Review: Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Ultimate PHEV

Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge PHEV Ultimate

Where Malaysia Price RM432,888 (OTR, excl. insurance ) On sale now Engine 4-cyl, 1969cc, turbocharged, petrol with electric motor Power (max combined) 462bhp Torque (max combined) 709Nm Gearbox 8-spd auto Kerb weight 2350kg Top speed 180km/h  0-100km/h 5.3sec Fuel economy 55.6km/L (claimed) CO2 40g/km Rivals BMW X5, Mercedes GLE

What is it?

In Ultimate spec, Volvo’s top-of-the-range SUV, the XC90 T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) has everything that Volvo has to put into a car. That includes all the advanced safety technologies Volvo currently offers and every creature comfort they can shoe horn in. Launched in 2022 as a facelift, upgrades include higher output and increased electric-only range. The hybrid battery capacity is now 18.8kWh, augmenting the range from 50km to 77km. This gives the XC90 has one of the highest all-electric ranges for a PHEV. The petrol range is around 660km.

The XC90 is also Volvo’s most capacious vehicle now that the V90 station wagon is no longer available in Malaysia.

What is it like?
Big. Wide as well as long with an intimidating presence on the road. Indicate and watch-traffic-hang-back-while-you-make-your-move sort of intimidating. The ride height made it easier to spot flashing lights and look for gaps to move in before the sound of sirens that precede the imminent materialisation of an ambulance.

The seven-seater had reasonable knee-room for an adult five feet six inches tall seated in the third row. They even got an air vent, arm rest and cupholder.

The boot is 640-litres with the third row out of the way. Fold down two rows, and it’s 1950 litres. Measured from the tailgate to the centre console, it’s 190+cm long. That’s longer than a standard bed.

Distinctive. The oncoming Thor hammer lights make the XC90 instantly discernible from the scores of hulking vehicles approaching from a distance.

The Volvo XC90 has finesse without being ostentatious with elegant details like square perforations on the leather seats, open-pore wood panels, Orrefors crystal gear knob, memory seats for both front seats, air vents in the door pillars and over the rear haunches. Also, air quality monitor and an electronic chorus of buzzers and alerts for every conceivable safety feature that Volvo provides. There’s also a Bowers & Wilkins sound system – lots of speakers, more sophisticated than my tin ears could appreciate – but according to my musically-trained sisters the sound quality really is fabulous.

Despite its bulk, the XC90 T8 Recharge Ultimate was fast with perky acceleration and planted, assured roadholding. The all-wheel drive, along with higher-than-the-average-car ground clearance, means off-road capability. The ground clearance is 223mm – rivals, BMW X5 and Merc GLE are 214 and 205mm respectively.

The ride was smoother than my eyes would have believed. Considering the state of the roads in the Klang Valley, the air suspension evened out the bumps and made it much more comfortable, especially for old bones. For a car otherwise extremely refined, the sound of the bellows operating is very audible, a metallic creaking that was alarming the first few times I heard it. The ride height lowers slightly when in all-electric mode to improve aerodynamics. However, apart from that, the driver can’t adjust the ride height on-the-go but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s less thinking required which makes the XC90 very user-friendly. The only height adjustment is for loading and unloading, using the buttons by the tailgate to raise or lower the car. The car also lowers after the engine is switched off.

One busy day of town driving and the electric range had depleted. The change over from electric to petrol was seamless and in petrol the car remained smooth and quiet, until I accelerated hard and heard the engine. It was a bit jarring after the silence which I had come to take for granted but there was no rough vibration and the engine quietened back down once the foot eased off the floor.

For the impatient, eight hours to charge from empty to 80 per cent of maximum seems painfully show. However, some context… Eight hours is not untypical idle time for a car when someone is home or in the office. I only managed two to three hours charging at a time at public chargers, topping up 14-20km range from empty. However, if I owned a PHEV, I’d probably have my own AC wallbox as prices have come down considerably over the last few months. If the XC90 were recharged every day or every few days, it wouldn’t always need eight hours. In the mean time, there’s petrol back-up.

Like most drivers, I left it in Hybrid mode but the XC90 also has Pure electric mode. In Pure, acceleration is slower and deceleration faster for energy recuperation. If you’re heading down from Genting, select B gear – it’s between N and D – and go. The battery should almost be full by the time you’re at the guardhouse.

Should I get one?

If you’re looking for an SUV with BMW and Mercedes-Benz on the list, then the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Ultimate should definitely be in consideration. It is a worthy competitor in many ways with aspects that make it exceptional: the battery range, comfort and practicality.

Penny pinching is unlikely in this market range but value is likely to factor in the buying decision. The Shah Alam-assembled XC90 is RM433,000*. That’s almost RM24,000 less than the RM457,000* BMW X5 xDrive45e M Sport from Kulim. Meanwhile the Mercedes GLE 450 4matic AMG Line, assembled in Pekan, is almost RM516,000*. It’s the most expensive because of the trio, it’s not a hybrid. The Volvo has a five-year unlimited mileage warranty – the other two come with two. All three marques have an eight-year, 160,000km hybrid battery warranty, potentially the EV owner’s most costly after-sale concern.

Perhaps what we like most about the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge Ultimate is how straightforward it is. There are no drive modes to set like ECO, Normal, Sport or Custom. There is the option to increase the steering weight in Settings which I did. The primary features, sound system and climate control, are easy to access without going through the touchscreen menu. As with other Volvos, there’s Google Assistant. (If you express your appreciation to her, she responds back with a heartwarmingly cheerful acknowledgement.) The only “how?” moment was with the twist-knob On-Off switch. Apart from that, all you’d need to do is get in, drive, concentrate on the road ahead.

*retail prices from manufacturer’s website, rounded up to the nearest thousand. Prices are inclusive of prevailing tax.