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2017 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine eAWD Inscription Road Test Review

Possibly the most advanced SUV on the planet

Like with most premium brands, Volvo's lineup of SUVs is driving current sales growth, with the recently updated XC90 achieving the strongest results.

The new 2017 XC90 has just been introduced and as you might expect Volvo won't be messing with its recipe for success anytime soon. All trims continue unchanged, including the competitively priced $55,650 base T5 Drive-E AWD and that model's $1,550 seven-seat Momentum package, to the more powerful $61,300 T6 Drive-E AWD and that version's sporty $4,550 R-Design and luxurious $6,150 Inscription upgrades, and finally the ultimately advanced $77,650 T8 Twin Engine eAWD model with $1,600 optional Inscription package.

New XC90 Excellence delivers unparalleled SUV luxury

The only addition is ultimately opulent XC90 Excellence trim that transforms this family hauler into a chauffeur driven limousine, Volvo even partitioning the luggage compartment from the passenger area to reduce noise while filling the space between its luxuriously updated multi-adjustable heated and cooled rear seats with a fridge, Swedish-made Orrefors crystal glasses, pop-out tables, and more. There's enough supple perforated leather, genuine woods and stunning metals to make any hedonist feel right at home, and it's just $118,900, which is superb value for all that's included. So if you'd rather be driven than drive make sure to check with your dealer, as the XC90 Excellence will no doubt be in very limited supply.

Most advanced powertrain available period

The XC90 Excellence gets motivated by the same impressive T8 Twin Engine eAWD plug-in hybrid power unit as my most recent tester, albeit my weeklong ride was designed more for family life. Despite its mere 2.0-litre displacement, the direct-injected internal combustion engine (ICE) portion of this HEV is both turbocharged and supercharged for 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque in non-electrified trim, although when upgraded to T8 Twin Engine spec it produces a fully satisfying 400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque, all combined with a specially designed eight-speed automatic transmission and unique eAWD.

Believe me when I say the hybridized XC90 T8 is quick. It moves this sizeable seven-passenger SUV along with an instantaneous swiftness, the result just 5.6 seconds to 100km/h when "Power" mode is selected. The electrified portion adds gobs of immediate torque to both front and rear wheels as part of its eAWD drivetrain that positions a 46 horsepower electric motor just aft of the ICE and an 87 horsepower motor in the rear, plus a 9.2-kWh battery pack, with full torque arriving at just 2,200 rpm, when the rest of the powertrain is at full force.

Pure mode allows silent emissions free performance

Alternatively you can choose 100-percent electric power by selecting "Pure" mode, resulting in response off the line that's almost as quick as well as the capability to cruise at 120 km/h, although most will resist such temptations in order to maximize the SUV's claimed 43-km EV range.

When in "Hybrid" mode the battery continues to contribute power to the XC90's drive system even when unable to offer full EV mode, but a relatively quick two and a half hour recharge via one of the many free 220-volt charging stations available throughout Canada's major metropolitan areas will top it right up. Providing commutes are short most owners will find their needs met by charging overnight, the process via 110-volt household circuit requiring around eight hours. Alternatively you can get a quick charger for your home.

No range anxiety with plug-in hybrid technology

 

The benefit to the XC90's PHEV design compared to a full EV is its ability to act just like a regular hybrid, or for that matter a regular non-electrified SUV, when no power supply is available. After enjoying four weekdays behind the wheel, which included the occasional stop to recharge at shopping malls, government buildings, and even some actively green corporations, my partner and I headed out of Vancouver, through the lush Fraser Valley, up the steep albeit fast-paced Coquihalla Highway, and then over the connector to Kelowna, BC, otherwise known as wine country, and found the XC90 T8 ideal company. SUVs don't get more comfortable, Volvo always producing some of the industry's best seats, while our tester's Inscription package took luxury, refinement, and features to new levels.

Superior materials quality combines with superb fit and finish

Really, few competitive interiors are as finely crafted, the Inscription's optional stitched leather dash top and door uppers, standard genuine metal detailing and gorgeous open-pore hardwood second to none. All XC90s are special, even the base model boasting soft-touch surfaces almost everywhere, plus impressive leathers, metals, and beautifully lacquered surfaces, not to mention some ultra-rich looking diamond-cut metalwork on the ignition switch and drive mode selector, superb electronic interfaces for the primary gauges and infotainment system, and the list goes on, but the Inscription takes things further upscale.

