What is it?
It’s the range-topping variant of the generally excellent Volvo XC90, the T8 ‘Twin Engine’ plug-in hybrid.
Like other XC90s it gets a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine under the bonnet, because that’s the way of Volvo powerplants these days. It’s a petrol unit that’s both supercharged (for low-rev response) and turbocharged (for higher-rev response), and thus it makes a pretty healthy 314bhp.
It’s supplemented, though, by an 81bhp electric motor, mounted at the back and driving the rear wheels only. It’s powered by batteries that are stored in the transmission tunnel, which of course needs no propshaft running through it. That the batteries, which can be charged by plugging the car into the mains, are in the middle means you don’t have to give up the boot-mounted third row of seats that make the XC90 a seven-seater.
The XC90 can be run on the electric motor alone, as those with a routine, short commute might well do, in which case the range is 24 miles. Or you can hold the battery charge for later, in case you’re driving towards a zero-emissions zone, or you can just leave it in hybrid mode and let it sort itself out, which is a pretty likely scenario. There’s also a ‘maximum traction’ mode in case, say, you end up trying to tow a horse trailer out of a wet field.
Technically there’s also a third ‘engine’ – a 25bhp starter/generator between the petrol unit and the eight-speed gearbox, used to smooth the transition between the drive modes and fill any torque gaps. The first time we drove the XC90 T8 we found that there was still work to be done in this area, and Volvo knew it.
Now we’ve driven a production car in the UK, which has received those improvements.