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TEST DRIVE: VOLVO XC90 T8 - All Hail, the King of the North
The thing about a lot of people is that
they have a preconception about nearly automotive brand out there.
Take for example Volvo. A lot of people have that notion that a Volvo
is one of those cars for family types. Some however think that a
Volvo is those old square boxes like the 240 which are meant for
hipster type folks out there. Then there are some who think that you
should follow precisely what Volvo's previous slogan to the tee,
which is 'Volvo, For Life' and just buy one Volvo and use it for the
rest of their lives. But ever since Volvo recently gave their whole
line-up a good shake, a Volvo is a stupendous vehicle to drive.
Things started falling into place for Volvo cars when they first built the current V40 and XC60 vehicles.
These were surprisingly good to drive, well built, filled with
interesting technology and still keeping with the virtues of safety
which Volvo were known for. They drove well, looked good and the
only thing which I believe stopped a lot of people from buying the
brand here in Malaysia was its fuddy duddy image of their cars from
the early 2000s. Of course, it is my duty to right a wrong (even
though it is only a perceived wrong) and tell you that Volvo builds
interestingly good cars. And after driving the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin
Engine I have to say that they brand has upped the ante even more by
building a bahnstormer complete with a sense of occasion.
Everytime you drive one with verve it
becomes a celebration of sorts. The XC90 T8 is actually one of the
most complete SUVs out there on the market today and this is my story
I ended up somewhere in Shah Alam where
I was supposed to meet the chap from Volvo who had the keys to the
white XC90 T8 you see in the photographs. After arriving at the not
so secret location where Volvo Car Malaysia trains their staff as
well as store some cars I was met by Zahir, the man who held
something which I now call the 'Scandinavian Key to Happiness'.
course, you will not be handed over the keys to happiness easily. In
the case of the XC90, which comes better equipped than some
spaceships out there the handing over process takes quite a fair bit.
I must say that Zahir patiently went through the process of telling
me what this button does, how that works and what other equipment
this large sized SUV has. This took about half an hour. This process
would also be quite similar if you actually bought the XC90 in the
The XC90 T8 has tons of tech built into
it. There is so much equipment that I underestimated the need to
actually pay attention to the briefing. The XC90 here is a Twin
Engine Plug In Hybrid. In simple English it means that there are two
engines in the car. One is a petrol powered 2.0liter turbocharged/supercharged engine and
another is an electric motor powered by a battery pack cleverly
placed in the middle of the car.
If the XC90 were a traditional SUV
the place where the battery is placed is actually the transmission
tunnel for the propeller shaft which would transmit power from the
engine to the rear wheels. In the case of the XC90, it does not have
a prop shaft. The car, whilst all-wheel drive has a clever separate
system. The front wheels get its power from the petrol engine. The
rear from the electric motor. All somehow work through a clever setup
and eight speed gearbox. So it is a very clever hybrid of a vehicle.
It is also a Plug in Hybrid. This means
that it also comes with a charging cord so that you can plug it into
your power supply at home directly (via a specific cable) or get a
proper charging station at a price or charge it at one of those EV
charging stations you see at certain locations throughout the Klang
Valley. Of course, Volvo claims that you can get up to 40 kilometers
of mileage running the XC90 on full electric mode.
So all of this is good. You have two
engines, a plug in cable and tons of equipment inside to monitor all
conditions pertaining to the battery, fossil fuel engine and other
stuff. The car's air suspension is also adjustable to a degree. So is
the climate control and a lot of other stuff. So much so the XC90
runs on 6 Can-Bus systems which talk to each other as soon as you
unlock the door and get it. All go through a central processing
unit. So that makes 7 systems that would need to go online. So by the
time you start the XC90 T8 a lot of things are already going on in
Anyway, let's move on the the basics.
