Since 2002, the XC90 has been praised for its marvelous build quality, family-friendly design and many great safety and convenience features. But while the SUV segment changed continuously, Volvo opted to keep its range-topping vehicle essentially unaltered for more than a decade, which resulted in the XC90 starting to show its age in recent years. I don’t know whether the Swedes did this in order to focus on the second-gen SUV, but if they did, I totally understand why they let the XC90 become one of the most dated vehicles on the market. The redesigned 2016 XC90 was updated in every department, gaining brand-new styling, a rebuilt, futuristic interior, the company’s latest in terms of convenience and safety features and a host of all-new engines.

In 2013, Derek Crabb, Volvo’s vice president of powertrain engineering, said the company’s upcoming smaller and more intelligent engines "will turn V-8s into dinosaurs," and it seems that statement has morphed into reality. Volvo ditched both the 4.4-liter V-8 and the 3.2-liter inline-six from under the XC90’s hood, replacing them with a range of gasoline and diesel four-cylinders. What’s more, the four-pot-exclusive SUV also received, for the first time in its lifetime, a hybrid drivetrain that pumps out 400 horsepower while claiming to return outstanding fuel economy.

Updated 04/12/2016: Volve dropped a very cool commercial for its latest XC90 plug-in hybrid SUV. Hit "play" to see what makes this XC90 special.

Keep reading for the full run-down on Volvo’s most advanced and powerful hybrid yet.

  • 2016 Volvo XC90 T8
  • Year:
    2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    8-speed automatic
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    400
  • Torque @ RPM:
    472
  • 0-60 time:
    5.9 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    155 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    68100 (Est.)
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • car fuel:
  • body style:

Exterior

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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As with most hybrids, the XC90 T8 is identical to its gasoline and diesel cousins as far as styling goes. If it weren’t for the additional "fuel" cap on the front fender and the T8 badge on the tailgate, the hybrid SUV could’ve easily be mistaken for a conventional XC90.

Small differences aside, the T8 benefits from the company’s new design language that debuted with the XC90. The redesigned front fascia now incorporates a new, modern grille and thinner headlamps fitted with "Thor’s Hammer" daytime running LED lights, while the hood’s muscular lines enhance the vehicle’s sporty character.

Around back, the XC90 is no longer the bulky SUV we’ve known since 2002, having its tailgate, taillights and bumper updated to a more modern design. The dual-exhaust configuration is there to signal this hybrid is no slouch. I am no SUV guy by any stretch of the imagination, but the second-gen XC90 is downright gorgeous.

Interior

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Interior
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2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Interior
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2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Interior
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Naturally, the interior of the XC90 remains unaltered with the addition of the T8 badge. Soft Nappa leather can be found throughout the cabin, complemented by wood trim and a crystal gear lever made by famed Swedish glass maker Orrefors.

Thanks to Volvo’s new Scalable Product Architecture, the XC90 is also incredibly roomy. While such a feat is hard to maintain on hybrid models, Volvo has managed to overcome this challenge by placing the battery in the tunnel that runs from underneath the dashboard toward the rear of the car. As a result, the battery does not impact the amount of room available inside the cabin and allows the hybrid to come with a third row of seats.

What’s more, it appears the battery’s placement gives the XC90 a low and more balanced center of gravity, making it easier to handle and safer to drive. Needless to say, Volvo left nothing to chance.

Drivetrain

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Exterior
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The second-gen XC90 received no less than five powertrains, but the T8 combo is by far the most interesting of then all. The first every hybrid drivetrain to motivate this Swedish SUV brings together a 2.0-liter, turbocharged and supercharged, four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 60-kW (80-horsepower) electric motor connected to the rear axle. Its combined output sits at 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque, and the power travels to the wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The conventional, gasoline unit comes with Volvo’s brand-new, Twin Engine technology, which uses a supercharger to fill in the bottom end of the power range and a turbocharger to provide extra power higher in the rev range. The technology makes this engine one of the most fuel-efficient four-bangers and enables it to help the hybrid drivetrain return up to 59 MPGe on the U.S. driving cycle. When driven on electric power alone, the XC90 can travel for 25 miles.

When driving the XC90, drivers can choose between five different modes: Hybrid, Pure Electric, AWD, Power, and Save. While the first three are self-explanatory, Power mode unleashes the SUV’s sportier side. The electric motor’s superior response and instant torque is used on startup, while the gasoline engine kicks in as the SUV gets up to speed. Volvo says the combination offers better torque at lower revs, similar to that of a large displacement V-8. Given the XC90 T8 needs only 5.9 seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start, this isn’t just a marketing scheme.

