For all the strides the auto industry has collectively made in building versatile seven-seaters and practical plugin hybrids within the past decade, few carmakers have come close to finding the sweet spot achieved by Volvo when it gave us the XC90 T8 Twin Engine a few years ago.
And while the rest are still busy formulating the best way to bundle seven seats and a decently-sized battery into a single package, the Swedish outfit has gone on to improve the XC90 with better electric mileage, among other nice things.
In the 2019 facelift, the XC90’s lithium-ion battery, which hides within the centre tunnel to accommodate an extra row of seats in the rear, has grown from 10.4kWh to 11.6kWh in capacity. Volvo says the added juice will allow the XC90 to do up to 50km on electricity alone – about 15 percent more than before. We think 35km is a more realistic figure in the heat and congestion of Kuala Lumpur. Even then, you’ll still need a conservative right foot. But the XC90’s ability to operate as a pure EV over short distances in town is evident and highly welcomed.
Daily charging, be it at home using the provided cable or at a charging station near the workplace, brings out the best in Volvo’s flagship SUV. And we don’t just mean that in an economical sense. You’ll need a full charge to make the most of the T8’s combined output, rated at a lofty 407bhp and 640Nm, ideally in ‘Hybrid’ or ‘Power’ driving modes. In truth, some European SUVs on strict petrol diets that give them 100-150 less horses to work with feel punchier than the XC90 on the move. But the effortlessness of the near 2.4-tonne Volvo in full flight – four-pot turbo powering the front wheels while an electric motor mobilises the rear – is mighty impressive.
Obviously, this haste only lasts as long as the battery holds a charge. Fortunately, transitions between electric and petrol propulsion in the XC90 are always fluid thanks in part to its silck eight-speed auto. Even when the engine is tasked to charge the battery – you can command this via the central touchscreen – the drive still feels decent despite being left with what’s essentially a sub-250bhp FWD SUV. NVH levels are also expertly attenuated under most driving conditions, such is Volvo’s dedication to its luxurious craft – our only gripe here being the rear air dampers, which can be slow to react to potholes and narrow speed humps.
Speaking of luxury, Volvo has refined the design of the T8’s Orrefors crystal gear knob and brought back the 19-speaker, 1,400W Bowers & Wilkins audio system for the Inscription Plus variant pictured – the latter really does transform the XC90’s cavernous interior into a Swedish concert hall.
A few subtle tweaks to the exterior, such as a new grille adopted from the S90 and revised 20-inch alloys, help raise the bar even though the overall product is largely unchanged at its core. The XC90 was already highly competent to begin with, and its undecided suitors might be more compelled to give it a second look now, before the next festive period comes around.
|Seven-seat practicality, improved electric range and immersive B&W audio setup||Lazy suspension and touchscreen-based UI; nothing beats physical AC dials|