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Quick Spin: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8

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Old 03-02-15, 10:13 AM   #1
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Default Quick Spin: 2016 Volvo XC90 T8

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http://www.autoblog.com/photos/2016-...-spin/#image-1

Engine: Twin-Charged 2.0L I4 / 9.2 kWh Li-ion
Power: ~ 400 hp / 472 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
0-60 Time: 5.8 Seconds
Top Speed: 143 MPH
Drivetrain: All-Wheel Drive
Engine Placement: Front
Curb Weight: 5,165 LBS
Seating: 2+3+2
Cargo: 64 CU-FT (est)
MPG: 59 MPGe Combined (est)

In the typical understanding of gearhead parlance a "sleeper" car is one that looks slow but goes fast. Or, at least, it should go faster than it looks. A perfect execution of the sleeper concept typically involves some post-manufacture fiddling, like hacking a turbocharger and its plumbing into the engine bay of an otherwise naturally aspirated vehicle.

But there are certainly instances of OEM-supplied sleepers too, where subtle badging or discrete modifications belie an impressive improvement in performance. In the from-the-factory version, just a few letters can make a world of difference: SHO, GNX and GLH all being excellent examples from history.

Volvo has its own history of sleeping Swedes, of course who among us hasn't gleefully pointed out a 740 Turbo wagon to a chorus of blank looks from the uninitiated? But this latest sleeper, called out by the T8 badge on the back of the 2016 XC90, breaks new ground for the whole somnambulant genre. Not only does that "T8" mean greater performance than the standard version of the crossover, but, it also boasts impressive green-cred.

I was lucky to take a turn in the Volvo XC90 T8, with its potent plug-in electric drivetrain, around the Catalonian coast of Spain. The top-trim crossover proved compelling, and not just because it can brag "59 mpge" on its window sticker.

Driving Notes
  • The meat of what makes the T8 interesting is, of course, a powertrain that uses a staggering number of technologies to produce a max system output of (roughly) 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. To get there, Volvo has supercharged and turbocharged the 2.0-liter direct-injection four-cylinder gas engine under the front hood; good for 318 hp and 295 lb-ft on its own. Adding to the mix is a beefy electric motor mounted on the rear axle, kicking out another 82 hp and 177 lb-ft, to the rear wheels (under ideal conditions).
  • Depending on the drive mode you've selected, that complex power delivery system works in a few ways. Hybrid is the default, and uses power from the gas engine and electric motor as needed, with great fuel economy its designated mission in life. (We don't have full EPA ratings yet, but Volvo is claiming a combined US rating of 59 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.) Pure mode offers all-electric driving of "more than" 40 kilometers (25 miles) based on the European cycle. AWD mode drives all four wheels on demand, while Save socks away battery power for later use.
  • From the perspective of fun driving, it's Power mode that I found most interesting. Here the T8 really reveals itself as the aforementioned sleeper, using electric torque to blister the pavement at low speeds, and the twin-charged gas mill to keep the pace up. The difference in throttle response between Hybrid and Power mode is noticeable, and hilarious and unquestionably quicker than that of the standard XC90 T6. This is the good stuff.
  • Also good is the modulation between gas and electric power (and both at once). Though I could hear the engine kicking on when moving from the all-electric driving to hybrid, in most instances the flow of power was pretty seamless.
  • In terms of handling, the T8's case for sleeper status falls back a bit. The low/center positioning of the battery pack does give the Volvo a planted feeling, and I'll admit that the added weight wasn't a huge detractor, but I wasn't ever tickled to push the big utility vehicle harder through successive corners. The ride is smooth and composed, even on the firm side for the class, but it falls well short of sporting. I think that's fine, of course.
  • What's less good is the rather artificial feeling steering, which nitpicks the driver when the lane-keep assist system is active (rightly, I suppose), but also feels a little wonky when that system is deactivated. Overall steering feels sterile and kind of slow, except for at very low speeds where it lightens considerably, and quickens helpfully for parking lot maneuvers.
  • It's in the parking lots, suburban boulevards, freeways and other mild driving environments of the world that the XC90 T8 will excel. Even with the gas engine chipping in, it is quiet at speed, with a cabin that's even superior to its more conventional T6 brother. Soft leather trims all seven, reasonably capacious seats (this is the first-ever seven-seat plug-in hybrid, for the record), and even with the extra battery pack aboard cargo and passenger room is ample.
  • One telltale sign that you're inside the T8 model is the lovely shift lever, wrought from Orrefors crystal in a metal surround. The stubby lever is one of Volvo's only overt nods to aspirations for a higher class of luxury shopper, but I'll admit that it does feel good in the hand. The action of changing gears with it, however, is a lot more awkward than with the lesser T6's standard automatic shift gate, as the crystal unit requires multiple 'taps' to move between drive and reverse, for instance. It's a bit like the famous BMW 'flipper' but more fiddly. Still, it's nice to look at.
  • As is the game-changing Volvo Sensus touchscreen infotainment interface. As I talked about in my T6 review, it's smooth responses and fast action are almost Apple-good, and the system should help close the sale on a lot of XC90s.