Drivetrain Specifications

Type 4-cylinder Drive-E petrol
Output 318 HP
Torque 295 LB-FT
Rear electric motor 82 HP
Electric torque 177 LB-FT
Combined Output 400 HP
Combined torque 472 LB-FT
Transmission 8-speed automatic
0 to 60 mph 5.9 seconds

Prices

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior
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Model Price
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid Momentum $68,100
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid Inscription $71,600
Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid R-Design $70,000

Competition

Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid

2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid High Resolution Exterior
- image 379481

When it comes to hybrid SUVs, the Volkswagen Touareg is one of the first to receive such a drivetrain. Unveiled in 2010, the German SUV uses the same powertrain as the previous-generation Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid, meaning it combines a supercharged, 3.0-liter, V-6 engine rated at 333 horsepower and a 47-pony electric motor that generate a total output of 380 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque.

The Touareg’s drivetrain mates to an eight-speed automatic transmission and enables the SUV to sprint from naught to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds before reaching a top speed of 150 mph. These performance numbers come with a fuel economy of 24 mpg on the highway and 20 mpg in the city, figures that are far from threatening for the XC90. Pricing for the Touareg Hybrid starts from $64,745.

Read our full review on the Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid here.

Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Plug-In Hybrid

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Plug-In Hybrid Exterior Spyshots
- image 574325
The GLE-Class Plug-In Hybrid was just caught on the Nurburgring, and we have all the pictures.

To be renamed GLE-Class from 2015, the Mercedes-Benz M-Class will receive its very first hybrid drivetrain with the third-generation mid-cycle refresh. Set to arrive in dealerships for the 2016 model year, the hybrid SUV will look identical to its regular brother as far as styling goes, with only an additional cap revealing this SUV comes with a charging socket.

Although the Germans are still mum on details as of December 2014, word has it the SUV will use a drivetrain combining the same units from the C350 Plug-In sedan. Specifically, the GLE Plug-In will be motivated by a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder mill making at least 200 horsepower and an electric motor incorporated into the seven-speed automatic rated at 80 ponies. On the other hand, due to the vehicle’s weight, Mercedes could also opt to use the bi-turbo V-6 from the S500 Plug-In instead of the four-banger. Either way, the GLE should outgun the Touareg in terms of fuel economy.

Read our full review on the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class Plug-In Hybrid here.

Conclusion

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior
- image 581680

I was quite impressed with the second-generation XC90 when Volvo unveiled it earlier in 2014 and I feel the same about the T8 hybrid. This SUV comes with the same stunning exterior design and futuristic interior as its conventional siblings, but with a lot more power and low fuel consumption on top. The T8’s drivetrain comes with no less than 84 extra ponies when compared to the T6 Turbo, and that’s a lot of oomph for an SUV that can return up to 59 MPGe. The fact that it is also family-friendly with seating for seven makes it that much more of a great choice in a segment that’s getting crowded. There’s only one downside to this story: this SUV is likely to become one of the most expensive in its class.

  • Leave it
    • Likely expensive
    • Numerous competitors underway

Updated History

Updated 04/16/2015: Volvo announced prices for the new Volvo XC90 T8 which will be put on sale this summer. Prices will start from $68,100, not including any tax credit incentives or $995 destination charge. Customers will be eligible for a federal tax credit up to an estimated $4,600 in addition to other local and state incentives.

Press Release

The first Volvo designed from the ground up for plug-in/electrification compatibility, the XC90 T8 delivers all the performance of a luxury SUV, but with emission levels that even small hybrid cars struggle to match.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Exterior
- image 581678

When designing the XC90 T8, Volvo Cars chose not to compromise on performance, driving pleasure, efficiency or even luggage space. By building on the new modular Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform and successful Drive-E petrol powertrain, the company has created a uniquely roomy 7-seater SUV that delivers 400hp/640Nm combined with ultra-low emissions (59g/km) and high fuel efficiency (2.5 l/100km). The fuel economy according to the U.S. driving cycle is 59 MPGe.

“The XC90 T8 is a plug-in electric car, hybrid car and high-performance car rolled into one,” says Dr Peter Mertens, Senior Vice President Research and Development of Volvo Car Group. “The Drive-E engines already offer highly competitive performance versus the competition. The T8 takes it further into a leading position.”

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior
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A driving mode for every need

The XC90 T8 can go from 0 to 100km/h in 5.9 seconds, delivering all the driving pleasure customers have come to expect from a Volvo SUV. But driving pleasure is only a fraction of what the XC90 T8 offers: the car has five different driving modes that deliver a range of performance and efficiency-enhancing characteristics. Using either a scroll wheel on the centre console or a touchscreen on the dashboard, drivers can choose from:

Hybrid: This is the default mode, suitable for everyday use. Here, the vehicle will automatically alternate between drawing power from the 2-litre, 4-cylinder Drive-E engine and the electric motor to deliver the best overall fuel consumption.

