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Volvo XC90 Hybrid Review

The Volvo XC90 PHEV (plug-in hybrid) is luxurious, comes stacked with safety kit and could have low running costs if you regularly charge it up. But it’s expensive to buy and the rear seats are cramped.

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8/10
wowscore
This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Stylish and chic interior design
  • Potentially low running costs
  • Huge boot space

What's not so good

  • Third-row seats are cramped
  • Smartphone mirroring costs extra
  • Quite expensive list price

Volvo XC90 Hybrid: what would you like to read next?

Is the Volvo XC90 Hybrid a good car?

The Volvo XC90 is already a luxurious SUV with space for seven people, a whole load of cool Swedish style, and as you’d expect from a Volvo, stacks of standard safety kit. Add in the fact you can have it as a plug-in hybrid T8 model that’s super-cheap to run and it seems to have everything covered.

It’s a bit like an Airbnb holiday in the Lake District – yes you’d get a cheaper more intense experience in a tent, but why should you suffer for the experience?

So is it a worthy alternative to the Audi Q7 PHEV, or the BMW X5 PHEV? Well, the Volvo XC90 T8 betters them for looks, thanks to details such as Volvo’s signature ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights and cute Swedish flags stitched into the oh-so-comfy heated front seats. There’s loads of room up front to stretch out, and you get one of the best minimalist dashboards out there, with a cool portrait-style infotainment screen on all models.

Okay, it’s not quite as sharp or easy to use as the Audi Q7’s screens, but it’s packed with features such as Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring so you can use your phone’s media streaming and sat-nav apps on the XC90 T8’s screen.

Your middle-row passengers also get plenty of creature comforts, as well as individual seats that recline and slide independently to keep all sizes happy. You’ll even fit three adults abreast in reasonable comfort. The most cramped part of the Volvo XC90 T8, however, is the rearmost two seats. They’re only really roomy enough for kids, although adults won’t mind being back there for short trips.

With all seven seats in use, the XC90 T8’s boot is easily capable of holding a big weekly shop. Flip the rear two seats down and you’re left with a five-seater SUV with easily enough room for a two-week family road trip. Fold the middle row of seats down too and you’re left which a huge space that’s just screaming out for a no-holds-barred Ikea trip.

Luxurious and a lot cooler than ABBA, but you'll hav to plug it in – a lot.

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

The plug-in petrol hybrid model is called the T8, but to get its claimed 111mpg fuel economy you’ll need to charge its battery often.

You’ll get more like 30mpg if you use the petrol engine regularly or get addicted to the sportscar-like acceleration. However you drive it, it’s exempt from things like the London Congestion Charge, though, saving you money.

There’s also a smooth-shifting – but slightly sluggish-to-respond – eight-speed automatic gearbox and Volvo’s four-wheel-drive system, which will help you get out of a muddy car park – just don’t expect it to go as far off-road as a Land Rover Discovery.

Volvo XC90 range and charging

You can travel up to 31 miles on electric power alone in the XC90 plug-in hybrid. When you do plug it , it can take between three and eight hours to charge. This is dependent on which charger you use and how much electricity is already in the batteries.

What you can expect the Volvo XC90 T8 to do is keep you and your family safe. It got a five-star score in Euro NCAP’s 2015 tests. The tests are tougher now, but the Volvo’s huge range of active safety systems mean it’s still one of the safest – not to mention most practical and stylish – SUVs on sale.

So, if you like what you’re hearing, make sure to check out our deals pages for the very best Volvo XC90 T8 prices available.

How practical is it?

Loads of space for five people and their luggage, but the rearmost two seats are only for children.

Boot (seats up)
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Boot (seats down)
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The Volvo XC90 T8 comes with heated, electrically adjustable front seats as standard and they’re among the most comfortable seats you’ll find in any car. They have lumbar support to reduce backache on long drives and the driver’s seat comes with a handy memory function – especially useful if you regularly lend your car to someone else.

The front seats have a slim design to maximise knee and legroom for the people sitting behind you. As a result, your passengers have plenty of space to stretch out in the middle row and there’s ample headroom for six-footers, even with the optional panoramic glass roof fitted.

Carrying three abreast is a little tighter than in a Land Rover Discovery but the Volvo XC90 T8 can hardly be called cramped. There’s a slight lump in the floor which cuts into foot space for your middle passenger but all three in the middle row can slide and recline independently.

Predictably, space in the third row of seats is a little less generous. Climbing in isn’t too difficult – the middle seats fold forward and slide easily – but you’ll struggle for knee, head and legroom if you’re reasonably tall. Thankfully, the seats themselves are raised slightly so your legs won’t be forced up around your ears and you can slide the middle row forwards to gain a little extra legroom.

