REVIEW | Volvo’s XC90 T8 Recharge consumes zero liters per 100 km, and it’s a pleasure to drive

  • We didn’t use any fuel for the daily run, thanks to keeping the battery charged overnight.
  • The load shedding did not affect charging as the car has a relatively small battery at 11kWh.
  • It’s got enough performance to satisfy enthusiasts, but it’s a stately drive that likes to glide along the road.
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Volvo has reintroduced its XC90 Premium Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) in South Africa in early 2022. We recently evaluated the top-end T8 Recharge variant in R-Design specifications. A 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine powers this model, but it doesn’t do the heavy lifting on its own.

The unique selling point of the T8 Recharge is its electric motor (adapted to 107kW in this case) which allows it to accompany traffic in pure electric mode. That means you won’t use gas if you stick to commuter speeds, and if you’re driving less than 50 miles a day in total around town, you won’t use gas at all.

Mated to the high-power electric motor, an 11 kWh (usable) lithium-ion battery is arranged in three layers (compared to two in the predecessor). The battery will give you around 55km of quoted range in Pure mode (Volvo’s e-drive setting). I was skeptical that that 55km charge would quickly diminish to the pace of morning traffic, but was pleasantly surprised.

The XC90 T8 Recharge can run in full EV mode

No fuel used on weekdays

My child’s school is located about 5 km from my home in a high traffic suburb. I have to negotiate a lot of stop-start traffic, and while the T8 Recharge offers braking energy recuperation, you don’t build up enough speed to harness enough energy from regeneration. Nonetheless, I left the house each day with a keen eye on the battery life indicator in the digital instrument cluster. The range remained true. If I drove 5 km, the car used 5 km of battery.

I would “drive a little faster” on return trips to see if the battery would drain faster, and of course it does, but the range hasn’t fallen off a cliff like this. was the case in the previous generation model. If you use ‘B’ mode on the eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, you can quickly top up a few miles and still have a little fun driving. You don’t need to step on the accelerator as the car is tuned to manage its battery efficiently.

For four days I drove to school and back, and on those days I would start the vehicle, select Pure (electric) mode and keep it in that mode for the duration of the drive. I also made daily trips to local stores to see how far I could ride before range (and time) anxiety kicked in. I was riding over 30km a day and still had over 20km of battery reserve.

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At night I plugged the car into my 7kW AC wall charger at home, and every morning I had a full battery. Load shedding and blackouts plagued our commuter during the test period, but the car was still charged with electrons and ready for the next day. 11kWh won’t take long to charge, so if you plug in your XC90 around 7:00 p.m., it’ll be fully charged in two hours using a 7 kW wall box at a max output of 32A. Just make sure your house can handle this kind of power draw through the electrical panel, otherwise you’ll trip the lights and the fridge, and you won’t be very popular at home.

Volvo notes that most premium vehicle owners travel less than 50km a day, so you may never use that fantastic supercharged, turbocharged petrol engine under the hood if you’re one of those people. Only used the gas engine twice to go to the airport and back for a few errands.

Volvo XC90 T8 Refill

Volvo XC90 T8 Refill

Always economical when sipping unleaded

While the main takeaway from my time with the XC90 T8 Recharge is that it can be used as an everyday electric car, you have this amazing flexibility to go long distances thanks to its petrol engine. I locked the vehicle in hybrid mode for a few trips to the airport, and was impressed that it consumes (worst case) about 4.4 liters per 100 km. Volvo claims that the car will consume 1.8 liters per 100 km on the combined cycle if you leave it in hybrid mode all the time.

If you’re constantly using its 340kW and 709Nm of combined performance, you can expect fuel economy to suffer. Chase its zero-to-60 mph sprint time of 5.3 seconds, and you’ll see the bad side of 12 liters per 100 km. The thing is, the car rides with such grace and hones the road with all that low-end torque that you enjoy it more as a laid-back cruiser than a Bahn-stormer. And we haven’t touched on the luxury and practicality of the car.

Ideal for executives with large families

Our test car came with the seven-seat pack. The middle and rear rows offer a relatively decent amount of legroom, but more importantly, you can fit up to four ISOFIX child seats in this behemoth without breaking a sweat. Using the vehicle as a five-seater, with the rearmost seats folded down, you can access a huge amount of cargo space that will easily gobble up vacation or backpacking gear. Heck, if you’re a golfer, you can load the boot with at least four sets of clubs and still have room to toss the most annoying player in your four-ball into the trunk if you have enough for the day.

Suppose you are used to driving a car with features. In that case, there’s plenty here that comes as standard, like Google-enabled infotainment, advanced driver aids (ADAS), park assist, autonomous emergency braking and more. In fact, as standard, there’s nothing you’d want to add to the T8 Recharge. Volvo SA, however, has added a few options to showcase the technological masterpiece that is the car.

Our car had an optional panoramic sunroof, advanced air filtration (PM 2.5), air suspension, head-up display, 360 degree camera system , a massage function for the front seats and a set of high-end Bowers & Wilkins speakers. These options complement an outstanding standard feature set, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another premium SUV as well-equipped as this vehicle at this price.

So, is it worth buying?

If you want to experience the future now, the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge is the perfect vehicle to prepare you for an all-electric life on the road in the years to come. With the options fitted to our car you’re looking at around R1.7m but when you look at the long term ownership proposition of only having to refuel for longer journeys the car makes sense.

To charge the battery at home, I spent about R80 on electricity for four days of driving.

It’s a very compelling car, and if you already drive a large vehicle like an X5, GLE or Q7, you might want to visit your local Volvo dealer to take one of these hybrids for a spin because it will change your vehicle electrification.

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We’ll have one in a heartbeat, as it will mean no fuel for five days a week, and we can still use it as a family vehicle for those trips to KZN from Johannesburg without worrying about charging a big car battery electric. For now, it’s the perfect solution before going all-electric.

The XC90 T8 Recharge comes with a five-year or 100,000 km mechanical warranty and a five-year maintenance plan with Volvo on Call emergency roadside assistance. The battery itself is guaranteed for eight years or 160,000 km.

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