Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge: Classic Luxury Powered by the Future

We drive the Swedish brand’s flagship hybrid SUV that blends traditional elegance and modern efficiency.

By Edward Makwana

I recently tested the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge, courtesy of Volvo South Africa (Volvo SA). Driving the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge is reminiscent of confiding in a wise and comforting uncle. First launched in 2002 and a veteran of the premium sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment, this luxury SUV exudes wisdom and reliability, much like that trusted family figure who always knows just what to say.

The last time I drove Volvo’s flagship SUV was around 2015, just after BMW launched their third-generation X5. Brent Ellis, then PR Manager at Volvo SA and now Head of Global Product Communications at Polestar (Volvo’s sister brand), kindly loaned me the Volvo XC90 to test. At that time, as Head of Product Communications at BMW Group SA, I found the Volvo XC90 unexciting. Fast forward nine years, and the current generation XC90 has seen significant improvements. With its refined design, advanced technology and smooth performance, the XC90 T8 Recharge offers an experience that is both reassuring and sophisticated, making it a reliable confidant on the road.

The Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge test unit, specified in stunning Vapour Grey Metallic, is a plug-in hybrid featuring a rear electric motor delivering 107 kW of power. Combined with 233 kW from the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine (which sounds like it wants to be a 3.0-litre engine), the total output of 340 kW and 709 Nm of torque make this car, with its smooth-shifting 8-speed Geartronic gearbox, the most powerful XC90 ever.

The e-motor has enhanced the all-wheel-drive capability, increasing power to the rear wheels by 65 per cent, and improving performance as well as drivability.

The electric range is fairly good. Thanks to a long-range battery with a third layer of cells, the nominal energy is 18.8 kWh, providing an electric range of up to 77 kilometres.

“The average premium car owner travels less than 50 km daily, so most local Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid drivers will be able to do their daily motoring on pure electric power,” says Volvo SA’s Managing Director, Greg Maruszewski.

If your daily return trip to and from the office is less than 70 km, you’ll benefit from its minimal fuel consumption. The fuel efficiency and perkier acceleration that come with hybrid technology are benefits for drivers of larger vehicles like the XC90, with regenerative braking enabling even more range.

This car is ideal for executives who prefer minimalistic luxury design and uncompromising comfort, without feeling guilty about not embracing new energy vehicles (NEV). As companies lead the transition into a decarbonised age, it’s expected that executives of listed companies will drive electric vehicles (EVs) and NEVs to lead by example.

The premium seven-seater family SUV boasts a 0-100 km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds, a claimed fuel consumption of 7.2 litres/100 km, and reduced 164 g/km emissions. I managed to achieve 7.8 litres/100km.

This SUV is the last of its kind as Volvo SA prepares to offer the all-electric Volvo EX90 as part of its ongoing drive to sell only fully electric cars by 2030. “One of the most ambitious electrification blueprints in the automotive industry and crucial to our ambition to be a climate-neutral company by 2040,” said the Stockholm-headquartered brand in one of their press releases.

Pricing for the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid starts at R1 713 000, with our test unit priced at R1 808 000. It carries a 5-year/100 000 km Warranty and Maintenance Plan, 5-year Roadside Assistance, and an 8-year/160 000 km warranty on the lithium-ion battery.

If you prefer a sleeker design and are willing to consider a full EV within the Volvo stable, wait for the new EX90 expected to launch in SA in the coming months.

Otherwise, if you’re shopping around, consider alternatives like the BMW X5 xDrive50e Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) starting from R1 880 000, Range Rover Electric Hybrid (including the Evoque and Velar from R1 290 900 to R2 099 900), Land Rover Discovery and Defender Electric Hybrid (from R1 305 400 to R1 669 100), Jaguar F-Pace PHEV (from R1 982 300), or the Lexus RX 500 Hybrid F Sport (from R1 740 300).

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