So, everything on the XC90 T8 works just fine for the most part, and I came away impressed that the big plug-in managed to feel very high tech while never seeming 'odd' just for the sake of differentiation. If a future of widespread adoption of advanced powertrains like these is to exist, there will have to be more products like this Volvo that smooth the transition for average drivers. And, of course, average buyers will have to be able to afford one. Volvo's not giving any indication of where the T8 pricing will start, save to say that I'll be more expensive than the T6 (of course), but chatting with other car hacks leads me to think that the low- to mid-$60,000 range seems likely.

That pricing would put it in the same conversation as the more powerful variants of three-row vehicles from Germany, like the BMW X5 xDrive50i and the Mercedes-Benz ML400, but with a strong attraction for the green-leaners. A showdown with the upcoming Tesla Model X also seems inevitable, and though the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV won't fit in terms of market segment, shoppers simply looking for plug-in tech and space might glance at both. In all cases, obviously, a final sticker price will matter, but don't sleep on this T8 as a real competitor at the top of its class.

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Old 03-05-15, 11:12 AM   #2
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Quote:
Depending on the drive mode you've selected, that complex power delivery system works in a few ways. Hybrid is the default, and uses power from the gas engine and electric motor as needed, with great fuel economy its designated mission in life. (We don't have full EPA ratings yet, but Volvo is claiming a combined US rating of 59 miles per gallon gasoline equivalent.) Pure mode offers all-electric driving of "more than" 40 kilometers (25 miles) based on the European cycle. AWD mode drives all four wheels on demand, while Save socks away battery power for later use.
This is really what Lexus needs to improve on for their Hybrids. Improving pure EV range. Currently they can only handle a few miles and depending on circumstances up to 40mph but usually closer to 25mph.
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Old 03-05-15, 12:56 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Hoovey2411 View Post
This is really what Lexus needs to improve on for their Hybrids. Improving pure EV range. Currently they can only handle a few miles and depending on circumstances up to 40mph but usually closer to 25mph.
uh... hybrids vs plugin hybrids... there is a big difference.

Also, HSD can work on EV power only at much larger speeds than 25mph, just not at press of the button (which you shouldnt use anyway)... but it will quite often use EV during acceleration or cruising at larger speeds, hence the good fuel economy.

At larger speeds, even phevs wont use EV mode at big speeds because thats inefficient... it is best used at lower speeds in town.

So far, nobody is buying these phevs due to large price difference between them and hybrids, for relatively small range... plus you have to plug it in, which does not work for everyone. Right now their sales in the US are going down.

I wouldnt mind driving a phev, I think they are ideal in Europe but at the same time, I dont have anywhere to plug it in and at the same time, price difference is way too high.

Most manufacturers that offer them in regular models, do it for PR purposes and sell very, very small number of vehicles per month. It will be interesting to see what Volvo does. Mitsibushi has very popular PHEV SUV in Europe.
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Old 03-05-15, 01:00 PM   #4
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just checked UK pricing for Diesel vs PHEV, and difference is astonishing $23k. So unless government offers some huge tax brakes (some countries do), it makes no sense at all... might sell in those countries that offer big brakes for PHEVs.

so, thats why Lexus does not offer them :-)
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Old 03-05-15, 01:27 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by spwolf View Post
uh... hybrids vs plugin hybrids... there is a big difference.

Also, HSD can work on EV power only at much larger speeds than 25mph, just not at press of the button (which you shouldnt use anyway)... but it will quite often use EV during acceleration or cruising at larger speeds, hence the good fuel economy.

At larger speeds, even phevs wont use EV mode at big speeds because thats inefficient... it is best used at lower speeds in town.

So far, nobody is buying these phevs due to large price difference between them and hybrids, for relatively small range... plus you have to plug it in, which does not work for everyone. Right now their sales in the US are going down.

I wouldnt mind driving a phev, I think they are ideal in Europe but at the same time, I dont have anywhere to plug it in and at the same time, price difference is way too high.

