Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid review

Volvo’s XC90 PHEV has proven a popular choice since it launched a few years ago. Now Volvo’s given the large SUV a refresh, with the aim of keeping it towards the top of the tree. Plug-in power has been rolled out across the Volvo line-up, and we see how it gets on in the Swedish firm’s largest model.

Review by Chris Lilly


It wasn’t all that long ago that putting a four cylinder engine in a car as large as the XC90 would have seen engineers laughing for days. Now, it’s relatively common place, and Volvo’s unit was designed from the off with electrification in mind. The engine part of the PHEV system produces 303 hp, whilst it’s joined by 64 kW (87 hp) electric motor. Power goes through an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and the XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid powers all four wheels.

The result is large SUV capable of getting from 0-62mph in just 5.8 seconds, which is far faster than it has any right to really - particularly for a model that can also offer such efficiency. It feels quick on the road too, with a rapid turn of pace whenever it’s required. It’s just as happy settling down on the motorway, and the electric motor means it’s comfortable in built up areas. As an all-rounder, it’s rather impressive.


Although quick, the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge isn’t a performance SUV. The handling offers plenty of grip, and the steering is precise. However there’s not a lot of feedback though the wheel, and body lean in corners is plentiful when driving at pace. It’s a premium SUV, and drives like one, with the ability to waft along with ease.

Its size means you can never describe the XC90 as agile, but the suspension means it’s extremely comfortable either in town or out of it. Again, the motorway is a natural habitat, allowing for some serious cross-country work. It’s also capable of brushing aside any rough surfaces or speed bumps.


As refreshes go, the XC90’s is minimal; but if it ain’t broke… . The XC90 launched Volvo’s current design language, and it still looks great. Different from the German, British, and Japanese rivals, and arguably the most stylish of the lot, there is a distinctly Swedish look about a number of facets of the car’s styling.

As a fairly boxy large SUV, the XC90’s practicality is there for all to see. It’s got a huge interior for both occupants and luggage, and there’s no compromise in terms of space for the PHEV over the diesel or petrol versions, since the architecture and powertrain were designed for a PHEV option from the off. The battery sits in what would have been the transmission tunnel - it even manages to seat seven with a pair of occasional seats in the boot.


Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid interior

Few manufacturers have a reputation for comfort as good as Volvo’s, and the XC90, as the firm’s flagship, is deliciously comfortable. The seats are first class, and will probably be more comfortable than the armchair in your house, but considerably more supportive over a long distance.

The design for the controls will be familiar for anyone that has sat in a Volvo over the past few years, and again remains largely untouched. The portrait, tablet-style infotainment system isn’t at the cutting edge as it once was, but it remains a useful, easily usable set-up that works well - particularly in navigation mode. Switchgear feels well built, and often beautiful to touch, with certain materials having an air of quality to them, such as a Swedish crystal gear selector, wool blend seats, and unvarnished wood trim.


Economy figures are very good for a large SUV, but as is always the case with PHEVs, the key is to charge them regularly. Running in electric mode will keep running costs low, and make sure you comfortably beat the quoted fuel economy figure of 100.9 MPG - some specifications see that drop to 83.1 MPG; either can easily be beaten, thanks to a 31 mile electric only range - it equates to around 22-25 miles in real-world driving.

Forget about charging, and you’ll only see a fuel economy of about 25 MPG, and you may as well have spent less money on a hybrid for improved results. However, after more than 400 miles travelled, including some long runs where charging wasn’t practical, the trip computer showed an average of more than 65 MPG; but longer time with it would have seen that climb higher still.


Volvo has fitted an 11.6 kWh battery to the XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid, which allows for the electric only range above. It can be charged at up to 3.6 kW, which will take three hours for a full top-up, via a Type 2 inlet found on the front nearside flank.

Brake energy recuperation helps maximise electric range, charging the battery when driving downhill or on the brakes. Volvo has fitted a range of driving modes to the XC90 T8 as well, including the option to hold the car in ‘Pure’ for as long as there’s charge to stick to electric drive, run in Hybrid, plus sports and off-road settings.


Volvo kicks the XC90 PHEV range off at Inscription Expression, before moving to either R-Design and R-Design Pro, or Inscription and Inscription Pro. Fitted as standard are 19-inch alloys, the 9-inch Sensus infotainment system, automatic wipers and LED headlights, keyless entry and start, reversing camera and parking sensors front & rear, powered tailgate, climate control, 12.3-inch digital instrument display, leather upholstery, and electric front seats. Volvo’s safety kit is, as you would expect, first class too.

Inscription trim tested added Nappa leather upholstery, 20-inch alloys, matte chrome details, premium features, and Orrefors crystal gear selector. Inscription Pro would add a heated steering wheel, head-up display, 21-inch alloys, and active chassis, whilst R-Design trims focus on sportier styling and chassis, with similar interior features.


For those wanting a large, practical car, the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid remains one of the best in the business. Subtle updates have kept it fresh in important areas, remaining one of the most versatile cars in its class. Seating for up to seven, a decent electric driving range, plenty of practicality and style, and superb safety levels add up to a desirable SUV.

Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid rear

Model tested: Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid Inscription
Body-style: Large SUV
Engine / CO2: 2.0 litre petrol engine and electric motor / 63 g/km
Trim grades: Inscription Expression, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription, Inscription Pro

On-road price: T8 Recharge range from £65,540. Price as tested: £69,715
Warranty: Three years / 60,000 miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:6th Mar 2021

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