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  • Writer's pictureAlain Kuhn Von Kuhnenfeld

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

This week we are reviewing the 2019 Volvo XC90 T8 in the Inscription trim. Our vehicle was assembled in Sweden at the Torslanda plant. Our test car has an MSRP of $96,150 CAD.

Fun Factor: 7

Can it Family: 8

Fuel-Friendly: 8

HWY-warrior: 8

Karaoke Friendly: 8

Baby-friendly: 9

City Cruising: 9

After several requests from Volvo fans that follow our page, we finally got our hands on the luxurious XC90 T8. This powerful SUV has 400hp and a combined torque figure of 472 lb-ft between 2200-5400 rpm. These figures could easily come from a V8 engine; however, Volvo has embraced a more ecological drivetrain powered by 2 engines, hence the same Twin Engine. It's powered by the traditional 2.0L turbocharged & supercharged engine, which is found in almost all Volvo products today, it powers the front wheels with 313hp, and it also has an all-electric engine with 87hp pushing the rear wheels. The 87hp engine is powerful enough to move the big XC90 thanks to the torque it produces. That small electric engine boasts 177 lb-ft of torque on its own. It's powerful enough to drive at highway speeds; we were able to push it up to 120km/h without the engine turning on. With all that power, we were able to achieve the 0-100km/h in our real-life test in 5.95 seconds. Volvo announces a figure of 5.6 seconds to 100km/h; it should be attainable with sportier tires. Our test was conducted with the Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season that are good allrounders to obtain the best fuel economy possible. One thing that the XC90 can't hide is, it's weight. You'll notice right away that the overall balance of the vehicle gets easily upset around corners, we think the all-season tires didn't help it's the case either. The turning radius of the XC90 is not compromised in any way, though; it's actually better than the one found on the BMW X5. Where the XC90 really shines is how comfortable and relaxing it feels to drive. We also enjoyed that while being quite fast, the XC90 doesn't feel brutal when accelerating and smooths out road imperfections; hence, the assures the overall comfort for all passengers. Even with all this weight, the XC90 T8 slows down to a stop quickly, and this in a confident manner.

Can the XC90 T8 bring the whole family, or is the seating space compromised with the battery? The great thing about the XC90 compared to its competition is that in the hybrid version, you still get 7 seats (a 6-seat version is also available offering captain chairs). Currently, this is a niche market with a limited number of models offering electrified propulsion with a plug. Our Volvo was equipped with the comfortable amber Nappa leather seats, which gave fantastic support and were a dream to sit in during longer drives. The only downside we found with the seats in the XC90 is that smaller drivers need to push their seat quite high and see themselves towering; on the flip side, taller drivers may have a hard time finding a low enough seating position. The front seats are both ventilated and heated, and the steering wheel is also heated.

Regarding the heated seats, they must be among the warmest we've tested; they'll cheer you up even in the coldest weather. The outer seats in the 2nd row also offer heated seats. As for seating capacity, the 2nd row provides seating for 2 adults. The central place would be fit for a child; all seats can be adjusted individually for additional legroom. The 3rd row can accommodate adults for shorter trips; however, they are better suited for children. Our toddler gleefully discovered a small Easter egg in the storage compartment of the 3rd row; there's a spiderweb design with a spider, a cute little detail from Volvo. With the 3rd row up, the trunk space is limited; a small stroller will fit in the trunk, and you'll still have space for shopping. With the 3rd row folded, the XC90 becomes very versatile for hauling larger items, and when the 2nd row is folded sky is limit.

The strong point of the XC90 T8 Twin Engine is its electric motor with 11.6-kWh, Volvo announces a range of up to 30km. During the time we tested the XC90 with the heating or the A/C on, we saw a fully electric range of 37km in the city. It would be possible to achieve an even longer range if these amenities are turned off. The range shrank to 20km when we drove at HWY speeds over 110km/h. You can select one of 2 driving modes using the gear lever the traditional D will offer little regenerative breaking or B which will slow down the car to regenerate the battery; in this mode, it is almost possible to drive with the accelerator alone. The XC90's regenerative braking system doesn't seem to fully take advantage of all the power going back to the battery in several instances going downhill; it took longer to put back energy into the battery versus other PHEV we tested recently. There are 2 possibilities to charge the battery fully; either using a regular wall outlet 110V that took 7 hours overnight in our test or using a level 2 took around 2 and half hours to get to 100%. We would have loved to see a faster charging option for the XC90, such as on the Mitsubishi Outlander that offers faster charging to about 75%.