Pure electric: In this mode, when the high-voltage battery is fully charged, it serves as the car’s sole energy source, powering the electric motor over the rear axle. The XC90 T8 has a range of more than 40km using just electricity, which covers the total distance most people drive in one day. And thanks to the regenerative braking system, this mode is super-efficient in the stop-and-go traffic of city environments. If more power is needed, the Drive-E combustion engine starts up automatically.

Power mode: Here, drivers get the combined performance of the combustion engine and the electric motor. On start-up, the SUV takes advantage of the electric motor’s superior response and instant torque curve, while the combustion engine gets up to speed. This combination offers better torque at lower revs, equivalent to that of a large displacement engine like the V8.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 581681

AWD: This mode offers constant all-wheel drive on demand. The advantage of being able to select AWD manually is that the driver can use it when needed, or choose to save energy for later.

Save: If the battery is charged, this mode allows the driver to “freeze” the battery level and save it for later use with Pure Electric drive. On the other hand, if the battery is low, the driver can use the combustion engine to charge the battery to a certain level for later use with Pure Electric drive.

Under the shell

Many of the XC90 T8’s powertrain features have been optimised specifically for hybrid technology. Here are the main components of the system:

Drive-E engine

A specially modified version of the 4-cylinder Drive-E petrol engine is under the hood. Already known for its ability to more efficiently deliver the power of an engine twice its size, the Drive-E engine is enhanced in the XC90 T8 by a supercharger and a turbocharger for a total power output of 318hp and 400Nm torque.

Automatic gearbox

The 8-speed automatic gearbox has also been specially adapted for the hybrid: shift-by-wire technology allows drivers to control the transmission electrically (a luxurious touch is the gearshift is made of handmade Swedish crystal). A larger oil pump provides the necessary lubrication during electric drive and enables quicker pressure build-up when seamlessly going from electric to combustion drive.

CISG

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior
- image 581682

The crankshaft-mounted starter generator (CISG), located between the engine and the gearbox, performs three important functions: it is a powerful, 34kW starter motor that allows the car to go from pure electric drive to combination combustion drive seamlessly, so drivers can experience the car’s petrol engine and electric motor as one unit; it is also a powerful electric generator; and finally, it acts as an electric engine booster, working with the supercharger and turbocharger when extra power is needed, providing up to 150 Nm of extra torque.

Battery

The high-voltage (270–400V) battery, delivering 65kW of power, is an excellent example of Volvo’s success with the XC90 T8. While other carmakers have struggled to combine the bulk of a battery pack with a luxurious and spacious interior, Volvo has managed to overcome this challenge by placing the battery centrally in the tunnel of the car. There are several advantages to this position. For example, the battery does not impact the amount of available space inside the car. This means that there is room for three rows of seats – plenty of space for people and luggage. Furthermore, the battery placement gives the SUV a low and central centre of gravity, making the XC90 T8 easier to handle and safer to drive.

Rear electric motor

Delivering 82hp (60kW) and 240Nm torque, the large electric motor sits on the rear axle and drives the back wheels in electric and power-boost modes. The rear placement is significant because it allows for a larger motor, which is useful for following stop-and-go city traffic rhythms. This placement also makes efficient all-wheel drive possible because each axle has its own power source.

Two-step braking system

The XC90 T8 blended braking system partly uses brake-by-wire technology to recover and transmit energy back into the car, either to recharge the battery or for immediate use. The system is also equipped with a unique stability function that controls the amount of energy that may be safely regenerated.

Unique cooling and climate system

The unique cooling system is composed of two extra circuits. The first cools the CISG and the large electric motor on the rear axle, while the second cools the battery in one of two ways: either passively, via the radiator, or actively through integration with the car’s climate system.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 High Resolution Exterior
- image 581683

Pre-conditioning

For convenience and efficiency, drivers can pre-condition the XC90 T8’s drivetrain, battery and cabin, either directly from within the car or by using the Volvo On Call mobile app. This ensures that, whether it’s freezing or hot and humid outside, the car will be heated or cooled as necessary and ready to go by the time the driver enters. Pre-conditioning can be done while the car is plugged in, which is beneficial from a CO2 perspective since it ensures that the battery will last as long as possible in Pure Electric Drive mode.

A heritage of innovation

As the world’s most powerful and cleanest SUV, the XC90 T8 joins a long list of Volvo Cars innovations designed to create a more comfortable driving experience, a cleaner environment and safer roads.

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