2021 Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Review: Heavyweight Cruiser

Ben Chia

The plug-in hybrid Volvo XC90 makes its Singapore bow, but what does battery power bring to the table for Volvo’s seven-seater family SUV?


We’re truly starting to accelerate into the age of electrification now, with nearly every car being launched these days offering some sort of electrified powertrain, whether it be mild hybrid, pure hybrid, plug-in hybrid or fully electric.

But an unintended drawback of lugging an electric powertrain around is weight. After all, batteries are fairly heavy items, and while some cars can overcome the penalty by perhaps simply packing in more power, that solution may not always be workable for all.

Take the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge for example. As it is, the XC90 is already a fairly sizeable seven-seater SUV, and the regular petrol T6 model already weighs around 2.1 tonnes. The T8 Recharge model here, which is Volvo’s name for its plug-in hybrid variant, adds an additional 200kg to that, for a final weight of over 2.3 tonnes.

That’s a lot of car to be lugging around, and despite the fact that it has 402hp and 640Nm of torque combined from its 2.0-litre twincharged petrol engine and electric motor, you can definitely feel the bulk while on the go. Volvo claims that the XC90 Recharge can go from 0-100km/h in 5.6 seconds, but it doesn’t feel quite as fast in reality, and the powertrain does strain a little when you attempt to push it hard.

That said, buyers of large SUVs don’t tend to put straight-line performance as a priority anyway. Instead, what they’ll probably look at when considering a car like the XC90 Recharge is the other benefit of hybrid motoring, namely efficiency. And in that respect, the Volvo does fare a little bit better.

As a plug-in hybrid, the XC90 Recharge offers the ability to drive purely on electric power alone, and when the battery is fully charged, Volvo claims a full electric range of up to 51km. Our own test over a weekend test drive yielded about 40km, which is still pretty impressive, given that it’s enough to get you from one end of Singapore to the other.

But getting the battery fully charged might be a bit of an inconvenience if you don’t have regular access to a charger. The 9.1kWh battery takes about three hours to fully recharge from empty, and the Volvo doesn’t offer fast charging capability, so your options for public charging are mainly restricted to a handful of ‘slow’ chargers instead of the newer fast chargers that are sprouting up across the island.

As a result, the XC90’s claimed fuel consumption figure of 2.3 litres per 100km is only really achievable if you can make use of a fully-charged battery for the majority of your journeys. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself driving in hybrid mode most of the time instead, where the petrol engine kicks in to assist, and subsequently drives up your fuel consumption.

Still, there’s no doubting that the XC90 serves its function well as a comfortable family SUV. And the added weight actually benefits the car’s overall refinement, with the XC90 feeling extremely stable and unruffled at highway speeds. The ride is relatively well-controlled too, and it absorbs road bumps extremely well for the most part.

Given its size and weight, you don’t expect the XC90 to be a deft handler, and while it is not particular enamoured by enthusiastic driving, it actually feels quite planted and neutral in the corners, thanks to its all-wheel-drive system. It delivers safe and predictable handling, which should be more than adequate for its target customers.

And they’ll appreciate the lovely interior that they’ll be sitting in too. Local XC90 Recharges are decked out in Volvo’s premium Inscription trim level, and as such they come with goodies such as a wireless mobile phone charger, a panoramic sunroof, and a very glitzy crystal gear selector knob for that added bling factor.

But all of that comes at quite a cost, with the XC90 Recharge retailing for an eye-popping $380,000, inclusive of COE. That’s a full $34,000 more than the petrol-powered XC90 T6, and quite a significant chunk above something like a BMW X5 or Audi Q7, both of whom also offer the capability of seating for seven as well.

The XC90 Recharge’s appeal then really boils down to how much you want save the environment while ferrying your family around. Its ability to drive in pure electric mode is something very few of its rivals can offer right now, but whether that’s worth the cost of entry is a rather weighty question indeed.

Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge

Engine1,969cc, inline four, twincharged
Power315hp at 5700rpm
Torque400Nm at 2200-5400rpm
Gearbox8-speed automatic
Electric Motor87hp / 240Nm
BatteryLithium ion, 9.1kWh
Charge Time / Type3 hours / 3.7kW charging cable
Electric Range44 – 51km
System Power / Torque402hp / 640Nm
0-100km/h5.6 seconds
Top Speed180km/h
Fuel Efficiency2.3L/100km
VES Band / CO2B / 132g/km
AgentWearnes Automotive
Price$380,000 with COE
Verdict:Plug-in hybrid XC90 is comfortable and offers zero emissions motoring, but weight and price blunts its appeal somewhat



5-door 7 seat Hybrid SUV T8 Recharge Volvo xc90

About the Author

Ben Chia

CarBuyer's print editor went out to explore the Great Big World, including a stint working in China (despite his limited Mandarin). Now he's back, ready to foist upon you his takes on everything good and wonderful about the automotive world. Follow Ben on Instagram @carbuyer.ben

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