2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD: Not your father's family hauler
Has any car company ever changed as much — and as successfully - as Volvo? The 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 AWD is about as far away from the company's early basic cars as possible. Instead, it is one of the best high-tech luxury crossovers on the market.
Along the way, Volvo's ownership has changed even more. It was founded in Sweden, where the first vehicles were made in 1927. The company did business with Renault and Mitsubishi before being acquired by Ford in 1999. And it has been a subsidiary of the Chinese automotive company Geely since 2010.
Volvo first became known in this country in the 1960s for building well made, reliable cars and station wagons. They were roomy, comfortable and safe, if a little on the dull side.
Today's Volvo's are still roomy, comfortable and safe, but they are anything but dull. The boxy styling that characterize the earlier models have been replaced with stylish designs across the board, from swoopy sedans to handsome crossovers. The previously underpowered but dependable inline four cylinder engine has been supplanted by advanced turbocharged versions — including an optional one that is also supercharged.
And now Volvo is plunging headlong into the electrified vehicle market. It announced in 2017 that all vehicles introduced since 2019 would be hybrids or plug-in hybrids. Every one introduced after 2040 will be all-electric.
The XC90 was first introduced in 2016. It is Volvo's largest vehicle, a midsize crossover that can be configured for six or seven passengers. The base Momentum model features a 250 horsepower turbocharged T5 engine and front-wheel-drive. The engine in the performance-oriented R-line adds a supercharger to produce 316 horsepower and adds all-wheel-drive. The top-of-the-line T8 model is a plug-in hybrid that adds two electric motors, bringing the total output to 400 horsepower.
The XC90 T8 E-AWD will travel 20 miles on electricity alone on a full charge before switching over to a conventional hybrid mode. That is not as much as some other plug-in hybrid crossovers, like the new Toyota RAV4, that will go 39 miles on electricity. But the Volvo's mileage is similar to other large plug-in hybrid crossovers, and 20 miles is still enough for most daily around town trips. It is also three miles more than last year's model, thanks to a slightly larger battery pack.
In a week of daily test driving, we found our fully-loaded XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription tester to be a thoroughly modern genuine luxury crossover. It was incredibly comfortable (Volvo makes the best seats in the business), remarkably quiet (even when the gas engine kicked in), and outfitted with advanced technologies (including the kinds of safety systems you'd expect in a Volvo). It also felt sporty for such a large vehicle, thanks to the T8's 400 horsepower and supple suspension.
And the 12.3-inch touch screen was not nearly as intimidating as before. Since Volvo first put such a large and sophisticated digital display in its vehicles, other manufacturers have followed with their own large screens, helping to make the iPad-style screen seem more or less normal.
Of course, all this engineering has a price — $86,790 to be exact, which will undoubtedly surprise fans of the earlier Volvos. Of course, so will the $48,350 base price. But these are different times and the XC90 T8 E-AWD is a different kind of Volvo. It is not trying to be merely a safe and reliable family hauler. It is competing successful against the best luxury crossovers in the world today.
2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription
Base price: $48,350 (T5)
Price as tested: $86,790
Type: Midsize crossover SUV
Powertrain: Super and turbocharged 2.0-liter plus two eelctric motors (400 hp, 427 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Off Road, Dynamic
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
EPA estimated mileage: 55 MPGe/27 gas only
Overall length: 194.9 inches
Curb weight: 5,068 pounds
Final assembly: Gothenburg, Sweden
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