Is Volvo’s plug-in hybrid SUV a viable solution for frugal executive motoring? We’ve spent the summer finding out
Matt Prior
5 December 2016

The ‘test best’ economy figure in the specs below tells you how best to use a Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid. ‘Infinite mpg’, it says, which is an achievable, if unlikely, state of affairs in which to find a seven-seat luxury SUV. 

Certainly it’s unlikely if you use an XC90 T8 like we have been for the past 8000 miles. The T8 – which has a petrol engine and an electric motor – replaced a D5 diesel XC90, in which we’d covered nearly 18,000 miles while returning 37mpg.

Do short journeys in a T8 and its plug-in hybrid system, which suggests an electric-only range of 25 miles, means you can do rather better than the mid-30s to the gallon you’ll get in the D5 – which is how it comes to get a 49g/km CO2 rating and sits in vehicle excise duty band A.

Short journeys, though, aren’t really what an XC90 excels at. So let’s get it out of the way: worst case, if you don’t charge the T8 at all, is that you’ll see between 29mpg and 31mpg from its 2.0-litre petrol engine, which is both turbocharged and supercharged. Which ain’t bad for a 2.2-tonne SUV but hardly deserving of a 49g/km CO2 rating. That, though, is the way of things until a new vehicle testing regime arrives, and it’s no surprise that a multinational conglomerate has optimised its car to the rules just like everyone else. And if you have, say, a short weekly commute to a station but want to be able to do longer drives at weekends, the T8 is a viable, frugal, one-family-car option.

Our Verdict

Volvo XC90
The new Volvo XC90 costs from £45,750

It has big boots to fill and talented rivals to face. Is it up to the task?


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Around town, where speeds are low and there’s plenty of easing off the gas to regenerate the battery, an electric-only range of high-teen miles is achievable, after a charge on a domestic socket that takes about 3hr 45min. But most of my drives are long ones, so I didn’t do much plugging in during the T8’s time with us. My commute gets me onto higher-speed roads quickly, and even in the Pure driving mode, which locks the T8 into electric power wherever possible, the 86bhp electric motor frequently gets augmented by the petrol engine above 60mph – in which case the battery lasts long enough to give the petrol engine pre-charged assist for as much as 25 miles. Thereafter, battery reserves only come from decelerative regeneration and the average economy gradually slips, from nowt, to 50mpg on a 70-mile drive and eventually down towards the 30s.

So you pick your XC90 variant carefully. What you get in the rest of the T8 package are the same things you get in other XC90s.

This is the first Volvo of a massive regeneration of the company’s range. It was launched barely more than a year ago, but since then the S90 and V90 have arrived too, all using the same modular platform. Lessons learnt in development of the S/V90 mean some detail improvements have already been put onto the XC90. This T8 rode with a little more composure than the early D5 we ran and seemed to have less road noise.

Volvo’s Sensus infotainment set-up has also been mildly refined, although it still feels ‘new’. There are few obvious foibles, but it did crash on me a couple of times. The time-honoured ‘turn it off and back on again’ IT solution worked, but internet forums suggest it wasn’t a problem exclusive to this car.

The system, though, like the rest of the XC90’s interior, is worthy of the car’s executive price tag and status. Volvo may be owned by a Chinese company, but the Swedes have been given their head in terms of design and style. The cabin is light, airy and exquisitely well put together. And it’s spacious. The seats in the middle row are the same size as the pair, fitted as standard, in the boot, making the XC90 the kind of car parents should be wary of buying unless they want to be the default nomination for the kids’ football or birthday party duties – or a road tester’s lunchtime trip to M&S/KFC.

I drove it one up to the Goodwood Festival of Speed and only half-filled the back with camping gear – which doesn’t sound like much of a boast but, well, I didn’t want to travel light: tent, double mattress, gazebo, mountain bike, two-hob stove, a couple of Swedish torches, fold-up sofa, that sort of thing. Off-road experts will tell you wet grass is one of the hardest things to traverse, but the T8 dealt with it well, with minimal obvious electronic shuffling of power; the engine sends drive to the front wheels, while the electric motor powers the rear.

