• 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid
  • 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

Road Test: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

Efficiency, Safety, and Luxury in One Seven-passenger Package

The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a handsome, luxurious, comfortable, fuel efficient and expensive large crossover. All-new, it’s a huge step forward for the Chinese-owned Swedish brand. Also all-new is a plug-in hybrid model–the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid.

The old model, which was based on former owner Ford’s platform, is replaced by an all-new Scalable Product Architecture, which allows Volvo to build multiple cars off of the same structure, saving development time and expense.

The Family Test

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid,hybrid

Room for seven–or five and luggage

To test this true seven-passenger ride, I loaded my family into it. My wife and I rode up front, my older son and my daughter-in-law sat in the third row (yes, it fits adults) and, in the center, were my other adult son, my seven-year old granddaughter in the optional built-in booster seat, and my two-year old granddaughter, in an easily attached child seat.

During the work week, I commuted daily, enjoying the incredible Bowers & Wilkins optional audio system. It puts out 1,400 watts of power through 19 carefully located speakers. You can set it for three different “rooms,” including the Gothenburg Concert Hall.

Three Levels of Volvos

XC90s come in three trim levels: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design. Momentum is the “base” car, but it’s full of good stuff. The Inscription, like my Crystal White tester, is the luxury model, with many extra touches, exemplified by the Orrefors Swedish crystal shift knob. The R-Design is the sportiest, swapping, for example, the Inscription’s walnut trim for a metallic motif.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid,interior

Like an iPad at your side

Inside, a nine-inch center touch screen replaces numerous buttons. It’s essentially a dash-mounted iPad. Dauntingly complex at first, it became easy and responsive after a few days. Its home layout is four stacked horizontal bars, including navigation, media, phone and another one you select. I normally filled that with the fuel economy and powertrain monitor. Swipe up and down and left or right to expose other settings and options.

Volvo Plugs In

The regular gasoline car is a T6, but my tester was a T8, the world’s first seven-passenger plug-in hybrid SUV. All XC90s share a potent 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that uses both super- and

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

For the first time, Volvo plugs in

turbo-charging to put out 313 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. The T8 adds an electric motor and a battery pack to deliver limited electric-only motoring and a total of 400 horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. I drove my 18-mile commute entirely on electricity once, but normally achieved just under that. The center screen shows graphical and digital statistics, and where the power is flowing.

Hybrid system settings are Hybrid, the default mode, which switches back and forth from fuel to charge. Pure mode means all-electric. Power mode combines the motor’s instant torque and the gas engine’s horsepower to provide V8-level performance. Save mode lets you retain the battery charge for later use.

An EV range in the teens is typical for many plug-in hybrids—and remarkable for a 5,059-lb. vehicle. The EPA gives it a 53 MPGe rating (compare that to other battery vehicles). In pure EV mode, it’s much better. Gas-only delivers 25 MPG. My tester averaged 22.7 mpg over 63 hours and 1,578 miles, including previous journalist loans.

Green scores are 7 for Smog and a split number for the Fuel Economy/Greenhouse Gas rating—7 for MPG and an 8 for CO2.

Safety Equipment, Of Course

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid, safety

Safety equipment surrounds the XC90

The XC90 is loaded with safety equipment. The metal front-seat seatbelt tangs are engraved with “Since 1959” as a reminder that Volvo invented seatbelts. The IntelliSafe Safety Technology includes rollover protection, various electronic controls to keep the car in the lane and a safe distance from other cars, automatic braking under some conditions, and much more.

For collision avoidance, the XC90 uses a radar and camera unit that can automatically brake the car when another car comes through an intersection. It helps eliminate collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. The four-way, 360-degree camera helps you avoid hitting things, and also makes it a snap to park perfectly by providing a bird’s eye view. There’s automatic parking assistance, too, if you’re not good at parallel parking.

The supremely comfortable and supportive Volvo seats are now mounted on slimmer frames for more interior space; they are also very protective in case of an unavoidable collision. The gorgeous leather in my Inscription model was a traditional Volvo orange-brown; it smelled great, too.

Pricing for the T8 starts at $69,050. My tester, with the $3,500 Inscription level upgrade, plus a raft of safety, convenience and style packages and features, came to $84,005. That’s a big price tag, but this car is a truly incredible experience.

The XC90 T8 was named Green Car Journal’s Luxury Green Car of the Year, and is part of what is a welcome resurgence for Volvo, a brand with a historic commitment to safety. Today’s Volvo features the latest technology and now, a greener way to move a family of seven.

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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.

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About Author: Steve Schaefer

Steve Schaefer has written a weekly automotive column for 26 years, testing more than 1,250 cars. Now, he’s focusing on EVs and hybrids. Steve remembers the joy of riding in his father’s Austin-Healey. After discovering the August, 1963 issue of Motor Trend, he became entranced with the annual model change, and began stalking dealers’ back lots to catch the new models as they rolled off the transporter. Coming from a family that owned three Corvairs, Steve was one of the first Saturn buyers, earning him a prominent spot in their 1994 product catalogue. To continue the GM tradition, Steve now has a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Steve is a founding member of the Western Automotive Journalists. Recently, Steve became a Climate Reality Leader, trained by Al Gore, and is focused on moving to EVs and 100% renewable energy. Read his EV/hybrid blog at stevegoesgreen.com.

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