Last year Volvo announced its ambitious strategy to offer plug-in hybrid versions across its entire model line-up. It’s a bold move from the Swedish outfit, and one must applaud the car maker for daring to do things first.
Such a bold electrification move means there’s been an important upgrade to Volvo’s existing T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid powertrain, as well the launch of a new range of mild hybrids, beginning with diesel and petrol versions on the XC90 and XC60.
These mild hybrids introduce a newly developed advanced kinetic energy recovery braking system, which is coupled with Volvo’s existing ICEs to create a new ‘electrified package’, as Volvo terms it. The ‘B’ badged lineup has been introduced on the company’s larger scalable product architecture.
Meanwhile, the XC40, which rolls off Volvo’s smaller compact modular architecture, has also been electrified, in the form of a T5/T4 Twin Engine petrol PHEV.
While the updates to the T8, which is available on all 90 and 60 series cars, are not the most dramatic – a new battery and brake-by-wire battery charging system – the car maker hopes that coupled with a sharper look, the 15% improvement in electric range is enough to ensure the SUV remains a frontrunner in the class.
Much of what’s exciting about the XC90 T8 comes from the actual powertrain, which combines a 2.0 four-cylinder with an electric motor, the latter providing 88ps, the former 307ps, a total of 395ps that comes in addition to 400Nm of torque from 2,200rpm to 4,800rpm. This means zero to 100km/h (62mph) takes 5.8 seconds, with a top speed of 225km/h (140mph), which isn’t too shabby for a vehicle that weighs 2,980kg. With a combined fuel economy rating of 2l/100km (117.6mpg) and emissions of 55g/km of CO2, one quickly sees the big green picture with this XC90 hybrid derivative.
The revised XC90 is an impressive PHEV package that works extremely well on the road. In combination with the eight-speed Aisin Warner transmission, it’s a lovely place in which to sit and make progress on open country pursuits, while having a commanding view of the surroundings. And that instant torque from the e-motor makes the driving experience feel effortless. The XC90 is sturdy when driving hard, but light when needing to maneuver on tighter roads, thanks to the precise steering.
While the upgrades to the hybrid tech do not fundamentally change the way this SUV drives, the gains in electric range make for an impressively real-world frugal plug-in hybrid SUV with more than adequate performance. All in all, it’s a package that’s cost-effective to live with (once you get over the showroom price), practical and stylish too.