2019 Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription Review: T8 For The Wrong Reasons

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The Volvo XC90 seems to be improving with age and this T8 Inscription is good, but not best.

My 3-year old son loves to plug things in. His favorite thing to plug in? Cars. The entire week, when we got home from daycare, Costco and grandma and grandpa’s, if he was denied plugging in the Volvo XC90 T8, he’d have a mild fit. As far as my boy is concerned, he’s fully trained and ready.

Yes, trained and ready to plug in a future fully, 100% electric vehicle. Because, as you may or may not know this, plug-in hybrid vehicles are flawed and compromised but they serve a very important purpose: they are designed to get the car-buying public well and conditioned to plugging-it-in. I won’t go over my list of gripes about PHEVs but as far as they are concerned, the 2019 Volvo XC90 T8 is a good one, if used as prescribed.


The T8’s hidden secret

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The key element to any and all PHEVs is a “battery save/hold mode” of some sort. Without it, a PHEV is a bad hybrid. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and the subject of this review have such a mode. In a nutshell, once activated, this function locks out the battery’s remaining charge for access at a later time. This is especially useful when hoping on the highway soon after leaving home, like leaving London for Toronto. Unfortunately, to access the hold mode, you will need to scroll through a series of screens to find it – this is a mistake on Volvo’s behalf as it should be right along the drive modes.

If you are unfamiliar with Volvo terms, T8 is the current top-rank for power output. There are T4, T5, T6 and T8 offered throughout Volvo’s collection of products. The latter three are available with the XC90.


Twin-everything

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

T8 then is a twin-engine, one petrol, one electric, configuration that produced no less than 400-horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. The petrol engine is a twin-charged (turbo- and supercharged) 2.0-litre 4-cylinder, mounted up front, and on the rear axle is an 87-horsepower electric motor. Somewhere in the mix is an 8-speed automatic transmission which, annoyingly, requires double taps to move from “D” to “R”, for example.

All told, the XC90 T8 will consume only 9 litres of fuel per 100km on average and, on a more entertaining note, and rocket to 100 km/h in 5.5 seconds. This is the T8 advantage. The other is the presence of a 10.4 kWh battery that is capable of providing the luxury SUV with up to 40 km of pure electric motoring.


Pricing the T8

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

As a stated luxury SUV, the Volvo XC90 sits in a crowded segment that is regularly joined by new member such as the all-new 2020 Lincoln Aviator. Now’s a good time to bring up pricing. The base 2019 Volvo XC90 Momentum T5 starts at $59,750, or nearly $10,000 less than the Lincoln. The R Design, only available from the T6, begins at $69,800 and then there’s the Inscription which, in T6 guise, sports a $71,450 tag. With the T8 twin-engine setup, pricing rises to $84,100.

As tested, my XC90 T8 was a total show piece with one exception. It featured the lovely 21-inch wheels, amber Napa leather interior, Premium Plus package, Bowers & Wilkins audio and more for a grand total $98,415. The one exception is that it was Onyx Black – boring. Denim or Magic Blue, or even Bright Silver do the XC90’s shape far more favors.

The cabin is exquisite. Compared to the Lincoln Aviator or the Cadillac XT6, it’s a notch above. Compared to the Audi Q7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS, it’s on par or better – I am a huge fan of the sparse dashboard layout. The seats are supportive, comfortable and there’s plenty of room for everyone on board. The tablet-like 12-inch screen is fairly intuitive and the 12.3″ Digital Driver Display quickly becomes a useful driving tool.


The highs and lows on the road

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

It’s on the road where I discovered the best-sorted ever Volvo XC90 I’ve driven so far since the introduction of this latest generation SUV. The first few times I reviewed, I experienced interior trim rattles and various other unpleasantries. I’m happy to report that this was not the case this time.

I’ve mentioned the power and acceleration. Both are truly appreciable in daily driving conditions. One element, however, is not. As a PHEV, the XC90 T8 includes brake regeneration. The Volvo suffers from one of the worse transition phases between the regen- and physical braking. Pedal response is uneven, spongy and occasionally scary in moments of panic braking. Of the many PHEVs I’ve driven, the T8 has the most unpleasant braking system – another reason to not get a T8 over a T6.


T6 > T8

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

And that’s the punchline. Although the extra power is pleasant, the T8 does not provide enough real-world fuel-economy over the T6, at least not over $10,000’s worth. In other words, opting for the T8 is not a “green move”, it’s for personal advancement on the highway…

As for the 2019 Volvo XC90 itself, it remains one of my favorite options in the 3-row large midsize luxury SUV segment. The revised Audi Q7 is a tempting option but I still have a soft spot for Volvo.


2019 Volvo XC90 T8 Photo Gallery

2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre
2019 Volvo XC90 T8 | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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