A neat central booster seat is offered as an optional extra that folds out of the central middle seat. It’s a helpful feature and means you can comfortably mount two Isofix child seats either side. Fitting these is fairly easy thanks to the wide door openings and clearly marked anchor points, but it’s still a little more fiddly than in an Audi Q7.

There are lots of spacious cubby holes dotted around the XC90 T8’s interior, from a small slot beside the steering wheel that’s perfect for a smartphone to the vast door bins that’ll each hold a 1.5-litre bottle with room to spare.

There’s plenty of room under the central armrest to tuck away a few phones and a pair of useful USB ports to charge them. The glovebox is just as spacious as anything you’ll find in an Audi Q7 or Land Rover Discovery and the central cupholders are big enough to hold even the biggest bladder-busting cup of service-station coffee.

The rear door bins are very nearly as big as those up front and there’s a central armrest with two further cupholders. Even the rearmost seats are treated to a cupholder and small phone-sized pocket each while a recessed central tray will stop any extra bits and bobs disappearing under the seats in front.

The Volvo XC90 T8 has 262 litres of boot space with all seven seats in place. That’s (just) bigger than the 258 litres offered by the Land Rover Discovery and about the same size as a Ford Focus, which can only carry five people. In this configuration, you’ll be able to fit a stroller and a few soft bags or a set of golf clubs with room to spare.

Fold the rearmost seats down using levers beside the headrests and you can carry 640 litres beneath the tonneau cover – in contrast, an Audi Q7 can swallow 770 litres. This’ll be more than big enough to carry five people’s luggage but it’s still slightly too small to carry a bike without removing its wheels.

If you need to carry even more, you’ll have to fold the middle row down, turning the Volvo XC90 T8 into a vast van-like two-seater with a 1,816-litre load bay to the roof. Unfortunately, there aren’t any handy latches in the boot to fold the seats down so you’ll have to open the back doors to reach the catches beside the headrests. The resulting boot floor is completely flat and there’s no awkward load lip or step up behind the seats.

The boot floor lifts up to become a handy divider and there’s a generous amount of underfloor storage, too. With seven seats in place, there’s nowhere to neatly store the load cover, however, so you’ll have to let it rattle around in the back or leave it at home.

There’s a 12V socket in the boot so rear-seat passengers can charge their phones and there’s a number of handy shopping hooks to help stop your groceries from breaking free and rolling around.

What's it like to drive?

How does 390hp and 80mpg grab you? Shame you need to charge it quite so often to make the sums work.

The plug-in hybrid T8 costs significantly more than either the B5 or T6 models but it offers a more tempting blend of performance and economy. It uses both a 2.0-litre petrol engine – boosted by a turbo and a supercharger – and an electric motor fed by an 11.8kWh battery to deliver an impressive 390hp and claimed fuel economy of more than 80mpg. Sure, you’ll have to drive with the patience of a saint to match this figure, but at least the T8 model is exempt from London’s Congestion Charge – food for thought if you commute into the capital.

Even better, the T8 moves silently when running on electricity alone, making it the most relaxing XC90 T8 to drive at low speeds. It’ll cover nearly 31 miles on electricity, which is the majority of peoples’ commutes covered. However, you’ll need charging at home or at work (or both) to make life as simple as possible.

Despite its size, the Volvo XC90 T8 is relatively easy to drive around town. Its raised driving position and large windows offer good visibility and the blind spots caused by the door pillars are less significant than in some equally large SUVs, while its light steering makes it easy to manoeuvre.

The optional 360-degree camera will help you thread it through tight spaces and width restrictors without worrying about scraping a wheel and – for complete peace of mind – there’s a park assist system that’ll automatically steer you into parallel and bay parking spaces.

Unfortunately, there’s noticeably more wind and tyre noise in the Volvo XC90 T8 at speed than you’ll get in an Audi Q7 and it doesn’t iron out bumps quite as comfortable as its German counterpart. The optional air suspension improves things, but it’ll still fidget slightly over rough roads and bounce across big potholes – especially if you pick the optional 22-inch alloy wheels.

On twisty country roads the XC90 T8 has plenty of grip and doesn’t lean excessively, even through tight corners. It’s no sports car, but the hybrid T8 model is surprisingly quick and far more fun on an empty backroad than the floaty Land Rover Discovery.

The Volvo’s vast array of active safety features mean it’ll still be one of the safest cars on sale. Alongside active cruise control, automatic emergency city braking and lane-keeping assist it comes with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection and is even offered with a Pilot Assist system which can accelerate, brake and steer for you for brief periods.

What's it like inside?

Really cool design and lots of neat touches, but infotainment isn’t the slickest.

Next Read full interior review