• 2016 Volvo XC90 T8, plugin hybrid

First Drive: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid

Volvo Steps Up with its Flagship Wagon

2016 Volvo XC90 T8

This model marks Volvo’s move into new territory (with a familiar package)

Volvo has been on the edges of the mainstream for some time, an intermediate-size manufacturer with a dated image and uncertain future. The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 marks a new direction and stakes out new ground for where Volvo says it wants to go. It does it with style and technology. We had a chance to briefly drive Volvo’s new plug-in hybrid crossover wagon recently and came away impressed.

Volvo has been promoting itself as a luxury carmaker for several years, but, to be honest, we were skeptical. The hardware seemed dated and even the new models didn’t seem to take the brand into Mercedes-BMW territory. Volvo appeared to be on the verge of becoming a niche player for Swedish car enthusiast—or station wagon enthusiasts—in both cases a diminutive group in the vast automotive market.

A Statement of Technology & Style

The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 (the later alphanumerics designating it as a plug-in hybrid, the T5 and T6 models do not plug in—or have as powerful of an engine)

2016 Volvo XC90 T8,plug-in hybrid, technology

Not the first Volvo to plug in, but the first with electric range

finally delivers on the promise of luxury—and takes things a step further by offering the first electrified Volvo. The T8 features an interior that can go head-to-head with the best from Germany or Japan with touches of walnut, crystal and Nappa leather throughout. It’s not surprising the interior was named one of the by Ward’s Magazine.

The exterior styling is an update on what’s now the “new classic” Volvo—well-proportioned wagon looks with a sense of motion missing from recent offerings from the brand. It remains instantly recognizable as a Volvo, yet has shed the straightjacket of older design approaches.

Then there’s technology. Start with the most obvious—Volvo is offering a plug-in variant of its most popular model. The result is a seven-passenger wagon with about 17 miles of EV-only range from its small 9 kWh battery and EPA ratings of 24 city/27 highway/20 combined when running on gas alone. When the plug-in power is factored in those numbers are boosted to an MPGe of 53 city/54 highway, well into the 2025 goal set for cars in the U.S.

The power comes from a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that is turbocharged and supercharged, combining with an 87-horsepower electric motor to produce a total of 400 horsepower. The output more than backs up Volvo’s claim that “four is the new six” when it comes to powerplants.

Deep Technology

2016 Volvo XC90 T8, funtionality, storage

Room for seven and luggage–this Volvo hauls

The plug-in technology is only the tip of the proverbial Swedish iceberg when it comes to the technology offerings in the XC90. The suite of advanced technology standard or available on the XC90 definitely makes it at-home in the luxury CUV/SUV class.

The XC90 has three basic packages:

  • Climate Package – heated windshield washer nozzles, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel and windshield.
  • Convenience Package – park assist, front park assist, lane keeping aid, Homelink, adaptive cruise control with pilot assist, Compass (an interior rear view mirror), 12V power outlet and grocery bag holders.
  • Vision Package – 360° surround view camera, blind spot information system, cross-traffic alert.

As you might expect, with all of these technologies piled on, the Volvo will virtually drive itself as well as any other SUV on the market. Given Volvo’s long safety focus, you can be sure the technologies have been thoroughly vetted before they are installed for the public.


The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 is the top-of-the-line XC90. The model line starts out with the front-wheel drive T5, a five-passenger model with a lower-horsepower version of the turbocharged (no

2016 Volvo XC90 T8

It’s a high-riding wagon in the Volvo tradition

supercharging) 2.0L four-cylinder. Pricing starts at $43,950. Next up is the T5 all-wheel drive model at $45,950 and the T6, an all-wheel-drive seven-passenger model with the same engine.

The T8 comes in three trim levels:

  • Momentum – $68,100
  • R-Design – $70,000
  • Inscription – $71,600

The Ride

2016 Volvo XC90 T8, styling

New look for a new direction

The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 is the halo car of the Volvo brand. That designation is altogether appropriate since it’s stuffed with luxury and technology, delivers a smooth and powerful driving experience, and retains (or maybe regains) some essential Swedish elements of style. Like some all-wheel drive Ikea machine, it embraces function while putting a stamp of grace on the whole package. We can’t wait to get a chance to spend some more time with this car.

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Smarticd is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we don’t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class. We also feature those that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at [email protected].

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About Author:

is editor and publisher at Smarticd and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of The Enthusiast Network), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

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