Road Test Review – 2021 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription – The Next Step In Volvo’s Green Future

When it comes to large full-size luxury SUVs, few can hold a candle to the Volvo XC90. Despite debuting a few years ago, the XC90 is still one of the freshest luxury SUVs you can buy today and the perfect complement to the brand’s other models. But what would happen if you took some of the core essentials that made the SUV a hit with buyers and infused it with state-of-the-art electrification technology? That’s what we sought to find out when we recently spent some time with the Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription.


Clean XC90 Exterior Styling Hides Electrified Personality

When you first look at the Volvo XC90, you might not suspect that this Volvo is packing green technology. Unlike other green vehicles with a shoutier suit of clothes or go all out in exotic-looking badging, our Inscription grade tester prefers to retain its discreet personality. The exterior still looks clean and straightforward, but it still packs on the luxury with bright chrome accents helping to add some pop to the SUV. Our tester also came with 21-inch chrome wheels, they look great, but they also play a role in making this particular example feel a bit choppy at times (more on that later.)

As mentioned, the exterior styling is primarily shared with other XC90 models, but the beauty is in the details, and it’s here where our tester lets its secret out of the bag. There’s model exclusive badging, and the front fender houses a door that hides the charging port for the electric battery. An enduring highlight for us is the “Thor’s hammer” style headlights that not only look great at night but also work very well with the tidy chrome grille. While the exterior styling is starting to age a bit when viewed against some of its rivals, especially those that have been recently redesigned. That aside, the XC90 is still a very stylish package, and we suspect that it will continue to appeal to SUV buyers despite its wrinkles.


Roomy Interior Mixes Befuddling Sensus System With Opulent Luxury

When our tester was out on the move, it constantly impressed us with just how much noise was kept out of the cabin. While the bigger 21-inch wheels let in some tire roar, the tomb-like ambiance helps create a serene atmosphere. The comfort itself is a bit of a mixed bag. The front seats in our example felt like comfortable thrones with plenty of long-distance support, especially in the lower back. The second row is also a comfortable place to spend time in, but adults won’t like the narrow bottom cushion. The third row is predictably a space best left for children, but fold them down, and it allows the XC90 to swallow an extra 41.8 cubic feet of space with them folded. Fold both rows down, and the XC90 boasts 85.7 cubic feet of space.

But while practicality and luxury are strong hallmarks for the XC90, it’s also let down by the one thing shared with other Volvo models, the Sensus infotainment system. The screen quality here is crisp with plenty of warm colors. Still, the software is as cold as Jack Frost, and Ebenezer Scrooge will immediately be frustrated with the sheer amount of lag and the multiple steps needed to navigate through the entire system. Thankfully, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are bundled in, and the 9-inch screen has a decent amount of real estate for its segment. One final complaint centers around the charging ports, they are Lightning Connect only, and Android owners looking to charge their phone through the port will have to use a special adapter to make the connection.


Twin-Charged Performance For The Open Road, Silky Smooth EV Mode For The City

Performance for our tester comes from a 2.0-liter twin-charged (supercharged and turbocharged) four-cylinder, which is good for 313 hp and motivates the front wheels. The rear wheels get their locomotion from a small 87 hp electric motor with the combination producing 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. That allowed our tester to make the sprint to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds which is pretty energetic but don’t mistake the XC90 for a formal performance entry, with our example delivering copious amounts of body roll and steering that lacked the communication and heft needed for sharp cornering.

But while the XC90 T8 E-AWD will never be mistaken for a proper track darling, it truly shines when you let it frolic in its element. In this case, it’s when you let the rear-mounted electric motor take over. While it only offers 18 miles of pure electric range before the gasoline motor kicks in, we still managed to make the most out of the available range. To find out just how far we could push things, we used the Volvo to drive Emily to work at the Romeo District Library to see if we could make it there on pure electric only. In our case, we came very close, with the gasoline engine kicking in with only two miles remaining in our journey. Our tester delivered smooth albeit sluggish acceleration in EV mode, and it even works in freeway driving though that will cause your range to plummet quickly.


Value Quotient

Pricing for the 2021 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Recharge has a base price of $64,895 when equipped as an Inscription model, with the sportier R-Design having a slightly higher base sticker of $70,595. Our Inscription grade example arrived with several optional extras, which helped push the final sticker up to $81,690. That figure puts it in the upper reaches of the luxury SUV segment, but our tester is still noticeably less expensive than the $84,650 Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid as well as the Range Rover P400eand the BMW X5 xDrive 45e.

While the careful selection of optional equipment will help negate the sticker shock slightly, the XC90 in this guise is not pretending to be something that it’s not. Unlike other SUVs and electric cars that put on a more obvious song and dance about being long-distance EVs, the Volvo is doing its best to be its own distinct flavor of luxury SUV. It still has the luxury, capability, and utility needed for full-size SUV buyers. Still, the PHEV capability allows the XC90 to offer electrified driving in urban settings or even certain freeway driving situations, which will allow owners to stretch their fuel dollars farther and save some green too.


Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as

Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.

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