Car review: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Volvo has brought its new electrification strategy to South Africa

As Volvo’s flagship SUV the XC90 is maintaining its reputation as the safest car around. Now, with the T8 twin engine hybrid version, Volvo has brought its new electrification strategy to South Africa’s roads for the first time.

Previously you’d have to choose between power or low emissions, but Volvo’s new hybrid gives you the option to have both with its T8 twin engine.

“With the new XC90 T8 Twin Engine we are rewriting what is possible for plug-in hybrid vehicles,” says Volvo Car South Africa Managing Director, Greg Maruszewski.

“Combining electric power and our turbo- and supercharged Drive-E powertrain with ultimate seven-seat SUV practicality and comfort, the XC90 T8 Twin Engine exudes class, sophistication and Swedish luxury while providing incomparable levels of fuel economy and ultra-low carbon emissions. Built on our Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) platform, its full seven-seat configuration has been retained with no real impact on passenger or luggage space, while the power available from its petrol and electric engines bestows it with exceptional performance and efficiency.”

Launch report

SUV launches seem to be filling up every motoring journalist’s calendar this year with one car brand after the next claiming to be the lead in the competitive SUV market. But Volvo has certainly been working hard to maintain its competitive edge and as a step-up from the original XC90, the T8 Twin Engine gives it a lot to brag about.

I was introduced to this plug-in hybrid version in the well-suited cosmopolitan and commercial suburb of Parkwood, Johannesburg, in the driveway of an exquisite art gallery known as Art It Is. When reading the schedule prior to arriving in Johannesburg I wondered how on earth an art gallery would tie in with this particular car. But a few minutes after a quick tour of the gallery, it made sense that it might have been the standard of class and sheik elegance set by this contemporary gallery that gave a wonderfully balanced contrast to the bold and striking XC90 T8.

Surrounded by magnificent greenery, the cobbled driveway felt a bit like the sort of place you’d find yourself in when venturing out into Nature’s Valley, (something I hadn’t expected to find in a city like Johannesburg). But it was the perfect setting for my first real look at the SUV and the black version looked brilliant against its surroundings!


After a quick breakfast and business presentation to discuss the XC90 T8’s finer details (see tech report below), my driving partner and I rushed out to make sure we’d get first dibs on the black Volvo. We then headed further into the city to experience the car’s so-called ‘urban luxury’ at its best.

And we weren’t disappointed.



Drive modes

Drive modes for all conditions

Pure. Hybrid. Power. These three main drive modes in the new XC90 T8 Twin Engine allow the driver to make use of the electrification as they desire. The stylised diamond-cut Drive Mode selector allows the driver to easily switch between modes at any time and at any speed.

Pure mode turns the XC90 T8 Twin Engine into a fully-fledged electric vehicle (EV), with ERAD employed full-time for zero emissions driving at speeds up to 125 km/h. The petrol engine remains off for completely silent running – but it’s still available at a moment’s notice should the driver require extra power, accessible by simply applying more force to the accelerator pedal.

Hybrid mode is the car’s default drive mode on start-up, and has been designed to maximise efficiency by maintaining an optimal balance between electric and petrol power. The transition between the two engines is seamless thanks to the CISG.

Power mode optimises the full power available from both engines for maximum acceleration and performance. The combined power output of 300 kW and 640 N.m is available alongside sharper throttle, steering and transmission response for a truly inspiring drive. Performance figures are astounding – the 0-100 km/h sprint is completed in just 5.6 seconds and top speed is 230 km/h.

Fuel consumption

The resulting fuel economy and carbon emissions, according to European plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) regulations, is world-beating – the XC90 T8 Twin Engine is able to consume from as little as 2.1-litres per 100 km and emit just 49 g/km CO2.


Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Momentum R1 053 400

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD Inscription R1 092 100

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD R-Design R1 117 700

As with all other Volvo models, the new XC90 T8 Twin Engine is available as standard with a 5-year/ 100 000 km warranty, a full 5-year/ 100 000 km Volvo Plan, Tracker Connect and laminated glass for added security.

These are a few of my favourite things:

  1. Firstly, (and I was warned not to make this a bigger deal than the rest of the car, but,) as a lover of quality sound and music, the effect that the 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins system had on my senses still hasn’t managed to escape me. I had a better time in there blasting Foo Fighter’s ‘Times like these’ than I did listening to it at the actual concert, thanks Volvo. (The video clip below certainly sounds nothing like it does in the car, nor is choice of song anything  to do with Foo Fighter, nevertheless we felt it was worth sharing):

2.  As is with the original XC90, the Orrefors crystal gear selector only requires a gentle push (none of that annoying, stiff, forwards and backwards, clicking nonsense that usually distracts me from the sound of David Grohl’s smooth voice).

3. Volvo’s Vision 20/20 (that no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car) has been the center of attention when conversations about the XC90 T8 come up. Having achieved a 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating, including a 100% score in the safety assist category, standard safety equipment on all derivatives continues to include:

  • IntelliSafe incorporating City Safety
    • Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection (day and night)
    • Front Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake
    • Auto Brake at Intersections (world-first)
    • Run-off-road mitigation with impact-absorbing seats (world first)
    • Driver Alert Control with Lane Departure Warning
    • Road Sign Information
  • Six airbags
  • Whiplash Protection System (front seats)
  • Side Impact Protection System (SIPS)
  • Vehicle Deceleration Control (ABS, EBD and EBA)
  • Stability and Traction Control (including Spin Control, Engine Drag Control and Corner Traction Control)
  • Hill Start Assist
  • Hill Descent Control
  • Two-stage unlocking
  • Private locking for glove box and boot
  • Powered child locks
  • 3-point seat belts for all seven seats
  • ISOFIX mounting points

Featured image via Art It Is’ Facebook page.