Though pure EVs like the Recharge versions of the XC40 and C40 are taking a lot of the Volvo spotlight, the automaker released the revised XC90 T8 AWD Recharge — formerly simply called the T8 — earlier this year that promises fans of the plug-in mid-size SUV added performance and efficiency.
“Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles play an important role in the shift to electrification,” says Matt Girgis, managing director, Volvo Car Canada, in a press release. “These upgraded powertrains will demonstrate the many benefits of an electric future and will serve as an enabling technology that will encourage more consumers to adopt the electric lifestyle.”
Many components under the bodywork have been updated including a new long-range battery incorporating a third layer of cells thus increasing the capacity from 11.6 kilowatt-hours to 18.8. This allows approximately 58 kilometres of zero emissions propulsion on a single charge — double the previous amount. The rear electric motor is beefed up too delivering 143 horsepower compared to 87 before. Total output is now 455 horses, which is the most the brand has ever produced.
The increased power to the back axle sharpens the handling of the big SUV, and improves the all-wheel drive system helping provide extra grip and towing capability. Granted the XC90 weighs 2,265 kilograms so don’t expect pavement-ripping acceleration and traction but going 0 to 100 km takes only 5.6 seconds and it’s just a joy to pilot on the highway, for example travelling to Whistler as I did. And while the physical footprint is on the larger side, visibility is excellent and daily driving and parking is not too difficult at all.
Another refresh bonus is the introduction of a one-pedal mode, already seen on the aforementioned XC40 and C40. When activated, the vehicle automatically slows down whenever the foot is taken off the accelerator, a feature both convenient and practical because the resulting kinetic energy created is converted and put back into the battery.
On the same topic, during regular operation regenerative braking happens automatically whenever there’s gentle pressure applied to the brake pedal or engine braking takes place. The process isn’t the most obvious and the addition of paddle shifters to alter the level of regeneration would be nice, as seen on some competitors.
Stylistically there are no other changes since the facelift back in 2019 where the front and rear fascias were spruced up and a more contoured grille swapped in. The various polished aluminum bits around the exterior really lend an air of class to the appearance, and the Thor’s Hammer signature LED daytime running lights remain one of the most distinctive and cool in the industry.
The three-row interior is beautiful, especially in the Inscription trim Darpan was loaned and bundling the Lounge Package (+ $1,700) with the massaging driver and passenger seats and nubuck headliner. The cargo area is also generous regardless of whether the bench seating is upright or folded.
Those that want to ditch fuel completely may be interested to learn a gasoline-free replacement is on the way, able to go 600 kilometres between charges. Dubbed the EX90, deliveries are expected to begin early 2024.
Highlights (as tested):
Motor: 2.0-litre turbocharged/supercharged four cylinder + electric motor
Horsepower: 455 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft): 523 lb-ft (net)
Gearbox: eight-speed automatic transmission
Layout: front engine, all-wheel drive
Fuel economy: 7.6 L/100 km mixed city/highway (observed)