Owner Review

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design Hybrid review

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Let me start by getting my bias out on the table. I love Volvos. I grew up on Sydney's North Shore where Volvos are the family car of choice. I also learnt to drive in a 2002 Volvo V70XC and have since owned three Volvos before this one.

This Volvo however, is different. Very different. It's the first of the new direction for Volvo as a genuine rival to the German luxury brands.

Our XC90 is the T8 R-Design variant with the Polestar performance upgrade. This makes it the most powerful Volvo ever built (421 hp and 680 Nm) with a 5.5 second 0-100km/h – not bad for a seven-seat, three-tonne SUV. It also claims to achieve this on 2.1L/100km but that's not reality; I will get to this later.

The XC90 offers some incredible features such as IntelliSafe with Pilot Assist II (Similar to Tesla's Auto Pilot, this allows you to set the system on the freeway to drive, steer and brake for you – only catch is your hand has to remain on the wheel. You know, Volvo being safe and all), a full iPad style touch screen control, a crystal gear lever (yes, legitimately, the T8 comes with an Orrefors Crystal Gear Stick), Tri-Zone Climate, massive sunroof and all the other usual bells and whistles of a $100,000 plus SUV.

There are a few things that should be standard on a car of this calibre such as Premium Sound System (Bowers & Wilkins), Air Suspension (this option is a must if you elect to have the 22-inch Rims), Ventilated Seats (the R-Design only has heated seats), Apple Car Play, Pilot Assist II, and the list goes on and on. Chuck on some big wheels, Polestar Performance and a few other goodies and you've spent over $150,000. In saying that, it's worth it.

We have owned this car for nearly six months now and absolutely love it. It's got power when you need it, you can drive around town in "Pure" (EV) mode but you could also drive to Perth if you needed to thanks to the second turbo and supercharged petrol engine.

For a bucket load of fun you can put it into Performance mode and the suspension will drop, both engines will kick in (Electric Rear and Petrol Front) and the dash will change to RPM instead of electric power. This mode makes the XC90 unexpectedly fun to drive. You would be forgiven for thinking you were driving a rear-wheel drive sports sedan rather than a seven-seat Volvo SUV.

Now I should talk about its economy. Think you're going to achieve 2.1L per 100km? Dare to dream. In reality on the open road in Hybrid mode, I achieve about 6-7L/100km of premium (it only takes 98 RON) after the electric charge has run out. In saying this, I live in the country so I only usually do open road driving which is not what PHEV's are designed for.

However 90 per cent of my driving is conducted in Pure mode around town where I achieve about 35km of EV driving – enough for most people's daily commute. I can drive to Orange (about 100km away) on about four litres if I charge the car before I go.

If you are considering an XC90 T8 you also need to factor in the cost of a JetCharge Home Station (about $2500 installed). This will charge the car in two hours as opposed to Volvo's eight hours with the cord that comes with the car. This makes living with the car a breeze.

Now comes the time to mention the cons, besides the price tag. It has a few; within a minute or so of start-up there can be a bit of a lag with the computer screen that controls everything but this passes in 30-60 seconds.

There is no spare wheel, it comes with a repair kit which is probably not an issue for the Sydney-siders but when I live six hours west this could be an issue if your'e in the bush (not what this car was designed for).

The 35km EV only range is pretty pathetic but if you want true EV and not a PHEV, keep saving for a Tesla.

All in all, we are very happy with our XC90 T8. It's fast when you need it, it's an EV when you need it, it's as comfortable as a Range Rover and it can haul the family wherever you want to go.

If you're in the market for a luxury SUV that does't scream 'New Money' like a Range Rover, I would suggest that you put this Scandinavian beauty at the top of your shopping list.