Timeless Luxury |

Since its launch in 2002, the Volvo XC90 established itself as one of the better options within the mid-sized SUV segment. Now in its second generation and with numerous awards under its belt, the XC90 is evidence that the folks in Gothenburg, Sweden, know how to build a good family car. Graciously, and in the wake of the XC90’s 2021 minor refresh, Volvo sent us the T8 Recharge model so that we could have a taste of its vision for future sustainability.

Exterior Impressions 

The saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” accurately encapsulates the XC90 T8 Recharge. So ahead of its time was the design of the second-generation XC90 that now, almost seven years later and without any significant changes, the car still looks fresh. I have always been a believer in the minimalistic take on design that Volvo has been using in its recent cars. For 2021, the bodywork of the XC90 remains largely untouched, although keen-eyed enthusiasts will notice the subtle changes to the front grille and front splitter. 

Customers can choose from two trim options: Inscription and R Design. Both trims exude serious kerb appeal, with the R Design leaning towards a more aggressive aesthetic and the Inscription being the more elegant proposition. Both trims also come with trim-specific design elements, including 20” diamond cut alloys. All in all, the XC90 continues to boast handsome looks rich in Scandinavian minimalism.

Interior Impressions

This minimalistic approach is carried through into the interior with huge success. Where other manufacturers depend heavily on throwing gimmicks and numerous touch screens at their cars to make them feel special, Volvo decided to take a more restrained approach. 

Your first impression from the moment you enter the cabin is how effortlessly sophisticated the cabin feels. There are various materials to choose from, but the result is always a premium finish regardless of choice. The XC90 is also a spacious vehicle and can comfortably seat seven adults. Unlike some of its competitors, it does not sacrifice the third row to accommodate a hybrid system battery pack. However, the battery system does eat up about 40 l of cargo space, which you will hardly miss with the 302 l on offer with the third row up. Collapse the third row, and the cargo space grows to 680 l.

The XC90 is certainly not lacking in the technology department. Centre stage on the dash is a vertically oriented touchscreen infotainment screen. Through this, you can interface with all of the car’s electronics, from Android Auto and Apple Car Play connectivity to the air conditioning system. This intuitive touchscreen interface helps to declutter the dash, although interacting with it while driving can be a bit of a nuisance. In addition to the infotainment settings, the driver also has access to a fully digital instrument cluster accessed through a multi-function steering wheel. 

Our test car came with a host of safety features, including Intelligent Driver Information System (IDIS), Intellisafe Assist, Road Sign Information System and Run-off Mitigation (which steps in when you unintentionally stray off the road). For added convenience, our test car also came with park assist, which employs cameras to give you a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the car and its surroundings, adaptive cruise control, and semi-autonomous Pilot Assist functionality. Volvo has garnered a cult-like following for comfort and safety, and the XC90 does not detract from that revered perception. 

Driving Impressions

Volvo caused a bit of a stir back when they announced that the XC90 would be powered strictly by a choice of three 2.0 litre 4-cylinder engines. Given the size of the XC90, it is easy to see why such a package would be instantly worrisome. All that mass requires a power plant with sufficient clout to get it moving. Surprisingly, though, Volvo has managed to achieve this by employing what we can only imagine is Swedish mad science. 

Our T8 came with a twin-charged 2.0-litre unit. Using a combination of a supercharger, a turbocharger and an electric motor, the T8 is capable of 300 kW and 640 Nm of power. This enables this big cruiser to accelerate to 100 km/hr in just 5.6 seconds and onwards to a governed 230 km/hr top speed. Volvo has compensated for the engines’ lack of displacement with added tech, and the results are tremendous.

However, as impressive as the numbers are, you will rarely find yourself pushing the XC90 to its limits. Spirited driving is undoubtedly not its forte. Instead, the serene environment of the cabin, together with the plush execution of it all, encourages you to drive in a relaxed and leisurely manner. The forced induction units work in tandem, with the supercharger getting to work in the lower rev range and the turbocharger unit taking over once the revs build up. With this synergy, there is a smooth but urgent responsiveness to the throttle whenever you step on it. 

So, while the XC90 is not the first name in exciting driving dynamics, it has enough thrust to be an excellent highway cruiser. It also rides well on the optional air suspension system and manages to minimise roll around the corners. The steering is light, and this makes it easy to pilot. Overall, the driving experience of the XC90 is calm and comfortable – as would be expected from a Volvo.

Being a hybrid, the T8 has the ability to driving solely on electric power. Volvo claims you can get about 46 km from a full charge before the battery runs out. While 46 km may not sound all that impressive, think of the length of your average daily commute. Theoretically, you could engage the all-electric mode and silently waft around the city during your errands without burning a single drop of fuel or emitting a single gram of ozone degrading gases. And, the added convenience of it all is that the battery can be easily charged overnight at home. The hybrid system also boosts overall fuel efficiency, with Volvo claiming 3.3 l/100 km.

Last Word

There are plenty of options to choose from in the ever-growing SUV universe, but few are executed as well as the XC90. In its T8 form, the XC90 becomes an even more compelling offering. Its looks are timeless, and the cabin is well made and luxurious. While the range on the battery pack is a bit on the scant side, the overall economic benefits of the hybrid system cannot be overlooked. Starting at R1,450,000, the XC90 T8 is certainly not cheap but is well worth the damage to your life’s savings.


Previous article
Next article



Most Popular