A Volvo, Plugged

A Victory & Reseda review of the 2020 Volvo XC90

Since it is #VOTY season, perhaps we should look back at one of the most memorable and significant winners of this award – the Volvo XC90.

#VOTY16 marked a series of firsts. The XC90 was the first SUV/Crossover to win the award. It was also the first European automotive brand to win the #VOTY. Not only was it the first Volvo to win, but it was the first two #VOTY awards in a row for the Swedish automaker.

While I worked with a couple of XC90s for this and other publications, I also worked with plenty of other Volvos. Every Volvo since the current XC90 followed a very simple formula in design, technology, safety engineering, and performance architecture. Practically every Volvo sold in North America is powered from engines based on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplant.

Over the past few years, these Volvos would come with a suffix of either T5 (the turbocharged version of the 2.0-liter engine) or T6 (the same turbo engine with an added supercharger on top of it). But, never a T8. Why would that be?

First of all, what is a T8 in contrast to a T5 or a T6? It is simple as adding an electric motor and a plug-in architecture to the T6 engine. The key is to plug the XC90 in to gain 20 miles of battery-only propulsion. That is if you don't expend your battery juice.

The solution is to go through a screen on the Sensus tablet-like interface. Swipe right and click on the Charge button. While you are driving, the battery gets rejuvenated just a little bit. Every time you brake, the kinetic energy recovery system does return some juice back into the battery pack.

If you are low on battery juice, don't worry! The turbocharged and supercharged gasoline engine will take care of business. This engine is actually one of my favorites I have driven. It delivers power when it needs to be taking on two sources of performance boost. In the XC90, the cabin is very quiet to keep out the hard-working double-boosted engine's noise.

Well, actually, there really isn't much noise to hear. A sign of a true luxury automobile in my book!

T8 models come with the eAWD system, which has the 87-horsepower electric motor attached to the rear axle. Combined, the T8 driveline puts out 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. An eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission shifts very smoothly and the entire driveline – electric motor included – is an absolute luxury driving experience.

There is more to this 2020 Volvo XC90 than just the T8 driveline. This signals a mid-cycle refresh for this popular mid-sized premium SUV. For example, the grille texture is different, taking on the S90/V90's scalloped design. There are some nips and tucks on the outside with some minor technology upgrades inside.

The T8 tester came in the Inscription trim – one of my favorite Volvo trim levels. You can choose between two seating configurations for the T8 Inscription, including the six-seat version that my tester had. With the six-seat configuration, the second-row has separate "captain's chairs." The third row is really for two passengers – preferably children.

In all, this is a very luxurious vehicle to be behind the wheel of. The sound from the Bowers & Wilkins audio system is divine. The seats offer many adjustments to fit your body – and to keep it from major fatigue. The instrumentation and head-up display help in ensuring the right information is within my eyesight and devoid of distraction from the road.

The level of luxury was heightened by a simple piece of crystal and chrome. Flipping the eight-speed transmission is a shift-by-wire actuator from Orrefors Sweden. This piece of art elevates the XC90 experience that should put the other Europeans, the Asians, and the Americans in the luxury car game to shame.

Overall space is fantastic – up to 85.7 cubic feet of usable space when the second- and third-row seats are down. The liftgate opens high and wide along with power closure. You can also lower the load height through some switches inside of the cargo hold with the aid of the XC90's available air suspension.

Speaking of the air suspension, the XC90 does more than just glide on the tarmac. It works hard to absorb bad pieces of tarmac from the cabin. However, handling and concerning is on the softer side, while competent in situations with some driver interaction.

The brakes are solid, though it can get grabby when the in-line charging is activated. Pedal feel is good in any case and response to the wheels is just fine. The steering is also just fine. The on-center feel is a bit soft, but the response from the steering wheel to the road is pretty good. One complaint would be vision at the corners of the vehicle. Without using the cameras and sensors up front, one could have an issue trying to do precise maneuvers when parking.

As for fuel consumption, even with the battery in use, I returned an average of 24.4 MPG. Honestly, I was hoping for a better average. I did see much higher averages earlier in my time with the XC90 T8 – up to 27.3 MPG.

For all of this, how much would you say this 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription would cost? Well, it came with a sticker price of $86,990. The 2020 XC90 starts off at $48,350 for a front-drive T5 Momentum model. Plug-in T8 models start at $67,000. Somewhere within all of these figures is your next XC90.

My experience with this 2020 XC90 T8 Inscription points to the many reasons why it won #VOTY16. And, why it has become one of my favorite favorites to work with during this entire career.

One would easily be accused of gushing over the XC90. Just like some kid in the 1970s and 1980s gushing over the level of luxury found in a 264GLE, 262C, or 780. Today's Volvo is expected to play in the sandbox with the other premium and luxury brands. Yet, one should always pursue the fact that a Volvo stands out with its own expression of premium and luxury.

Adding the T8 driveline also adds a want of greener motoring. However, one could also enjoy the overall power that is effortless in a vehicle that is designed for a plug-in hybrid architecture. It should come as no surprise that Volvo is making good on their strategy of more electrified vehicles as we enter into the new decade – plug-in hybrids and full battery models, included.

Meanwhile, take a look at the 2020 Volvo XC90. Try out the T8 driveline. And, choose your trim level wisely.

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Volvo Car USA

All Photos by Randy Stern

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