2019 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

Volvo has had a renaissance for a few years now. From its hearty agrarian roots, to its German-baiting performance years, to now – a Premium Luxury division with impeccable style, the brand is extraordinarily capable of reinventing itself, while still keeping a Volvo a Volvo. And nowhere is that more notable than the Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD we recently tested.

Meet Thor’s Hammer

While its design is closely related to the Volvo XC60 we tested, the larger proportions of the XC90 really give visual heft, and conveys a premium quality.

Our tester was all that, starting with a bold front end, featuring the traditional upright Volvo grille. Funny, a few years ago, we might have called it large, but with carmakers like Lexus and Audi pushing the proportions to new lengths – or widths – the XC90 comes off as tasteful and restrained.

All the better to see the very cool “Thor’s Hammer” daytime running lights, that along with the available Full-LED headlamps and Active Bending Lights  (helps you see clearly around corners), make a unique visual statement that’s also quite functional.

The profile is modern and sleek, while still looking like a sensible SUV. A nice blend. Around back, LED lights frame the hatch, bulging out to give a broad-shouldered look.

Dressed in Crystal White Metallic ($645) and running massive, 21-inch diamond cut alloy wheels ($800) our XC90 turned heads and parted traffic – exactly what you’d want.

Scandinavian by Design

Inside is everything you’ve come to expect in a modern Volvo. The Inscription trim starts right out to spoil you – the Amber Perforated Nappa Leather looks, smells and feels rich. The matte finish Linear Walnut inlays span the dash and are a thing of beauty. Even the key fob is finished in Nappa leather!

It feels minimalist, yet luxurious at the same time. It’s beauty in the materials, without trying to overdo in frills – true Scandinavian. The small shift lever, the twist-to-start ignition nub, all tasteful. Keeping the info-clutter down, a large 9-inch tablet display in the center that Volvo calls “Sensus” lets you swipe through screens and gives easy access to just about anything you’d want.

Volvo is smart enough to realize that many buyers still want simpler, analog controls, so there’s a nice round volume knob at the bottom of the console with other audio controls for quick access. Tack så mycket! (Big thanks in Swedish for those of you playing at home). While it seemed intent on reflecting up on us when we took pictures, the legibility is excellent in actual use.

The $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins Premium audio system is superb – we especially liked the cavernous sound when simulating the Gothenburg Concert Hall. And with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along for the ride – you get all the connective tech you desire.

Keeping it simple and clean, there’s also a 12.1-inch Digital Driver Display serving up info. We like how it changes from a power flow meter in Hybrid mode to a tachometer in Power mode – the info that you need when you need it.  Our tester also had a handy heads-up display. We’re big fans of road sign/speed limit recognition – the XC90 is fast and smooth enough that a speed limit warning is appreciated.

The voice control system is also well designed, so looking away from the road is kept a minimum.

While this sounds impressive, it wasn’t enough for our tester, which also added the Luxury Package, piling on the goodies with front massaging seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, nubuck trim on the headliner and A, B, and C pillars, and leather-wrapped grab handles. Nice.

Buyers in this class of vehicle will be looking at the 3rd row seats, and like most of the competition here, that back row is best for kids. Adults in a pinch. Speaking of kids, our tester had the available integrated center booster cushion – a great idea. When not toting toddlers, drop the 3rd row and if you wish, 2nd row seats, and the cargo hold is massive. An added bonus, opting for the T8 Hybrid has no effect on cargo space. Good design here.

Massive Performance

Having experienced Volvo’s powerful 2.0-liter super and turbocharged engine before in the V90 wagon, we were floored – literally – by the power provided in the T8 plug-in hybrid model.  Non-hybrid models like the T6 enjoy a stout 315 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.

Nice numbers, until you see that the T8 hybrid punches out 400 horsepower, and 472 lb- ft of torque.

Wow! (Swedish for wow. No, really..)

This is a game changer.

The XC90 has so much power, served up so immediately, you’re giddy with joy.

Let’s just say we shocked a lot of so-called high-performance sedans.

And so you don’t feel guilty, you also get up to 17 miles in full EV mode on a full-charge.  And even with our frequent trips to the well of almighty torque, we averaged mid 20’s mpg. For a big, heavy, AWD SUV, Fantastic.

The ride and handling are nice too. With the optional adjustable 4-corner air suspension you get a relatively smooth ride – it still feels a little stiff-legged – due in part to the massive 21-inch rims. This is a big, tall vehicle, but it can be hustled convincingly.

Around town, the XC90 is easy to handle, and the 360-degree view monitor makes parking no sweat. Our only sour note – the brakes have a slightly artificial feel as you slow down, the regenerative braking isn’t as invisible as it is on other high-end hybrids. With this kind of performance, we’ll deal.

Bang for the Krona?

This is their premium flagship, so come with realistic expectations. The line starts at the XC90 Momentum, it’s an appealing model with a 250 hp, turbocharged 4-cylinder, 8-speed automatic, standard navi and a panoramic sunroof.

Being a Volvo safety is key, and you get their IntelliSafe suite standard, including City Safety Collision Avoidance Technology, Lane Keeping Aid, Road Sign Information, Run-off Road Mitigation, Oncoming Lane Mitigation, and driver assistance technologies such as Adaptive Cruise Control and Pilot Assist. 3rd row seats are standard across the board. Loads of style and comfort for $47,700

The R Design trim is the sporty one, and adds exterior and interior trim, 20-inch alloys, Nappa Leather and more. Yours for $54,950.

The Inscription trim, leans heavily on luxury, and includes chrome trim, walnut inlays, 12-inch driver info display, unique 20-inch alloys and more.  Non-hybrid models get the bump up to the 315 hp, turbocharged and supercharged engine. Starting at $62,350.

Our Inscription model featured the T8 hybrid powertrain, so it started at $66,300. We also enjoyed the Advance Package ($2,500) including Park Assist, Active Bending Lights, LED lights with “Thor’s Hammer” running lamps, and more.

Our much-loved Luxury Package, including the massing front seats added another $3,100. Add in Metallic Paint ($645), Integrated Center Booster Cushion ($300), those beautiful 20-inch, 8-spoke wheels ($800), Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound ($3,200), 4-corner air suspension ($1,800) and Destination ($995) and we had a very loaded luxury experience at the sticker price of $85,960.

Loading up an Audi Q7 got us a touch over $81,000. A Porsche Cayenne S ran over $97,000. So, we’ll say the Volvo sits comfortably in the segment.

That’s a lot of lingonberry pancakes, but you can still step up to the XC90 Excellence trim at $104,900. You do get four individual seats with massage, a refrigeration compartment – even Handcrafted Orrefors® crystal glasses – time to buy a lottery ticket. We want one!

We loved our XC90 for many reasons. It’s beautiful, superbly crafted, exhilarating yet fuel-efficient. It retains its Swedishness, and stands out from the crowd in that way.

The Swedish Brand’s largest SUV. It’s most muscular – 400 hp! – powertrain. Squared off looks that are athletic, yet bold.

This is our Thor. Chris Hemsworth, eat your heart out.

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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