2016 Volvo XC90 T8: Seven Seats, a Plug and Lots of Speed

Written By: EightySix

Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

This week at the Chicago Auto Show, Volvo introduced a plug-in version of a long-time favorite. Since its launch in 2002, the XC90 has been Volvo's top selling vehicle in the United States. In 2005, it sold over 85,000 units worldwide. But it has remained largely unchanged since its birth.

Until now.

The new exterior has sharper lines and fewer curves. The T-shaped "Thor's Hammer" head-lamps replace the old round ones and are intended to become a new signature for the Swedish company. Thinner pillars and a lower waistline lead to improved visibility.

A Four-Cylinder Outlook

Volvo is moving into a future powered mainly by four cylinders. With a creative turbocharged and supercharged approach, they aspire to leave eight, six and five cylinder engines behind. The second generation XC90 was also built from the ground up to accommodate electrification.

The T8 power-train features almost every trick in the book. It begins with a 2.0 liter engine with a supercharger to add low-end power. A turbocharger kicks in later in the RPM range. A small electric motor adds additional horsepower. This setup powers the front wheels.

In the back, a larger electric motor drives the rear. Combined, they provide 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. Top speed is 155. Zero-to-sixty is 5.9 seconds. That's one second faster than the non-hybrid T6. Designers are learning from Formula One that combining the best attributes of gasoline and electricity can create awesome performance.

Five Driving Modes

  • Hybrid - Gas and electric power are balanced efficiently to provide an estimated 59 MPGe.

  • Pure Electric - The rear electric motor and regenerative braking are used for an emissions-free range of around 25 miles.

  • Power - Instant electric torque combines with turbo and supercharged gas power to produce maximum performance.

  • All-Wheel Drive - The car responds to wheel slip by engaging gas and electric in conjunction for maximum traction.

  • Save - Electric charge is preserved for later use while the gas motor recharges the battery.

Clean and Sharp Inside

The interior is bright, soft and open. Nappa leather cushions the occupants. The trim is a combination of wood and chrome. Custom Orrefors crystal on the gear lever, drive mode selector and elsewhere create a reflective elegance. The windows are large and the pillars are slim, leaving very small blind spots.

The 9.2 kWh lithium-ion pack is tucked into the center tunnel that would have housed the drive-line. Therefore it does not take up passenger or cargo space. Not every automaker turning a gas vehicle into something electric has integrated the battery so seamlessly.

The resulting cabin is spacious with lots of legroom for the second row. The third row takes a little wiggling to enter, but has ample space for two adults. To date, it is the only PHEV to provide seating for seven.

Volvo Safety, As Expected

Always focused on safety, Volvo boldly aims to take it further. The company believes that by 2020, no one will die or suffer a major injury in one of its cars. How will it achieve this? Superior crash durability and hot-formed boron steel rather than aluminum, but also with some ground-breaking technology.

Volvo is developing autonomous driving features not so drivers can drift off, but to keep them safe by eliminating potential driver error. Twelve ultrasonic sensors keep a 360 degree watch over the vehicle's surroundings.

Among the systems helping the XC90 keep humans safe are the Lane Keeping Aid with Driver Alert Control to sense the car leaving the road. Rest Stop Guidance monitors driver alertness, suggesting where and when to take a break. The Safe Positioning System adjusts seatbelts in anticipation of impact. Energy-absorbing material between the seat and the frame protect occupants from spinal injury.

Adaptive Cruise Control and Automatic Braking allow safe driving in traffic, on the highway and in the city. The system can identify pedestrians, cross-traffic and animals as well as vehicles ahead and behind.

For Family and Environment

This year Volvo is delivering something regular people have been looking for: a vehicle bigger than a city car that provides seating for the kids, electric range and safety. For at least $65,000, however, it still won't be for everyone.