FUN FACT GOOD
he last Volvo XC90 we drove was the T6 variant. It was a competent 3- row SUV, launched after Volvo came under the corporate stewardship of Chinese automaker Geely. This time, we drive the T8 plug- in hybrid, a vehicle more in line with Sweden’s ambitions of becoming the world’s first fossil fuel- free nation.
DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The second- generation Volvo XC90 was new for 2015 — and still looks brand new, thanks to its futuristic styling. The most obvious deviation from its predecessor is its silhouette; Volvo abandoned the light- duty SUV stance for a larger and modern crossover look, much like an Audi Q7. This minimalistic theme is more advanced than Volvo’s confused state of design — stuck between square and round.
The XC90 has a conspicuous identity, thanks to the bold rectangular grille adorned with vertical chrome slats, the signature Volvo sash and the LED day- time running lamps inspired by Thor’s hammer ( the illuminated rendering of the Norse god’s war tool). The headlights are LED- powered too, which throws powerful white lights far and wide.
The XC90’ s long profile is still rectangular, but softened by rounded edges at the bonnet and the roofline, which is terminated by a spoiler. Adding visual muscularity are pronounced wheel arches and wheels sizes that range from a large 19inches to massive 22- inches — like on the R- Design model. The vertical tail lamps, that extend from roof to bumper, are a neat and distinctive XC90 tradition, but here they appear slimmer and sharper. Completing the rear look are the trapezoidal exhausts, nicely integrated into the rear bumper.
With the first- generation XC90, Volvo shed its boxy image; the new model comes with a more purposeful design that gives it an ego — and that’s a good thing. But T8 model giveaways are few; except for what seems to be the fuel cap in the front fender is actually a charging point for the electric powertrain.
Once step in, you get a feel of the minimalistic theme that is conveyed in the high- quality interiors; it has a good blend of materials and finishes, along with an endless array of neatly integrated technologies. There’s a clean- looking black dashboard with intermittent satin finish trims and… wood or metallic veneers.
The highlight, though, is the 9- inch ipad- like infotainment display and its portrait orientation. Keeping that clutter- free cause in mind, Volvo has shrunk the usual busy 50- button centre console down to 8 buttons giving all controls a button on the screen while retaining physical essentials like the home button and volume knob… they should have done the same with the HVAC controls too. Also, the touch screen is neither the capacitive or resistive type — it works on infrared, which means you can operate it using your gloves.
There is a sporty feel we got from the small diameter 3- spoke steering wheel, which is quite unlike any other 2- ton SUV. It is accompanied by polished black lacquer settings for the multi- function buttons on its spoke — almost glass- like. The T8 variant gets the very exquisite handmade crystal Orrefors shift lever; very jewel- like. There’s no conventional push- start button but a knurled knob: twist to start or stop the engine. It is a little finicky but gorgeous. It is accompanied by a knurled drum: spin the barrel to switch between driving modes, but they could have sized it better. Adding pizzazz to the cabin are large- skin perforated metallic speakers that we reckon would take several man or machine hours to craft. It’s a speaker system that sounds and looks good too. Volvo was officially founded on 14 April 1927. Their first car, ‘ Jakob’, was manufactured in 1927
And, finally, the ultimate yardstick for any family SUV is space. Worry not! This is a genuine 7- seater with soft prepped upholstery. The occupants upfront get lavish space and power controls; the 2nd tier gets equally impressive reclineable seats, that can be slid forward giving it a limo stature. The middle seat gets a booster seat option as well. The 3rd row gets only two seats but they sit higher, theatre- style, for a better view and, as per Volvo, they are best suited for those 5 ft 7 in and under. But everyone gets to enjoy the stratospheric vista through the large panoramic sunroof.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The T6 model we drove was powered by Volvo’s modular low displacement technology. Even so, we were surprised to find a 2- litre inline 4- cylinder engine in it. But it was augmented by both a supercharger that runs at lower rpm, and a turbocharger for the higher revs; the engine is matched to an 8 speed automatic. Despite its small displacement, it made some healthy horses — 313bhp at 5,700rpm and 400Nm of torque from 2,200rpm to 5,400rpm.
This T8 hybrid combines the T6’ s engine with a 65kw electric motor capable of sending up to 240Nm of twist to the rear wheels. The total sum output becomes 400bhp and some 640Nm of torque — good enough to set the T8 off for a 0 to 100 km/ h time of 5.6 seconds. It is not only quicker than the T6 but the power delivery is a full- bodied experience; we never caught it flat footed and that kind of power is a luxury.
In most situations, the large tyres graze the tarmac offering good traction but around high- speed corners or a quick directional change, the sheer length and mass does little to subdue body roll. Dynamically, it won’t hold a candle against the Cayenne and X5, but fares better than the Q7 and Infiniti QX60. But the priority here is ride comfort, which is of high grade.
Even with the power upgrade, the T8 outshines the T6 in terms of economy. With an electric motor that helps propagate motion that often sidelines the petrol engine and with constant braking recharging the batteries, the fuel economy has been brought down to a remarkable 2.5L/ 100km. The other advantage with this plug- in hybrid is that, if you wish, you can run on a very silent pure electric mode ( but range is limited to 40 km) — and you don’t need to rely on regenerative braking. You can juice up batteries from any one of the 26 public charging points available in the country or from the convenience of home.
FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
Volvos have been synonymous with safety, and the XC90 sets yet another benchmark with plenty of active and passive features that include City Safety with Full Auto Brake including Driver Alert Control, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, BLIS with Cross Traffic Alert, High Beam Assistance, Lane Departure Warning, ISOFIX Child Seat Attachments and possibly the best
360 degree camera we have seen.
The music system, the Bowers and Wilkins 1400- Watt 19- speaker unit, is unparalleled in creating a concert ambience or studio quality in the cabin. You also get access to all modern- day connectivity like streaming Bluetooth audio, USB and Aux Input.
Audio, navigation etc are controlled via the Sensus infotainment which, much like an ipad, can be pinched and swiped; and it responds with much electronic enthusiasm. There is a Wifi connection available instantly, turning your car into a hotspot for the occupants who have reached their monthly cap in their data plan.
Even with the 7- passenger configuration, you have a large, sedan- like cargo space behind the third row. Both rows fold flat and they can be folded in numerous permutations, giving you a boot capacity that starts at 451 litres and grows to 1951 litres.
The 2017 Volvo XC90 T8 is the resourceful 7- seater SUV for the identity- and environment- conscious individual or family. It brings Thor’s hammer and his lightning power or, in this case, electrifying powertrain to the chassis. By delivering purposeful power, satisfying comfort, money- saving economy, and an exhaustive list of safety features, this Scandinavian SUV has become, arguably, the top choice in its segment!
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