How is the fuel consumption once the battery has died? We saw a combined consumption of 6.1L/100km driving a distance of over 600km. 300km of the test was done on the HWY with fuel consumption of 9.2L per 100km, and in the city, if your commute is between 25-30 km one way and only charge at home, you can expect fuel consumption of 5.5L/100km. If you get the chance to charge at home and work, this will get you closer to 0.0L/100km without having range anxiety. Volvo announced a fuel economy of 9.8L/100km City, 8.7L/100km HWY and 9.3L/100 Combined. Those numbers are better than the T6 even if you do not charge the XC90; however, for best results, it's suggested to charge your XC90 overnight. With one fuel tank, you should expect about 600-700km on your road trips.

On the HWY, the XC90 feels stable; with a little subtility under heavy acceleration, the gas engine generates a little bit of torque steer as the rear wheels don't push as much as the front wheels. The opposite is true at low speeds where the rear wheels push more than the front wheels giving it a slight RWD bias at slow speeds. As for the optional features, our XC90 got the full suite of Pilot Assist with the adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist & lane keeping. The adaptive cruise control is pretty good. It's one of the most secure we've tested as it slows down with the flow of traffic and doesn't just brake abruptly when a vehicle decides to get in front of you. All in all, the driving experience on the HWY is what you would expect from Volvo quiet, relaxing, and a feeling of security; this experience is enhanced when you're commuting in the full EV mode. The insulation in our inscription model is hands down one of the best we've tested this year.

How's the sound system in the XC90 with the 19 high-end speakers pushing out an astonishing 1400W. The system sounds good, however not as good as what we experience in the V60, perhaps due to its size the sound doesn't travel as good as it did in the V60. Yes, we are nitpicking, the untrained ear will not realize the difference between both. What we did find is that EDM and Urban music didn't sound as good as songs that had more of an acoustic arrangement. Now going to the Infotainment, the Sensus connect from Volvo system is loved by some and disliked by others. In our opinion, the initial learning curve may be longer than your standard system, especially as most commands do not have any physical buttons. As we mentioned in the V60 and in the XC40 we tested, once you've set up all your favourite icons in their spot, the systems will make a lot of sense and will operate quickly without any lag.

The XC90 only offers two seats where child seats can be attached using ISOFIX ports. Those are the two outer seats found in the 2nd row, the middle seat can still fit a booster seat and can be anchor using the latch behind the seat. The 3rd row can accommodate booster seats; however, they can't be latched on. Your children will need a little bit of help getting into the XC90 as the vehicle is higher, and they will require assistance with opening the door. Once in the car, the height of these seats make it easy for them to take place by themselves. The seatbelts in the 2nd and 3rd row are placed in such a way that they don't rattle and are easy for children to grab and buckle themselves in a breeze. One thing we found more challenging was putting the 2nd-row seats back up after moving them forward to access the 3rd row; you'll need both of your hands to put back the seat, or it may get stuck in an awkward position. Another point to keep in mind is that once a child seat is installed in the 2nd row, it will limit access to the 3rd row.

We usually don't give a high score to big SUV's for city driving; however, the XC90 due to its hybrid powertrain earns a couple more points as you can easily drive 35-40km in the city without needing any fuel. The electric engine on its own can sometimes feel as if it could get a little push when driving away from a still stand, but once the massive XC90 gets rolling, the EV power feels adequate for city driving. A little anecdote: while using the self-parking feature, it got us in the tiniest spot where the XC90 could fit and did so without too much hassle. We might have had 6-7 inches of space in front of us and the same in the back. Getting the XC90 out was another story as the system found it a little too challenging to get out by itself because someone else parked their car even closer to us than we initially parked. At that point, the 360 camera was our best friend to get us out of that pickle. The camera is of excellent quality and can change angles depending on the situation. As for blind spots, even with the size of XC90, we generally had good visibility, and if unsure, the BLIS system was able to gage cars in our blind spot quickly without hesitation.

Why would we buy the XC90 T8 or what we liked about it: The T8 variant is offered in all trims; you may get the base momentum trim and still get the Plug-in Hybrid powertrain. Lots of interior space, extremely comfortable seats, quiet interior, the modern design easily recognizable, a great community between Volvo owners and also proud owners. Elegantly fast, easy to drive overall, we were delighted with the vehicle.

Why we wouldn't buy the XC90 T8 or what we didn't like about it: No fast charging available, only levels 1 and 2. Its battery could get another battery bump to have a range of up to 75km so that most people could drive back and forth when they don't have access to a charging station at work. The elephant in the room is the price tag, getting close to $100k isn't cheap.

Volvo Cars of Canada has lent us this vehicle for one week as a press vehicle, we have no affiliation with Volvo Cars of Canada, and the above is a recollection of our personal opinion of the vehicle referred to above.

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