The signs point to change, also for the big Volvo
The scalable product architecture SPA was a big step for the Swedes. After the previous models all consisted of different sets and combinations of parts, they were completely reorganized in the summer of 2014. The large XC90 was the first model on the new basis and a complete success. Not only because it stood for a whole new confidence in design and appearance, but also because this spread to the smaller series. Volvo was suddenly no longer just a car for connoisseurs and Scandinavian fans, Volvo was cool. Extremely cool.
But much has changed in the seven years since the market launch of the big SUV. Things like doing away with six- or eight-cylinder engines were already the inauguration of a new era. The announcements that the further development of internal combustion engines will be put on hold in the future, that the maximum speed of the models will be limited to 180 km / h, and that no more thermally powered models will be sold from 2030, show that there is only a little left . as it were.
The last weight: Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 AWD R-Design
Visually, the XC90, on the other hand, has not only remained true to itself over the years, but also to the brand in general. The powerful second-generation appearance with the fierce “Thor’s Hammer” headlights, the upright radiator grille and other distinctive design features were hardly touched by the facelift two years ago. The modified bumpers are perhaps a bit more conspicuous at the rear, because the exhaust system’s beautiful chrome exhaust pipes have made room for decor that once looked quite superimposed.
But fine-tuning the design was and does not seem necessary, for the Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 AWD R-Design (combined fuel consumption: 1.5-1.2 l / 100 km; combined power consumption: 22.6-20.5 kWh / 100 km; Combined CO2 emissions: 34-28 g / km, combined electric range: 64-73 km) ² still looks modern and appealing today – which is perhaps its greatest strength. In contrast to the macho appearance of some of the other competitors, the Swede appears comfortable and reserved, although it is hardly smaller in size. But he’s a Volvo.
High-class interiors still convince with good design even after years
The same can be said about the interior. Abundance can be found everywhere: amazingly processed materials, even nubuck leather on the roof. On request, of course, also vegan with fine wool on the seats or animal-free imitation leather as a cover. In this sea of haptic pleasure – the XC90 also smells of very high quality in the interior – there is also an island-like Scandinavian design.
The central control unit, for example, seems almost small by today’s standards, but still impresses with its high level of function. Our test car from the 2022 model year did not even have the Android Automotive-based interface known from the XC40, Polestar 2 and Co.
Seven seats and high variation make the XC90 a family friend
The optional third row of seats makes the large XC90 the legendary top dog. Not only is it surprisingly large and therefore also suitable for adults on short trips, no, it makes Volvo a family favorite. Kids, friends or the whole family: no problem for the big SUV. In addition, the second row of seats can be moved a good ten centimeters lengthwise and adjusted in inclination, which creates additional flexibility. Either more legroom in row three – or giant trunk volume with only five used seats. Up to 1,816 liters of storage space makes the XC90 almost suitable for moving.
Comfort, convenience and more comfort: R-design or not
In the R-Design variant, the XC90 also mimics the sports buddy, at least visually. Dynamic spoilers, powerful tires with high-gloss rims, black exterior trim strips and a similar grille. But all this does not make the truck of two and a half tons a corner scare. Especially with the optional air suspension, it is the exact opposite: it is the perfect glider. Thanks to the Recharge hybrid drive, it still slides away almost silently, the double-glazed window and the “all-in-bed” gripping chassis do the rest.
The multi-adjustable seats also have more sporty contours than the comfort seat’s counterparts, but they also impress with good body support and fatigue-free long-distance support. Combined with the Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system and the very good infotainment connection compared to the mobile phone clutch, there is not much that can be criticized about the Volvo XC90 in terms of comfort.
Double-edged sword: The top model’s very complex drive
The almost impeccable comfort experience contrasts with the T8 drive. Nominally, it has increased significantly with the current model year. The electric motor on the rear axle rose from 87 hp to relatively generous 145 hp. Above all, its 309 Newton-meter torque promises significantly more agile driving values in pure electric mode. Thanks to the traction battery’s capacity, which has now been increased to a total of 18.8 kWh (effectively usable approx. 14.9 kWh), the whisper-quiet operating range has also been significantly increased to up to 73 kilometers. Yet the Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 AWD R-Design often leaves the driver in doubt.
With full e-power storage and in sport mode, it seems unleashed. It feels powerful, powerful, but also: hectic. The transmission deliberately keeps the gears low, which not only leads to a high noise level, but also to the same level of consumption. In addition, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which is put under pressure by a compressor and a turbocharger, sounds more effort than pleasure. In Pure or Hybrid mode, the verdict is the opposite. Here, the XC90 could do well with a little more courage, everything seems very reserved, and it requires a lot of accelerator input for a little power. Here, the big SUV does not feel like 455 hp – because of course it only has it using both units.
The dynamic suffers from its own performance requirements
That is probably due to the number in the data sheet: 455 hp. A value that until recently was reserved for real super sports cars. Today, you squeeze it out of a four-cylinder and an electric motor quite easily. And in the everyday situations where you drive such a vehicle most of the time, its performance is completely adequate. No one will ever accuse a Recharge T8 of lack of performance. There is always enough meat on the bone for you to worry about horsepower or torque on a shopping trip or pick up kids.
But in the very rare moments where you want to evaluate the performance, get the car out of the reserve, ask him to dance, then the big Swede seems a bit lethargic. It takes too long for him to poll his circuits, set the torques and blow up the chargers. After the memorial seconds he makes good progress, we are in no doubt about performance and driving dynamics data. But it just does not feel like a 455 hp car.
And here we draw the line at the sequel. The new XC90 will be purely electric. He no longer has to ask himself these questions. It will easily master everyday situations and will, thanks to its abundant e-power, also accelerate meaninglessly.
The Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 AWD R-Design is a fantastic car. Right at the end of the construction period, it has reached a level of qualitative maturity that is unparalleled. Its design and comfort features also place it easily in the top group of the segment. But especially the top model of 455 hp raises the question of how much sense it all still makes when driving. Volvo has already given the answer: the new one will only be electric. (Text: Fabian Mechtel | Photos: Manufacturer)