The batteries sit down the middle of the car where a propshaft would usually be. That’s why the T8 is a 2.2-tonne (rather than two-tonne) SUV, and why its towing limit is 2400kg rather than the diesel XC90’s 2700kg. Another thing to ponder, then, if you’re wondering which variant to opt for. But one thing is certain: any is an extremely pleasant place in which to spend a lot of time – either in one internally combusted go or several electrically charged hits.

Read our previous reports

Previous reports

First report 

Practical requirements

A popular holiday companion

Versatile load-lugger

Being mindful of the mileage


Mileage at start 465

Mileage at end 8023


List price then £64,555 List price now £64,555 Price as tested £70,725 Dealer value now £60,000 Private value now £61,500 Trade value now £63,000


Metallic paint £1000, Park Pilot/360deg camera £1000, winter pack with head-up display £950, Apple CarPlay £300, laminated side windows £750, upgraded leather £700, massage front seats £650, blind spot assist/cross-traffic alert/ rear collision mitigation £500, power side bolsters £200, power front seat base £120


Claimed economy 134.5mpg Fuel tank 50 litres Test average 31.1mpg Test best Infinite mpg Test worst 29.5mpg Real-world range 342 miles


0-60mph 5.3sec Top speed 140mph Engine 4 cyls, 1969cc, supercharged and turbocharged, petrol, plus electric motor Max power 316bhp at 5700rpm Max torque 295b ft at 2200-5400rpm Transmission 8-spd automatic Boot 314-1868 litres Wheels 9.5Jx20in Tyres 245/45 R20 Pirelli Cinturato Weight 2296kg


Contract hire rate £848.51 CO2 49g/km Service costs None Other costs None Fuel costs £1270 Running costs inc fuel £1270 Depreciation £7725 Cost per mile inc dep’n £1.19p Faults Occasionally erratic infotainment system

Join the debate


5 December 2016
up to I saw the paycheck which had said $8845 , I have faith that my friends brother woz like actualy erning money part-time on their apple labtop. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only 7 months and resently took care of the morgage on there mini mansion and bought themselves a Lancia . view it now....

5 December 2016
What's the point of getting a plug-in (regardless of mileage) if "... so I didn’t do much plugging in during the T8’s time with us. "

5 December 2016
xxxx wrote:

What's the point of getting a plug-in (regardless of mileage) if "... so I didn’t do much plugging in during the T8’s time with us. "

I agree they should have plugged it in, actually thought the report was better than many as it focussed on the vehicles strength, its practicality and comfort rather than how it 'andles and how proper quick it is. Sadly, but realistically many prospective owners will use it like this, as a minimal company car tax 0-60 in 5 seconds luxury car without plugging it in.

5 December 2016
If they'd plug it in every night and used the car every day for 4 months then of those 8000 miles 2400 of them would have been assisted electrically. Quite a chunk which would have up the mpg! (Assuming 20 miles per charge)

5 December 2016
The real point being a 40% taxpayer would save over £8000 in income tax a year compared to 3.0D Range Rover Sport 7 seat, on a 4 year lease £32,000 in your pocket and not the taxman is huge. Even the Range Rover hybrid works out about £6000 a year dearer as it still has 164g/km and the purchase prices are so high. A Range Rover might be more 'aspirational' but the Volvo is hardly slumming it!

5 December 2016
Great - let's all buy 5m long 7 seat cars and then only stick one kid in the back. These (and their peers) would be great if all 7 seats got used, but they never do! Me? Just me going to work = motorbike. Taking kids to school as well = hatchback. We live on a tiny island, not Texas!

5 December 2016
Deputy wrote:

Great - let's all buy 5m long 7 seat cars and then only stick one kid in the back. These (and their peers) would be great if all 7 seats got used, but they never do! Me? Just me going to work = motorbike. Taking kids to school as well = hatchback. We live on a tiny island, not Texas!

Don't forget to blame the council for not providing us with big enough car parking spaces too.

5 December 2016
I kind of like this car, but £70,000??

5 December 2016
Looking at the picture, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room in the 'middle' seats.

5 December 2016
it will not hold rediduals like a diesel and only sell at a massive drop,not even economical a diesel would be slightly better even though not achieving the 48mpg official.the car and competitors only exist tp play the game of emissions which is a load of -ollocks.Company car drivers are the only winner, with reduced taxation,albeit falsely in the real world.


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