and on the road
The big difference between the T8 and the D5 and T6 XC90s is that the T8 gets electrical assistance, with the normal 4WD in the petrol and diesel replaced by an electric motor on the back axle good for 86bhp which, combined with the 316bhp petrol engine from the T6 running the front wheels, means you have up to 402bhp at your disposal.
Most of the time, with the car set in Hybrid, the XC90 just gets on with it, using the electric motor and ICE as it sees fit, and unless you’re watching the instruments you’ll be hard pushed to know what’s driving the wheels.
The power shift from EV to ICE is essentially seamless, and really, unless there’s a good reason to do otherwise, leaving it in Hybrid all the time is the way to go.
The good reasons could include a desire to blat, and the extra horses and torque the hybrid powertrain gives the T8 is impressive, and although it’s available if you mash your foot to the floor in hybrid, it’s more responsive if you choose to use the Power mode.
You might also want to choose AWD mode, but this is really for low speed slippery stuff rather than because you fancy a high-speed blat with all four wheels driving all the time (use Power for that), or you could want to save up (or recharge up to around 33%) the battery for later, in which case you’d pick the Save mode.
There’s also an Off Road Mode, although this is more about setting up the car for rougher surfaces than going serious off-roading, raising the ride height rather than giving you the sort of sophisticated Terrain response control you’d get in a Land Rover or Range Rover.
Finally, the Pure mode gives you just EV running, although with a light foot, and a bit of practice, you can pretty much run just on electric in the normal Hybrid mode. We managed around 13 miles as an EV before the battery was just about done, but that’s probably enough for most local journeys.
But what’s most impressive, apart from the seamless nature of the combined power plants, is that the T8 XC90 is just the same to drive as the D5 or T6 XC90. Yes, it has a wider choice of ways to drive it, but it’s still essentially a comfort oriented luxury SUV that potters around town or cruises on the motorway serenely, transmits little of the road to the cabin (helped even more by the pauper’s 19″ alloys on this Momentum spec) and is just very refined and so well executed.
XC90 T8 Twin Engine Verdict
Frankly, we’re already sold on the Volvo XC90 as the best luxury SUV on the market, not because it is the best in every area, but because it offers the best balance of abilities, a unique take on luxury and has heart. It’s also sensibly priced for a full size premium SUV.
That sensibly priced bit falls down a bit when it comes to this T8 XC90 with its Twin Engine plug-in hybrid and a price tag that starts at £60k and keeps on going. That’s £15k more than the equivalent D5 and £10k more than the equivalent T6.
And it’s hard to justify on economy grounds because, despite official 134mpg figures, the T8 returns around the same economy as the diesel in the real world (we got 31.1mpg with three plug-in charges over the course of a week and hundreds of miles), and although the extra performance is nice, it’s not earth-shattering performance. But…
If you’re taking an XC90 T8 and running it through a business, the BIK rates are hugely appealing, and more than enough to warrant the extra spend, with the cost for a 40% driver around £4k a year less on the T8 than the D5.
But even if you can’t run your XC90 through your business, if you can afford the extra for the T8 then it’s a more complete car, capable of personality change at the flick of a button (well, the rolling of a knurled wheel), real world economy about the same as the D5 diesel and performance on a par with a V8 Supercharged Range Rover.
Frankly, any XC90 is a delight, but if you are counting the pennies (and aren’t a business user) then the D5 is the best bet.
Otherwise, the XC90 T8 really is the ultimate XC90.
Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum Review Photos
2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum Review Quick Specs
- Engine: 1969cc, 316bhp + Electric Motor 86bhp
- Performance: 0-62mph 5.6 seconds / Top Speed 140mph
- Economy: 134.5mpg – Official / 31.1mpg – Test
- Emissions: 49g/km
- Price: £60,455 / Price as tested £68,850
- Test car supplied by Volvo UK
Test car options
Intellisafe Pro – £1,500
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Distance Alert
- Queue Assist
- Lane Keeping Aid
- Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with Cross Traffic Alert (CTA)
- Rear Collision Mitigation
Winter Pack with Heads-Up Display – £1,175
- Heated Front Seats
- Heads-Up Display
- Heated Steering Wheel
- Heated Washer Nozzles
Xenium Pack – £1,000
- Parking Camera 360º Surround View
- Park Assist Pilot – Automatic Parallel and 90º Parking (includes Front and Rear Park Assist)
Family Pack – £450
- Integrated Booster Cushion for Centre Seat, 2nd Row
- Porwe Child Locks – Rear Doors
- Load Protection Net
- Integrated Sun Curtains – Rear Doors
- Illuminated Front & Rear Tread Plates
- Multicolour Theatre Lighting
- Front and Rear Door Pocket and Front Cupholder Illumination
- Rear Footwell and Side Step Illumination
- Ambient Door and Instrument Panel Lighting
- Premium Metallic Paint £1,000
- Four Corner Electronic Air Suspension £2,150
- Apple CarPlay™ £250
- Dark Tinted Windows – Rear Doors and Cargo Area £400
- Linear Walnit Inlays £220