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Volvo Plug-in Hybrid: A Recharged XC90

By James Raia, April 4th, 2020

Many manufacturers' sport utility vehicles have morphed into the same automobile; names and badges and marketing slogans are different but not much else. Volvo is an exception.

Manufacturer photo: The XC90 is powered by Volvo's Drive-E powertrains, including gas, diesel and Volvo's T8 Twin Engine, a gas plug-in hybrid mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer photo: The XC90 is powered by Volvo's Drive-E powertrains, including gas, diesel and Volvo's T8 Twin Engine, a gas plug-in hybrid mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission

The Swedish carmaker, particularly with its 2020 XC90 flagship three-row SUV, epitomizes the Latin definition of its name: "I roll." Volvo vehicles roll with a unique allure of sturdiness, modern design, technology, comfort, safety, and practicality.

For 2020, the Volvo XC90 is refreshed with new front and rear grilles and T-shaped LED running lights. Optional six-passenger seating, instead of seven, with second-row captain's chairs, is also available.

Powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged engine, the XC90 offers a combined 400 horsepower (313 direct-injected horsepower with an 87-horsepower electric motor). The T8 E-AWD Inscription trim (the review vehicle) is a plug-in hybrid with 18 miles of electric-only range.

The electric motor helps the XC90 accelerate from 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. The 9.2-kWh battery pack takes 2.5 hours to fully charge with a 240-volt outlet or seven hours with 110 volts. The plug-in hybrid is eligible for more than $4,500 in federal tax credits.

Manufacturer photo: The XC90 is powered by Volvo's Drive-E powertrains, including gas, diesel and Volvo's T8 Twin Engine, a gas plug-in hybrid mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission

Despite recent ownership by Ford and its current Chinese owner Geely Automotive, Volvo remains manufactured in Gothenburg, Sweden, and primarily with Swedish resources. The Scandinavian design features stand out via clean lines inside and outside. Color schemes are handsome.

strong>Swedish minimalism rules: The Nappa leather and light gray wood trim are perfectly matched with chrome accents inlaid with a designer's best work. The restyled shifter underscores the Swedish pedigree, cut from crystal made by Orrefors. The XC90's shifting requires flicks of finesse, not shifting -- that's Euro-coolness -- as is the laminated panoramic moonroof and its power sunshade. Ventilated front seats, efficient interior lighting, and rear sun curtains further impress.

Volvo heavily markets its safety-first approach, which the XC90 defines. Forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning are all standard. Pilot Assist combines adaptive cruise control and active steering. It keeps the vehicle within lanes, resulting in a semi-autonomous driving system.

The XC90 was a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 2019 and earned a five-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Euro-forward technology is centered on the vertically oriented infotainment touchscreen. It controls the majority of the XC90's systems and settings in a 12.3-inch driver-facing screen. Touchscreen controls aren't for everyone and the learning curve can be annoying.

Manufacturer photo: The XC90 is powered by Volvo's Drive-E powertrains, including gas, diesel and Volvo's T8 Twin Engine, a gas plug-in hybrid mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission

With all three rows in position, the SUV has 15.4 cubic feet of stowage behind the third row. With the third row down, the XC90 provides up to 41.8 cubic feet of cargo space. The T8 has a standard hands-free tailgate. Optional remote controlled air springs lower the rear of the car for easy loading.

Volvo is renowned for offering a stable, firm ride. With its optional air suspension, and Eco, Comfort, Off-Road, and Dynamic drive modes, the XC90 complies. Drive modes change via a toggle on the console and the touchscreen interface.

The XC90 boasts as many standard features as its competitors, from the Cadillac Escalade to the Nissan Armada and the Chevrolet Suburban to the Lexus GX 460. But the Volvo's options raise it into a luxury SUV fraternity of one. The MSRP is $67,500, but the full array of packages adds nearly $20,000.

The Bowers and Wilkins sound system, for instance, has 1,400 watts and 19 speakers, and costs $3,200. It's splurge-worthy for audiophiles who like their music loud and clear while driving in a well-appointed luxury Swedish apartment on wheels.

Specifications

Base price $67,500 (as tested: $86,990)
Curb weight 4,993 lbs.
Displacement 2.0-liter
Engine type 16-valve 4-cyl. w/GDI
Epa mileage rating 21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 400
Overall length 194.9 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 472
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Vehicle type 7-passenger midsize eAWD SUV
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