For instance, the shift knob isn't merely wood or leather, but instead polished metal and real Orrefors crystal. Even the Inscription's key fob is special, the proximity sensing device's sides finished in the same diamond-cut metal as the aforementioned drive controls, yet with its main surfaces wrapped in identical soft Nappa leather to the seat and door insert upholstery, colour and all.

Standard and optional features abound

In the case of my loaner it was a nice Amber tan, which along with the rest of its Charcoal black interior made for a rich looking cabin as well. Volvo also offers Inscription buyers optional Blond leather on black, or alternatively an all blond or all black experience. The exterior colour palette is even more diverse, with two standard non-metallic hues as well as 10 metallic colours and shades to consider, my XC90's $900 Magic Blue Metallic particularly elegant when combined with those tan hides and its standard matte-finish open-pore Linear Walnut inlays; no-charge glossy Dark Flame Birch is also available.

Standard T8 Insignia features include 20-inch alloys, LED headlamps, proximity access, configurable TFT LCD primary gauges, rain-sensing wipers, four-zone auto HVAC, a 9.3-inch colour touchscreen with easy-to-use tablet-style gesture, pinch and swipe controls, navigation, a backup camera, Volvo On Call telematics, powered front seats with driver's memory, a panoramic sunroof, a third row that even fit my five-foot-eight frame comfortably, a powered liftgate that opens up 2,427 litres of potential cargo capacity, and much more.

Amazing surround monitor and outrageous 1,400-watt audio

Additionally, my tester included a $2,200 Convenience package with adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, front and rear parking sensors, assisted self parking, a garage door opener, and more; an $1,800 Vision package with power-retractable auto-dimming side mirrors, visual park assist with a surround parking camera (that's truly amazing) and Front "Fisheye" View, plus blindspot monitoring with cross traffic alert; and a $1,350 Climate Package with a heatable steering wheel, heated windshield and washer nozzles, plus heatable rear outboard seats.

 

Alternatively you can get the same Climate Package with a head-up display unit for $2,300; the Vision package without the surround camera for $1,000; the head-up display separately for $1,150; a full leather package covering the dash and doors for $1,500, which also includes rear side window sunshades; sensational sounding 19-speaker 1,400-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio for $3,250; a child booster seat for $325; black headliner for $250; an adaptive air suspension for $2,350 (which also lowers the suspension when parked via a button on the cargo sidewall to make loading easier), and 21-inch alloys for $975. A completely loaded XC90 T8 Inscription will set you back almost $95k before freight and dealer fees, which while a fairly weighty price is still great value for what you get.

Jaw-dropping performance from a clean and efficient powertrain

In a nutshell, the XC90 is one of the best in the industry. Its performance is breathtaking when pushed hard, yet calm and relaxed when cruising. Likewise its ride is very good around town, absorbing the nastiest pothole strewn back lanes with ease, while its highway composure is both comfortable and surefooted, even when at slightly (ahem) higher than posted speeds. Snake it down a twisting serpentine backcountry road and its plenty nimble too.

Incidentally, additional driving modes include Off-Road, locked All-Wheel-Drive, and Individual, the latter allowing up to 400 possible combinations of powertrain (throttle and shift pattern), air suspension (firmness and steering weight), instrument display, brake response, and climate control settings.

Of note, Volvo claims their Drive-E engine design is the world's cleanest combustion powertrain relative to power, with an emissions rating of 148 g/km of CO2, which means it delivers more than 2 horsepower per gram of CO2. When combined with the T8's PHEV components, auto start/stop technology, its lightweight Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) body structure that was designed to incorporate the T8's HEV drivetrain from onset, and more, the XC90 is good for an estimated 10.1 L/100km city, 8.8 highway and 9.5 combined, although when factoring in regular charging you could potentially drive it every day without ever needing to add premium unleaded to the tank, but its official Le/100km rating is more conservatively estimated at 4.7 combined.

Good safety and expected reliability

I believe the incredible effort taken to become a world leader in efficient powertrain technologies will go far to bolster Volvo sales while building an even more positive brand image, not just focused on legendary safety (the XC90 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus recipient and an NHTSA 5-star earner) and respected quality (above average on the 2016 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study and Consumer Reports' latest annual report card on brand reliability and road-test performance), but also on environmental stewardship.

Volvo is certainly on the right track to once again becoming a serious force to be reckoned with in the luxury sector, and the XC90 is the right vehicle to lead them there. No matter the powertrain or trim level chosen I recommend it highly.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press
Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Copyright: Canadian Auto Press Inc.

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