It’s 10:30 in the AM, Sandton and surrounding areas are their usual congestive chaos.  I await the street light’s imminent change to green in silence – the norm for modern cars equipped with stop/start technology.  But the silence continues as I pull away, and then reach the next intersection… and the next… and the next.  Slip left onto the M1 freeway, still silence.  Accelerate to 100km/h, and still silence.  5km down the road and not a drop of fuel has been used.  The Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine will continue in this manner for up to 43km on a full charge in ‘Pure’ electric mode.

 

Drive further than that and you’ll need to use the Volvo XC90 T8’s 2.0-litre Drive-E petrol engine with outputs of 235kW and 400Nm and 8-speed Geartronic automatic transmission.  Stick it in hybrid mode though, and Volvo claim you’ll only use 2.1l/100km on a combined cycle.

 

It sounds ludicrous, but on our trip through Sandton we achieved 2.7l/100km, only let down by my momentary hooliganism and desire to use ‘Power’ mode, which combines petrol-electric power for a total of 300kW and 640Nm that’ll shunt the 2.2-tonne Volvo XC90 T8 from standstill to 100km/h in a Golf-GTI beating 5.6 seconds.  If it weren’t for testing that out, 2.1l/100km would be well within reach – perhaps less in an urban environment.

 

The battery, although capable of being partially recharged via brake regeneration, can only be fully charged from a regular 230V wall-plug.  The two-pin charger is able to fully charge the Volvo XC90 T8 in 3 hours flat.  With variable amperage from 6-13 amps, the charge speed can be adapted to suit your needs, while a full charge costs no more than R20 at current electricity prices.

 

Read our review of the Volvo XC90 T6 HERE

 

But whilst the figures are impressive – bordering on ridiculous – it’s the manner in which Volvo has meshed petrol-electric power that is the true party-piece of the Volvo XC90 T8.  ERAD (Electronic Rear Axle Drive) and the CISG (Crank Integrated Starter Generator) make for seamless integration – changes between petrol and electric drive only perceptible by ear when the petrol engine springs to life.

 

The hybrid configuration requires no specialised driving either, one soon discovers; but with a bit of consciousness of your surroundings – particularly downhills – and a quick shift to ‘Brake’ mode, the engine braking becomes vastly more aggressive, and the Volvo XC90 T8’s range gets just a little bit further.  Up to 15km of electric range can be generated by brake regeneration alone.

 

Range-Topping Spec Levels:

 

The Volvo XC90 T8 is the halo model of the XC90, and Volvo, range – not only in technology but in specification too.  The more entry-level XC90’s aren’t exactly scant in the kit department, but the XC90 T8 takes it to a new level.  Exclusive to models bearing the T8 badge is the Orrefors solid crystal gear selector – hand made in Sweden.

 

Also standard on the Volvo XC90 T8 are LED Active Bending Headlights with Active High Beam, adaptive brake lights, auto-dimming interior and side mirrors, panoramic sunroof with programmable auto-closing curtain, powered tailgate with hands-free opening and closing, 19-inch wheels (Momentum) or 20-inch wheels (Inscription and R-Design), keyless entry and starting, electric front seats with memory, 9-inch Sensus Connect infotainment display, navigation, cruise control, automatic wipers with rain sensor memory, four-zone automatic climate control with outlets for all seven seats, and Park Assist Pilot with front and rear parking sensors for semi-autonomous parallel and perpendicular parking.

 

Optionally, the Volvo XC90 can be equipped with even more luxurious features, such as adaptive cruise control with Volvo’s Pilot Assist to provide semi autonomous driving up to 50km/h with a lead car.  Also optional, the Bowers & Wilkins audio system gives listeners a truly premium listening experience.  Air suspension is optional too – and advisable to iron out low speed bumps in the cabin – with settings for performance, comfort, and off-roading.

 

Later this year, Pilot Assist II will be available as standard on all Volvo XC90 derivatives, autonomous up to 130km/h with no lead car.

 

Pricing and Competitors:

 

Volvo South Africa has worked hard to get the pricing right for the Volvo XC90 T8 – especially when considering the extensive features list.  In Momentum guise, the Volvo XC90 T8 will set you back R1 053 400, whilst the Inscription branded variant will cost a touch more at R1 092 100.  The range-topping R-Design model just tips past the 1.1-million mark at R1 117 700.

 

But while that may be more than the layman can fork out, against the Volvo XC90 T8’s lone hybrid SUV competitor – the freshly launched BMW X5 xDrive40e – the pricing is well on point.  The BMW offers a paltry combined output of 230kW and 600Nm, with only 31km of electric range, and a 0-100km/h sprint of 6.8 seconds.  Factor in compromised luggage capacity – albeit marginally – and a claimed consumption figure of 3.3l/100km, and at R1 097 500 the BMW X5 xDrive40e makes the Volvo XC90 T8 look incredibly well priced.

 

Whether the specs and figures tell the true tale remains to be seen though – we’ll work to get the two together soon.

 

Conclusion:

 

Out on the open road, going cross-country for either work or play, the Volvo XC90 T8 will offer little.  Once that electric range is depleted you’re left with the same twincharged consumption you’d find in the T6.  But, if you’re the urban housewife or businessman who commutes shorter distances in the city congestion, the Volvo XC90 T8 makes perfect sense.  Next-to-nothing fuel consumption, a premium quality drive, and the highest levels of comfort despite the chaos around you – all with room for a driver plus 6 passengers – what more could you want?

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