Living with the Volvo XC90 T8

Living with the Volvo XC90 T8
Living with the Volvo XC90 T8

A summer aboard Volvo’s plug-in hybrid SUV executive alternative

The petrol/electric XC90 T8 hybrid that we’ve just returned to Volvo after an 8000-mile tenancy replaced an XC90 D5 diesel.

In that D5, we averaged 37mpg over 18,000 miles. In the T8 hybrid, if you never charged it, you’d get between 29mpg and 31mpg from the turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol engine.

Not bad for a 2.2-tonne SUV, but it does show the nonsensical nature of ‘official’ mpg and CO2 figures. The T8 is rated at 49g/km CO2 and 134.5mpg. ‘Infinite mpg’ comes up on the screen, an interesting concept for a seven-seat luxury SUV.

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Of course, Volvo is no different to any other car company in optimising its car to suit the rules. Stick to short trips in a T8, mindful of the theoretical electric-only range of 25 miles, and you’ll certainly beat the D5’s mid-30s mpg.

If your motoring life involves quick commuter hops to the station with longer weekend drives, then the T8 makes some sort of sense as a cheap-to-fuel one-car choice. Keeping to low urban speeds and coming off the throttle to regenerate the battery will deliver a real-world all-electric mileage in the high teens. Charging it through a domestic socket will take a little under four hours.

But short trips really aren’t the T8’s forte. There wasn’t much plugging-in during our time with the T8. Our commutes weren’t to local train stations but to bigger, faster roads. The T8’s Pure driving mode is designed to favour electric power wherever possible, but even in this mode the petrol engine frequently steps in to help the 86bhp electric motor at speeds over 60mph. In these circumstances the battery will give pre-charged assistance to the engine for up to 25 miles. After that, you only get extra battery power via throttle-off regeneration, and your average consumption inexorably drops from ‘infinite’ to 50mpg on a 70-mile drive and on from there towards something beginning with a 3.

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The T8’s batteries turn it from a 2-tonne SUV into a 2.2-tonne one. That reduces its towing limit from 2700kg (in the diesel) to 2400kg.

The lesson from all this is, choose your XC90 well. If you end up choosing a T8, you’ll enjoy all the XC90 attributes that reflect the first stage of Volvo’s big range rehabilitation. A programme of development across the range feeds improvements from one Volvo to another. We found that our T8 seemed to ride in a more composed and quieter fashion than our D5. The Sensus infotainment set-up has been slightly refreshed too, and comes complete with the glitches you sometimes get with new software. Ours has crashed more than once (and we’re not alone in that) but in its defence the classic remedy of turning it off and then on again always worked.

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Overall, however, the passenger environment fully vindicates the XC90’s car’s executive price and standing. Volvo is Chinese-owned these days, but the company’s new parents clearly appreciate the value of Swedish design. The precisely-assembled cabin is wonderfully roomy and light. Unusually, the third-row seats are the same size as those in the middle row. That can be a pain, in a good way, when you constantly find yourself being nominated for group outings.

We took ours to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Not wanting to leave anything important like a boot scraper or horse mane untangler behind, we emptied most of the house contents into it and there was still loads of space left.

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As beardy rufty-tufty types who spend most of their lives off-road experts will confirm, wet grass can be swinishly difficult to negotiate, but our T8 laughed it off, using its engine to drive the front wheels and its electric motor for the back.

The XC90 T8 was a highly convivial place in which to spend time – even with a camping weekend’s payload of pre-worn socks in the back. It will be missed.

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VOLVO XC90 T8

Mileage at start 465
Mileage at end 8023

OPTIONS
Metallic paint £1000, Park Pilot/360deg camera £1000, winter pack with head-up display £950, Apple CarPlay £300, laminated side windows £750, upgraded leather £700, massage front seats £650, blind spot assist/cross-traffic alert/ rear collision mitigation £500, power side bolsters £200, power front seat base £120

CONSUMPTION AND RANGE
Claimed economy: 134.5mpg; fuel tank: 50 litres; test average: 31.1mpg; test best: Infinite mpg; test worst 29.5mpg; real-world range 342 miles

TECH HIGHLIGHTS
0-60mph: 5.3sec; top speed: 140mph; engine: 2.0-litre, four cylinders, supercharged and turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor; max power: 316bhp; max torque: 295lb/ft; transmission: eight-speed automatic; boot: 314-1868 litres; weight: 2296kg

SERVICE AND RUNNING COSTS
Contract hire rate: £848.51; CO2: 49g/km; service costs: none; other costs: none; fuel costs: £1270; running costs inc fuel: £1270; depreciation £7725; cost per mile inc dep’n: £1.19p; faults: occasionally erratic infotainment system

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