Engine and gearbox
Four distinct models are on offered in the UK and all of them have the same 1969cc displacement and just four cylinders.
This might not seem ‘premium’ but it is Volvo’s Drive-E principle at work; namely, that all its cars will be powered by a pair of engines, one diesel and one petrol, with varying power outputs leading to badge differentiation. The benefits for Volvo are numerous - lower costs, more focused development, easier packaging and a degree of future-proofing when hybrid models are also taken into account.
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The D5 is the sole diesel XC90 for now and it makes 222bhp at 4250rpm and 347lb ft from 1750- to 2500rpm, thanks to twin turbochargers. The petrol models are both super- and turbocharged, the T6 packing 316bhp at 5700rpm and 295lb ft from 2200- to 5400rpm, while the T8 produces the same torque curve but 314bhp at 6000rpm. The electric motor provides the extra 81bhp and 177lb ft, with the system maximum the sum of its parts – a Porsche Macan Turbo-rivalling 395bhp, plus 472lb ft torque.
All XC90s are permanent four-wheel drive, but a front-wheel drive D4 is likely to follow in the near future. And all three are equipped with a super-slick eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission that’s beyond reproach.
Don't confuse the R-Design XC90 with being a sportier performance orientated model. It's merely a trim level for the standard car, but does bring with it sports seats, an alternative interior and tinted windows. It might just be the best looking car in the range, shame it's not a Polestar however.
The head of the XC90 line up is the T8, the plug-in hybrid that sees the car’s 314bhp 2-litre four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged engine mated with an 81bhp electric motor.
The electric motor is mounted in the rear of the car with the batteries installed in the transmission tunnel. There is also a ‘third’ engine fitted between the petrol engine and the gearbox that is there to smooth the transition between electric and internal combustion motors.
With an electric range of 24 miles the XC90 T8 can perform local driving duties with ease, although you need a light foot if you don’t want to stir the petrol engine into life. The switch between power sources is seamless, but reality is the 2343kg XC90 is a challenge to drive in electric only mode, aside from low speed manoeuvring the hybrid benefits are hard to experience. It also doesn’t feel like a 401bhp, 5.6-second 0-62mph car.
In normal driving the XC90 T8’s petrol four isn’t the most refined, it can sound harsh and little strained when you start to push on, but the eight-speed gearbox does an exceptional job of keeping the engine in its torque sweet spot when cruising, and as with all XC90 the T8 is a great long distance companion.