2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 review: efficient luxury
It costs a heck of a lot, but this is a seriously impressive luxury SUV
2022 Volvo XC90 T8 review with The Road Beat
Words and pictures by Mitchell Weitzman
What is it?
By price, Volvo's flagship vehicle: the $84,090 XC90 SUV. Yes, it's far from affordable, but this is a properly luxurious machine with loads of space given its three-row seating arrangement. Under the hood and powering all four wheels is a hybrid of hybrids, with supercharging, turbocharging, and a usable battery pack with an electric motor. To say it's complex is simplification, but it works in the real-world, and rather well. After this review, you might want to rethink that German purchase and choose something a little more Scandi - Ikea this is not!
Where to start - How about a gorgeously sculpted and crafted interior featuring some of the best raw materials in any car under $100,000. The style is typically Scandinavian minimalist without also being both barren nor cold (not all Scandi style is based off of George Lucas' THX 1138). You want leather? You'll find lots here. Suede headliner to pet while sitting frustrated in traffic as a tactile calming device? Check. You want wood that even Ron Swanson would be proud of? You got it. The screen is large and dominating, but also refrains from being outright vulgar and remains well-integrated. Did I mention the adjustable, massaging front seats? Yeah, those were a necessity during each drive and my girlfriend loved them. Oh and the shift knob is actually crystal. And it's pretty (if a bit of a finger print magnet). You'll also be sure to notice the exquisite metal detailing throughout the living environment including the gorgeous Bowers & Wilkins speaker covers.
Even without fancy, fizzing seats, the chairs themselves are exceedingly comfortable and there's next to nothing that feels cheap upon contact with your hands and fingers. Space is generous in the second row plus there's a retracting third row when needed. With the third row folded flat, cargo volume is about class-standard and is easily enough for large grocery gets and/or a Mastiff (if they can make the jump).
I also particularly love the understated exterior design that makes up most all new Volvos. It's sharp and modern without being gaudy and nor are there excessively large grilles up front. It's the same basic shape that defined the original XC90 over 20 years ago, but it's been tailored to a slim fit that Savile Row would approve of.
Performance is fantastic from the hybrid-hybrid powertrain (remember, it's turbocharged, supercharged, and electrified). With 455 combined horsepower at disposal, it is largely dependent on your driving mode to get the full effect, but select the proper setting and 0-60 MPH is discharged in a scantily impressive 4.5 seconds. For a big car, this thing moves with a velocity that not even the 6.2-liter V8 in a Chevy Tahoe can match.
The real party trick is the efficiency of this rig, though. With an onboard battery pack for the electric motor that can do nearly 30 miles on a full charge, it does add flexibility for owners who have access to cheap electricity or even free charging (depending on your place of work). Even without plugging it in, this XC90 averaged a wonderful 26 MPG, a truly impressive figure given the amount of performance on offer from the powertrain. This number is even more notable when BMW's own X5 45e plug-in SUV only returns about 21 MPG when driven normally as a hybrid (not plugging it in. It will, however, deliver a similar electric range if one does charge this Bavarian competitor).
Fear not, as the XC90 is also a formidable and refined vehicle on the road. Steering is precise and the suspension forgoes any excessive wallows in corners, with the tires biting unexpectedly hard into the pavement when pushed. In true luxury practice, the ride quality itself is always nice, keeping harsh and annoying bumps isolated from occupants, and it's quiet, too. The chassis could perhaps be better honed to take advantage of the engine and electric power on tap, but this is a thoroughly nice driving car and delight to be in at all times. Could Volvo make an AMG or M equivalent? Sure, but that's not quite their clientele (even if it could be).
Where the XC90 comes up short is in price and the electronics package. The steering wheel takes time to learn as none of the buttons have words or pictures on them, relying on just shapes such as lines and circles that artists will perhaps love. Eventually you learn them, but at first acquaintance, it does take some practice. In the middle of the dash is a large screen that looks the part when you first open the door, but upon closer inspection you realize that the display is lower-res than it should be and the graphics do look slightly dated. Similar to being on an older iOS on your iPhone, the graphics and interface could use a refresh to bring things up to date. It's easy enough to use (even if multiple other Volvos have had displays literally freeze at times), but it just should be sharper and more inline with the rest of it all. And also, why in the world can't the top-view camera and the rear-view camera be displayed at the same time? There's clearly room to show both, but instead you're left with one or the other. And when the rear-view is shown, the top half is a CGI vehicle with black all around it. Why can't it be both cameras? Other cars do that feature just fine...
I did find the cruise control to not be entirely consistent, often times dropping below my set speed even on level freeway, and the fuel range estimate can vary literally by the hundred at times. I left my house at one point with 300 miles of indicated range, drove 30 miles to Sacramento, and then it displayed over 400 miles of range. Upon returning to Cameron Park, the range was then at 270. It shouldn't fluctuate that much in such short periods.
The other concern is the price. At well over $80,000 for this fully-loaded Inscription trim, it certainly comes at a cost and really isn't any less than BMW's offering even. I happen to love the big Genesis GV80 SUV that comes superbly equipped for about $10,000 less. It might get an appalling 18 MPG, but hey, you're saving 10 grand up front at least and the design inside and out is arguably even more majestic. BMW also has the new iX all-electric SUV that's just now going on sale. You might think it's absolutely atrocious in design, but the actual driving dynamics and efficiency has impressed early reviewers. It starts at around $85,000 (though expect to pay at least 100 grand for one with decent options).
If you don't want to fall in line with the raft of others who continually pick German out of habit, the XC90 remains a well-thought choice that performs well and with luxury to brag about. This specific model is unique in the crowd with its considerable fuel economy and the ability to plug it in if you choose for even greater savings. It's hard to go wrong with any of the European luxury prospects, really, but picking the Volvo can luckily be done on legit merit.
2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription
As-tested price: $84,090
Pros: Power and efficiency; great interior
Cons: Last decade infotainment; expensive