DRIVEN | Volvo's XC60 T8 and XC90 T8 - now recharged with new triple layer EV battery

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Volvo electric and hybrid cars out and about in Sandton.
Volvo electric and hybrid cars out and about in Sandton.
  • XC90 flagship, with 340kW on tap, can also drive in pure electric mode for petrol-free motoring.
  • XC60 range-topper can also go full EV, and it travels further than the XC90 before its battery dies.
  • Loaded with luxury, safety and comfort, and surprisingly competitively priced.
  • For motoring news, go to Wheels24

The all-electric XC40 P8 Recharge isn't the only battery-powered vehicle we got to sample at an exclusive Volvo Cars media event in Johannesburg earlier this month. The automaker allowed us to get behind the wheel of its revised XC90 T8 Recharge, which we experienced a couple of years ago pre-facelift, and the new XC60 T8 Recharge, a car they say will sip less than 2.0-litres of unleaded for every 100km travelled.

Volvo Cars aim to become a fully electric automotive brand by 2030. The company's spokespeople say local interest in electrified vehicles continues to grow. A hybrid is an enticing stepping stone to full-electric cars for the many South Africans considering switching to a more eco-friendly and fuel-efficient mobility solution. Let's tuck into the flagship XC90 T8 Recharge first.

Let us know if, and why, you're considering moving to a plug-in hybrid like the XC60 T8 Recharge or the XC90 T8 Recharge in the comments section below, or please send us an email here.

Volvo's refreshed range of hybrid and electric car
Volvo's refreshed range of hybrid and electric cars are now on sale in SA.

The most potent XC90 launched in SA

Not only is the refreshed XC90 packed with luxury, safety and comfort, it's also brimming with performance. The range-topping XC90 T8 Recharge offers a more robust rear electric motor that delivers 107kW of power. Combined with 233kW from its 2.0-litre four-cylinder forced induction petrol engine,  a thundering total of 340kW of power and 709Nm of torque is at your disposal.

The new e-motor improves all-wheel-drive capability, upping power sent to the rear wheels by 65%, enhancing performance and driveability. We felt this improvement on the wet and slippery roads around Sandton. When turning and planting the gas pedal, the vehicle felt more agile than its predecessor, almost as if Volvo fitted it with a fancy rear-wheel steering system.

Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge
Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge

Electric range too has been boosted. Courtesy of a new long-range hybrid battery pack featuring a third layer of batteries or cells, nominal energy has increased from 11.6kWh to 18.8kWh. If you set the car to drive in EV mode only, you could get up to 77km of mileage from it before the petrol engine fires up to start recharging the battery pack.

Read: Faster than an M car with a 575km range - meet BMW's lightning-quick iX M60

You might find it interesting to know that Volvo's local research shows that the average premium vehicle travels less than 50km a day. If this is the case for you, you'll easily be able to run this car in purely electric driving mode most of the time. You can let the petrol engine take care of recharging, or you can plug the XC90 in at home using a regular three-pin socket (a portable EV charging device is provided), or you can stick it on an AC EV charger for a quick top-up in a couple of hours overnight.

XC90 T8 Recharge can drive in full EV mode
XC90 T8 Recharge can drive in full EV mode

We had no issue running the vehicle in EV mode in rush hour traffic in Sandton. It easily kept pace with traffic, and the battery charge level did not fluctuate as it did in the previous XC90 hybrid we experienced. If you do a lot of low-speed traffic commuting, you will enjoy the instant delivery of torque, the smooth gear changes through the eight-speed torque converter autobox, and the sumptuous ride.

According to Volvo, in a combined cycle, you could achieve 7.2 litres/100km using the petrol engine from time to time. But, as we said, you can essentially just leave the vehicle in EV mode and keep the battery topped up via charging cable. The only time you'd need to fill this vehicle up is when you're taking the long road on holiday or a business trip between provinces.

Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge
Topping up the battery in the Volvo XC60 T8 Recharge.

Less than two litres of fuel for every 100km travelled

The car we were most interested in assessing was the XC60 T8 Recharge, which had never been available in SA before. It's powered by the same supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that's fitted to the XC90 above. It also sports the same triple-layer battery pack with 18.8kWh gross capacity and an electric motor setup. The exciting thing here is that Volvo says it sips 1.6 litres/100km in a combined cycle. Fantastic, as we expect fuel costs to skyrocket in the coming months.

You can also drive this XC60 in full EV mode, up to 81km, which is more emissions-free range than you'll get in the larger and heavier XC90. You can choose a driving mode through the onboard computer, now powered by Android Automotive. If you want to commute and do the average we mentioned of around 50km a day, you'll undoubtedly visit the fuel pump less. We averaged about 10 litres/100km in hybrid mode, but we drove a very short distance. We could see the consumption dropping, and we will certainly put the 1.6 litres/100km claim to the test when we put the vehicle through the Wheels24 test car garage in the coming month.

XC60 T8 Recharge goes from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 sec
XC60 T8 Recharge goes from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds

We briefly tested the Power driving mode around town, but let's just say that it was too potent. When that 340kW and 709Nm hits the tarmac, it rockets the XC60 toward the horizon like a sports car. They say it will do zero to 100km/h in less than 4.8 seconds. To put things into perspective, that's only a few fractions of a second slower to the benchmark than an Audi RS4 Avant. If you want performance and fuel savings, you can have it both with this XC60 T8 Recharge.

Read: BMW iX vs Jaguar I-Pace: Price tags aside, EV technology is becoming more attainable

Like the XC90 above, this car will self-regen the battery pack as it slows down or every time you touch the brake pedal, and you can keep the battery topped up at home using an AC wall box or the supplied charging device via a household 3-pin socket.

It felt very normal to drive, which is an excellent thing, as you aren't thrust into a world of massive tablet screens and armchairs that look like they belong in the USS Enterprise. The XC60 and the X90 offered all the creature comforts we needed, and they even came with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) to help us along the way. With active cruise control and steering assist engaged, the cars were sometimes driving themselves around Sandton, as long as we kept one hand on the steering wheel at all times. We also had to make the turns at intersections and things like that, but where traffic was flowing along Rivonia Road, the cars basically followed the traffic ahead, maintained speed and distance and steered through bends.

Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge
Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge

Pricey, but they might be worth it

The XC60 T8 Recharge (prices start at R1 218 900) and the XC90 T8 Recharge (prices start at R1 560 600) are not cheap cars. But, you get so much value and potential fuel savings that the asking price isn't that bad compared to some of the competitors' offerings. For example, this diesel SUV we recently tested costs as much as the XC60 T8 Recharge.

Considering the high level of luxury, safety, features and a decent warranty and Maintenance Plan, these cars might be a worthwhile consideration if you're tired of filling up your thirsty premium car. As fuel prices rise, we do not doubt that more affluent people will be flocking to Volvo dealers to look at hybrids. Look at how well the Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid models are doing around the R500 000 price point, and you'll see that we want hybrids in SA; no, we need hybrids in SA if we're going to be able to make a litre of fuel last longer.

Both models come with a five-year or 100 000km Maintenance Plan, and you get an eight-year or 160 000km warranty for the battery pack.

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