- We used no fuel for the daily running around, thanks to keeping the battery topped up overnight.
- Loadshedding did not affect charging as the car has a relatively small battery pack at 11kWh.
- It has enough performance to satisfy enthusiasts, but it's a majestic drive that loves to glide along the road.
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Volvo reintroduced its XC90 premium sports utility vehicle (SUV) in South Africa earlier in 2022. We recently assessed the range-topping T8 Recharge variant in R-Design spec. A 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol 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 (suitable for 107kW in this instance), which enables it to keep pace with traffic in pure electric drive mode. This means you won't use petrol if you stick to suburb speeds and if you travel less than 50km a day in total around town, you will not use any petrol at all.
Mated to the high-power e-drive motor is an 11kWh (useable) lithium-ion battery pack arranged in three layers (as opposed to two in the predecessor). The battery pack will give you around 55km of indicated driving range in Pure Mode (Volvo's e-drive setting). I was sceptical that this 55km of charge would quickly diminish when keeping pace with morning traffic, but I was pleasantly surprised.
No fuel used during weekdays
My child's school is situated about 5km from home in a traffic-dense suburb. I have to negotiate lots of stop-start traffic, and although the T8 Recharge offers brake energy recuperation, you don't build up enough speed to harness enough energy from regen. Nevertheless, I would leave home each day with a keen eye on the battery range indicator in the digital instrument cluster. The range remained true. If I drove 5km, the car used 5km worth of battery.
I would 'drive a little faster' on the return journeys to see if the battery would deplete quicker, and of course, it did, but the range didn't fall off a cliff like it did in the previous-gen model. If you use the 'B' mode on the eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission, you can quickly replenish a few kilometres while still having a bit of fun while driving. You don't have to baby the throttle 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 journey. I would also pop out to the local shops daily to see how far I could drive before range (and time) anxiety kicked in. I would travel more than 30km each day, and I still had more than 20km in battery reserve.
At night, I plugged the car into my 7kW AC wallbox charger at home, and each morning, I had a full battery. Load shedding and rolling blackouts affected our suburb during the test drive period, but the car was always topped up with electrons and ready for the next day. 11kWh will not take a long time to top up, so if you plug your XC90 in around 19:00, it will be fully charged within two hours using a 7kW wallbox at a max output of 32A. Just make sure your home can support this kind of energy drawing through the electrical board, or you'll be tripping the lights and fridge, and you won't be very popular at home.
Volvo notes that most premium vehicle owners drive less than 50km a day, so you might never use that fantastic supercharged and turbocharged petrol engine under the hood if you are one of these people. I only used the petrol engine twice when driving to the airport and back for a few errands.
Still economical when sipping unleaded
While the key takeaway from my time spent with the XC90 T8 Recharge is that it can be used as an electric car every day, you have that extraordinary flexibility of driving long distances thanks to its petrol engine. I stuck the vehicle in Hybrid mode for a few trips to the airport, and I was impressed that it used (in the worst case) around 4.4 litres per 100km. Volvo says the car will consume 1.8 litres per 100km in a combined cycle if you just leave it in Hybrid mode all the time.
If you use its thundering combined 340kW and 709Nm of performance all the time, you can expect the fuel economy to suffer. Chase its zero to 100km/h sprint time of 5.3 seconds, and you'll see the wrong side of 12 litres per 100km. The thing is, the car drives with such grace and finesses the road with all that low-end torque so that you'll enjoy it more as a laid-back cruiser than a Bahn-stormer. And we haven't touched on the luxuriousness and practicality of the car.
Ideal for executives with large families
Our test car came with the seven-seat package. The middle and rear rows offer a relatively decent amount of legroom, but more importantly, you can get up to four ISOFIX child seats into this behemoth without breaking a sweat. Using the vehicle as a five-seater, with the rearmost seats folded, you can access a massive amount of cargo space that will easily swallow up holiday gear or hiking equipment. Heck, if you're a golfer, you can load the boot with at least four sets of clubs and still have room to throw the most annoying player from your four-ball in the trunk if you've had enough of them for the day.
Suppose you're used to driving a car with features. In that case, there are plenty of them here that come standard, such as Google-enabled infotainment, advanced driving aids (ADAS), parking assistance, autonomous emergency braking and much more. In fact, as standard, there's nothing you'd want to add to the T8 Recharge. Volvo SA, however, added some options to showcase the technological masterpiece that the car is.
Our car came with an optional panorama sunroof, advanced air filtration (PM 2.5), air suspension, a heads-up display, a 360-degree camera system, a massage function for the front seats, and a Bowers & Wilkins premium speaker package. These options rounded off an exceptional standard feature set, and you'll be hard-pressed to find another premium SUV that's as well-appointed as this vehicle at this price point.
So, it's worth buying?
If you want to experience the future now, the Volvo XC90 T8 Recharge is the perfect vehicle to get you ready for an all-electric life on the road in the coming years. With the options fitted to our car, you're looking at around R1.7 million all in, but when you look at the long-term ownership proposition of only having to fill up for longer trips, the car makes sense.
Topping up the battery at home, I spent around R80 on electricity for four days of driving.
It's a seriously compelling car, and if you're already driving a big vehicle like an X5 or a GLE or Q7, you might want to swing by your local Volvo dealer to take one of these hybrids for a spin as it's going to change your mind about the electrification of vehicles.
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 electric car battery. For now, this is the perfect solution before you go full-electric.
The XC90 T8 Recharge comes with a five-year or 100 000km mechanical warranty and a five-year Maintenance Plan with Volvo on Call roadside assist for emergencies. The battery itself comes with an eight-year or 160 000km warranty.