The XC90 looks chunky, solid and has immense road presence. The
designers have managed to get its basic proportions so right. The
squareness of the design works well. It has a big pronounced front
grille that shows off its heritage. No small tiny grille but a
confident and showy Volvo. It goes a little bit against the cool and
understated Swedish styling, but I do believe that this is the way
forward when it comes to cracking the premium car market. With the
very nicely styled front headlights with the 'T' or 'Thor' Daytime
Running Lights (DRL) it cuts an imposing figure. Very good so far.
Inside things get even better. You get
the fit and finish of something premium inside. Everything feels
upmarket. So much more than any other Volvo that has come before.
This interior consists of proper luxury fittings. What is supposed to
be aluminium is aluminium. What is wood is really wood (in a very
unique textured finish, very grainy and natural to the touch). What
is leather is high quality leather. And what is plastic feels very
high quality too.
Add that large touchscreen with only four large
knobs around it and you have Scandinavian interior design at its
best. In simpler words, the dashboard and interior fittings are
luxurious. The seats and seating are also good and well designed. If
I were to steal a word or two from the infamous Clarkson, the seating
arrangements in a XC90 was designed by someone who has had children.
It is so flexible. You can carry seven adults and some luggage. This is eating the whole cake and not gaining weight.
THE DRIVE EXPERIENCE...and more
So you then start the car up. Nothing
sounds at all since it starts in full electric mode. You slot that
crystal gearknob into Drive and head off quietly. Volvo claims that
you can run on the XC90's batteries for up to 40 kilometers before
the engine needs to kick in. But with the air condition running (one
that runs with an electric a/c compressor instead of a normal belt
driven one) as well as other creature comforts like the audio system
I only managed 30 kilometers on a charge.
The car in full electric mode is very
quiet. Tyre noise is very low at these speeds (under 40kmh usually).
When the engine kicks in it does sound slightly industrial if you
give it some boot. I think this is quite alright as the XC90 is a
SUV. It adds to the character of the car.
The thing about it being a Plug In
Hybrid is that it will only allow you to charge up to one third of
its battery capacity via the engine. If you want to reach full
capacity, it needs to be plugged into a power source or you need a
very, very long downhill stretch so that the regenerative braking can
do it for you. It is quite logical why Volvo does it like this. Using
the engine to charge up the battery would basically mean using up
fossil fuel from the car and not from the power grid, which is
actually cleaner to the environment. So if I did not plug the XC90
into the wall socket at night, it will only charge up to a third of
its capacity. Or about 12 kilometers of electric only mileage at a
I also have to state that for the
weekend I had the XC90 T8, I actually took out its charging cable and
plugged it into the wall socket located outside my house. Yes. My
house has external wall sockets and it so meant for running plug in
hybrids. But the XC90 is huge. Because there were two other cars
parked in the driveway I had to park the full sized SUV properly so
that the charging cable would reach the wall socket. It should take
about 5 to 6 hours at around 8amps for the car to receive a full
It is also quite noticeable when you charge the car as there
is a cooling fan for the built in charging unit that automatically
runs when it is charging. And note to myself. Pay attention when
Zahir was explaining as to how to charge the car! I fumbled the first
time around. The chap mentioned that you needed to work the locking
mechanism of the XC90 to get the charging cable to unlock once you've
plugged it in. Of course, this is what happens when you think you
So that settles the charging part.
Now for the driving part. It is so much an eye opener. The twin engine
combo gives you a total 407hp and a truly satisfying 640Nm worth of
torque. It may weigh 2,300kgs but because it has that much torque, it
basically flies. For a SUV that is. 0-100kmh is easily despatched in
around 5.5 seconds (when both battery and petrol power are available
and in Power Mode – Volvo claims 5.6seconds). I know. I tried it a
few times and never ever thought a Volvo SUV could be even more, or
as ballistic as a Porsche Cayenne GTS (the fastest normally aspirated
Cayenne out there).
