First drive: 2018 Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence Hybrid in the UAE
Building a luxury car brand is hard. It’s even harder when you’re trying to reinvent an existing brand as a luxury contender. Volvo used to be a purveyor of safe automobiles, slightly premium in price due to their Swedish sourcing. Some thought that the Chinese buying out the carmaker would be a bad thing. But things couldn’t be better once Volvo left previous-keeper Ford’s shadow. Starting with the all-new XC90 a few years ago, Volvo’s offerings have become premium enough to compete with the best that Germany has to offer. When it was first launched here though, the XC90 only came in T6 guise, but the T8 hybrid is now being offered in the UAE.
The XC90 T8 you see here is the Excellence trim, identified by the engraved badging on the side chrome strip. We assume the matte-finish brightwork on the door pillars and different wheels are part of the package as well, but otherwise there’s not much else differentiating it from a standard XC90 T6 that already looks well-specced. An extra fuel-filler opening on the front fender hints that the T8 can be plugged in to charge up if required.
We quietly snoop around a Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence. Check out the interior!
Posted by DriveArabia.com on Tuesday, 15 May 2018
Climb into the front, and it’s familiar XC90 design, complete with the portrait-format touchscreen and the clean dashboard design. The leatherwork and detailing is stunning, and our test car came with stunning brown upholstery as well as well-placed wood trim, some of it even on the roll-out cup-holder cover. The Excellence additionally comes with a “crystal” gear shifter, and the central rearview mirror is frameless. There are almost no hard-plastic panels to speak of, so you feel like you’re in a real high-end automobile, which is more than we can say for certain other luxury brands.
Tech features include the aforementioned touchscreen (which is still a hassle to use on the move, though better than other systems), heads-up display, fairly good a/c, power-adjustable vented seats and more, as well as an LCD gauge cluster, although we never did make sense of the hybrid readouts. It also comes with a whole suite of passive and active-safety features.
We had a family trip for seven planned out, and had to cancel that once we opened the rear door — it’s laid out like a smaller-scale Rolls-Royce Cullinan. There’s only two reclining seats in the back and the third row has been ditched for an abundance of other amenities, including a centre console that holds two flute glasses, a fridge that’s shaped to hold two bottles of Shani, a pop-up LCD screen with seat controls on it, separate touch controls for the rear a/c with vents on the B-pillars, panoramic glass roof and actual iPads installed on the seatbacks in custom holders. Well, that was unexpected.
The added rear-seat luxury means the rear seatback won’t fold down any more, and boot space is also reduced a bit. There is a glass window separating the cabin and the boot, for extra quietness. A handy pop-up cargo divider/organiser in the boot is useful to holding down your high-street shopping bags (or groceries, in our case).
The Volvo XC90 T8 has a “Twin Engine” 2.0-litre 4-cylinder that’s both supercharged and turbocharged, aside from being hybrid and plug-in capable as well. That’s good for 407 hp and 640 Nm of total peak torque. It’s ridiculously complicated, but it also makes the car useful in many more ways — use petrol power when you have to, or charge it up if you have access to a plug-point for an electric-only range of more than 40 km.
With all systems on full throttle, it is said to be capable of a 0-100 kph time of 5.6 seconds, and we can confirm that it feels mighty quick when taking off from idle, while tapering off linearly as the revs head towards redline. Five different driving modes allow for everything from maximum power always to saving battery power for later.
Its fuel economy is rated at 2.1 litres/100 km (47.6 km/l) in Europe, probably with a fully-charged battery, but we saw 10.7 litres/100 km as we can’t charge the car on the street, and have to rely on the hybrid bits of the car to recharge the batteries on the go.
Driving the T8 can best be described as serene. It starts silently at the twist of a fancy knob on the centre console, the steering is light and the ride is as silent and smooth as…a Rolls-Royce! There’s even a bit of floatiness, similar to what Rolls passes off as a “magic carpet” ride.
The engine only comes on when it’s needed, although on Dubai’s high-speed roads, that’s most of the time, since the a/c was also on.
Spirited driving is possible as there’s tons of grip around corners as well as good body control, but it won’t be particularly entertaining since the steering offers little feedback. The brakes also don’t do anything unless you push the lightly-weighted pedal all the way in (possibly a consequence of regenerative braking tech), and you have to be careful in slow-moving traffic as the car also creeps forward a bit too quickly.
One of the driving modes is “All-Wheel-Drive” that provides constant all-wheel-drive on demand. We wouldn’t take it offroad though. Its delicate bumpers extend out a fair bit and its 21-inch wheels were already scuffed in city-driving.
With a price tag of Dhs 400,000 in the UAE, the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine aims to be offer the ultimate limousine amenities in Excellence trim, and it manages that to perfection. It lacks the legroom to replace proper long-wheelbase limos, but if speedy, green, under-the-radar luxury travel is something you prefer as you go against the grain in other aspects of your life, this is the car for you.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.