Motor Mouth April 2017

Doubling up: 2017 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription awd   (Text by Gordon Hall)

Sharp! Is it a V8?” asked the crewman in the delivery van next to me at the traffic light. “Four cylinders, but it goes like a V8,” I told him. He looked puzzled but there wasn’t time to explain. Lights changed and life went on.

As background, here’s an extract from my 2014 report on the then-new range of Drive-E engines: “Volvo goes as far as to call big V8s ‘dinosaurs’ because, by simply adding electric motor assistance, the company will be able to offer power and torque outputs equivalent to those of heavyweight Detroit, British or German iron. The new scalable architecture is ready to accept electric motors. And batteries will be accommodated within the platform rather than by stealing space from under the boot floor as most current hybrids do.

The all-new Volvo XC90

T8 in our test car’s model description denotes Volvo’s 2.0-litre, twin-turbocharged T6 (235 kW and 400 Nm) petrol engine coupled up with an electric motor putting out 65 kilowatts and 240 Newton-metres of torque. That gives theoretical totals of 300 kW and 640 Nm. Although Volvo sticks with the simple add-on formula, purist engineers might argue.  Whatever the case, the package is almost obscenely powerful and fits right in with some heavy metal from the countries mentioned above. Zero to 100 km/h comes up in 5.6 seconds and it tops out at 230 – not bad for a big family SUV weighing in at almost 2.3 metric tons. And, just to reassure you that no luggage space was compromised in the course of this build, the battery pack is hidden within the tunnel down the middle of the vehicle’s floor.

Unusually for a hybrid but in keeping with its “twin engine” description, Volvo’s T8 keeps its power plants separate. The petrol motor drives front wheels only while the electric one serves the rears. The two used in tandem give you all-wheel drive – sounds odd, but it works.

I took the XC90 out on the Tenderfoot Trail that had deteriorated somewhat since testing the Jaguar F-Pace a while ago, but despite deeper washaways and looser stones in some places, it trundled through without hesitating. There is plenty of ground clearance and its approach and departure angles are quite good, so for occasional use this awd system works well.

In order to accommodate users’ whims and needs at any given moment, the car offers six selectable drive modes. That’s AWD (what it says); Pure (RWD electric-only); Hybrid in which the system switches between the engines as needed and is the default setting for normal use; Power that runs both engines for maximum power; Off Road that engages an electronic limited slip differential and adds downhill crawl to AWD, and Individual (create your own menu).

A word here on the Power setting that substitutes for Sport as it’s labelled on other cars: There’s no manual override on this eight-speed Geartronic box so one is left entirely to decisions made by the transmission. It worked OK, I suppose, but I felt cheated. One just has to accept that, despite almost hooligan-like power, this is a genteel family cruiser rather than a plaything for recycled teenagers. (Sniff).

Nobody’s interested in that, of course. All you want to know is about going to town and back in electric mode and trying to match Volvo’s claimed average fuel consumption of 2.1 litres per 100 km. It could be done provided you plug the car into the household mains every night and recharge over two to three hours.  Volvo reckons each re-boost from empty will cost about R20-00. Then, provided you accelerate gently and exercise patience, you can theoretically travel up to 32 km per charge. That won’t always be the case in real life however; it depends on speed, hills and other factors. In emergencies, one can always floor the throttle and let the petrol motor kick in to save the day.
Deserved winner of six South African and 57 International awards, XC 90 upholds the firm’s traditions for luxury, space and safety equipment. It was one of three Volvo models awarded the highest points ever earned in EuroNCAP safety testing.
That’s all very well, but possibly more important from a potential buyer’s viewpoint is that it’s comfortable, quiet, powerful, and looks the part. That guy at the traffic light knows about “Sharp!” and recognises the look of V8 steel in a velvet glove; even if he doesn’t know all the details.

The numbers

The all-new Volvo XC90 – interior

Base price: R1 164 400
Motive power: 2.0-litre in-line, four-cylinder, twin-charged petrol engine + Electric Rear Axle Drive (ERAD)
Power: 235 kW @ 5 700 rpm + 65 kW (ERAD) = 300 kW
Torque: 400 Nm @ 2 200-5 400 rpm + 240 Nm (ERAD) = 640 Nm
Zero to 100 km/h: 5.6 seconds
Top speed: 230 km/h Real life fuel consumption: About 10 l / 100 km Tank: 50 litres
Luggage: 314 – 692 – 1057 litres Maximum towing mass (braked): 2400 kg
Warranty and maintenance: 5 years / 100 000 km

The new Volvo XC90 with the T8 engine driven in Tarragona, Spain.

(Pics by Quickpic);  Test car from Volvo Cars SA press fleet