Doing a round of very high speed
cruising is also enjoyable as the car is planted. It is even more
stable if you keep it in Power Mode as the air suspension lowers the
car a few centimeters. Now because it is equipped with air
suspension, it is also very plush. My cross country jaunt with five
other passengers on the village roads in and around Sepang, Dengkil,
Morib tested the suspension thoroughly. So it adapts well to most
Malaysian road conditions. I suppose air suspension allows for a
magic carpet ride of sorts. It can also handle some slightly rough terrain too. Touch the Off-Road mode on the Volvo Sensus touchscreen and it will rise some centimeters taller.
I actually cannot complain about the
XC90's ride and handling. It is very well sorted out. The car
balances comfort and spirited driving well. It has an intelligent
suspension. Even the steering seems well sorted out. It is precise
and actually allowed me to place the car where I wanted to. And with
all the torque available, it actually made the XC90 nimble on most
roads. I also have to say that the 8 speed transmission works well with the powertrains. It is smooth and suits the character of the car.
You only feel its girth or width when you are in the city. In
traffic and when idiots double park where they are not supposed to.
Even making a U-turn in this is easy. Again, its all that instantaneous torque from the electric motor. I have a love for
hybrids like this which actually add another dimension to driving
pleasure because it does not only allow for efficiency but for
allowing us to have a lot of driving fun.
Drawbacks? Well, this is the first of
Volvo's next generation of efficient vehicles. I have to start with
the fact that I managed to charge the XC90 every night when I got
home. The cable is actually quite bulky to lug around. I do not
actually know whether most people have the discipline to religiously
charge the car every night. I suppose people who can afford a
RM403,888 SUV would be bothered to save a few Ringgit worth of
If I was one of those super busy Captain of the Industry type
of person I may not be so bothered to do so every day too. I suppose
the problem of charging the car would not be a problem if you have a
driver or someone paid to do it for you. Do note that each charge
could cost you RM5.00. So add that to your monthly electric bill and
you're still paying for something.
Aside from that I also note that I
managed 465km from a full tank of fuel with the a full charge every
night. The full tank of petrol lasted me Friday morning to Sunday
evening with a charge on both friday and saturday night. This is
partly due to the fact that the XC90 isn't equipped with a touring
type tank. I believe Volvo specced it with something slightly around
50liters or so. Some with a lighter foot would definitely achieve
better (easily over 500km), I think if I did the math, I did about
10.5liters/100km or there abouts. Very good in such a large and heavy
car but it would be better if the tank was a good 60 liters or so for
long distance touring. As it is such a comfortable car to be in,
extra range would be always welcomed.
Its safety features are the best in the
market. No other car gives you so much safety. Blind spot sensors,
lane departure systems that work well, collision alert, park assist and pre-collision brake
assist. Every darn thing is available to help you steer the car and
avoid getting into a situation. There are so many things the XC90 T8
This car, this SUV, has my utmost
admiration and respect. It blows everything what most of us have
perceived what a Volvo is. It drives and handles so well that I
forget that it is a Volvo. It has the performance to outpull some
sportier SUVs out there that I forget it is a Volvo. It has an
exterior and interior that exudes luxury as well as having a sense of
occasion that I cannot believe comes from a Volvo. It also has my
utmost respect that underneath all of that simplicity in its lines
and clean dashboard lies a ton of electronics and technology. I fear
it may be too complicated to own in the long run but I still want
this car to be mine.
This, folks, is the best car I have
driven in 2016. If you want me to tell you what this Scandinavian SUV
really is in just a few words I have to say that this is the King of
VOLVO XC90 T8 Twin Engine Plug In Hybrid 'Inscription' Specification CKD Malaysia
RM403,888 with EEV tax incentives
In-line 4-Cylinder Turbocharged/Supercharged Engine w/87 hp Electric Motor
All-Wheel-Drive 8 speed automatic
Fuel economy (tested)
230kmh (manufacturer's figure)
Child Booster seat in the middle of the second row seats