Most manufacturers that offer them in regular models, do it for PR purposes and sell very, very small number of vehicles per month. It will be interesting to see what Volvo does. Mitsibushi has very popular PHEV SUV in Europe.
I understand there is a difference between Hybrid and PHEV, but even without a plug-in, Lexus Hybrids can run in full EV. My comment was simply improve the range by adding more powerful batteries and electric motors. We can do without the plug. EV mode is perfect for traffic jams, parking lots, low speed city driving, however the speed limits in American suburbia are roughly 25-50mph depending on school, business and residences nearby. I've run a GS450h at 43mph in full EV on the freeway during moderate traffic but the pace was closer to 50mph so it would kick the engine on.
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Old 03-05-15, 03:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Hoovey2411 View Post
I understand there is a difference between Hybrid and PHEV, but even without a plug-in, Lexus Hybrids can run in full EV. My comment was simply improve the range by adding more powerful batteries and electric motors. We can do without the plug. EV mode is perfect for traffic jams, parking lots, low speed city driving, however the speed limits in American suburbia are roughly 25-50mph depending on school, business and residences nearby. I've run a GS450h at 43mph in full EV on the freeway during moderate traffic but the pace was closer to 50mph so it would kick the engine on.
if they made larger batteries, that would made it a plugin :-)

plug is just a way to charge batteries that are too large capacity to be fully charged by regen.

Basically for Prius PHEV, all they did is larger battery + a plug... rest of the system was ready.

So the reason they use certain size of batteries, is because thats about what they determine that you can recharge during driving... without something like supercapacitors that can recharge fast (accept more energy).

I had a prius for 3 years, only way I could charge that small battery was if i went downhill for a long time... there is no way to trully charge even that small battery with brakes, engine has to charge it and then you lose benefit since it spends fuel doing so.

So i doubt they will be ever enlarging non-plugin batteries... but maybe if batteries ever become truly cheaper, we will get actual real, selling phevs for every car that have a hybrid already. Sadly, mostly I see PR stunts where they do phev, claim some outrageous mpg without explaining that for 90% of the test, engine was off, and then dont really produce more than handful, except for 3-4 countries where governments give huge incentives.

I mean, who is really going to pay more for this Volvo than a diesel, for only 40km range? Thats not worth $22k... i would maybe pay up to $3k-5k for 50-60km range and only if i could somehow charge it at home.
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Old 03-05-15, 04:43 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by spwolf View Post
if they made larger batteries, that would made it a plugin :-)

plug is just a way to charge batteries that are too large capacity to be fully charged by regen.

Basically for Prius PHEV, all they did is larger battery + a plug... rest of the system was ready.

So the reason they use certain size of batteries, is because thats about what they determine that you can recharge during driving... without something like supercapacitors that can recharge fast (accept more energy).

I had a prius for 3 years, only way I could charge that small battery was if i went downhill for a long time... there is no way to trully charge even that small battery with brakes, engine has to charge it and then you lose benefit since it spends fuel doing so.

So i doubt they will be ever enlarging non-plugin batteries... but maybe if batteries ever become truly cheaper, we will get actual real, selling phevs for every car that have a hybrid already. Sadly, mostly I see PR stunts where they do phev, claim some outrageous mpg without explaining that for 90% of the test, engine was off, and then dont really produce more than handful, except for 3-4 countries where governments give huge incentives.

I mean, who is really going to pay more for this Volvo than a diesel, for only 40km range? Thats not worth $22k... i would maybe pay up to $3k-5k for 50-60km range and only if i could somehow charge it at home.
Ever had seat time in RX450h, GS450h, ES300h or LS600hL? They recharge effectively with the bigger motors.

Yeah easy to fluff numbers. Which Scandinavian country only offers Lexus Hybrids? Is it Sweden iirc or regional?
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Old 03-05-15, 06:34 PM   #8
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Ever had seat time in RX450h, GS450h, ES300h or LS600hL? They recharge effectively with the bigger motors.

Yeah easy to fluff numbers. Which Scandinavian country only offers Lexus Hybrids? Is it Sweden iirc or regional?
sure, they dont recharge fully though.. and a lot of that recharge is from the engine, not brakes... just look at hybrid display and see how often is the engine charging batteries. Same reason in Prius PHEV, or any other phev, you get similar mpg to hybrid despite much, much larger battery... it is simply useless unless you are going down some steep mountains.

lions are a bit better when it comes to that - they can input/output more energy but the difference is not significant... on the other hand, supercapacitors can do a lot better, which is why they use them in LMP1 but they are too expensive.

Nothing wrong with phevs anyway... just not at $22k extra for 40km.

Denmark,Norway, Netherlands... those countries have huge taxes so hybrids but especially phev and ev's, get incredible tax breaks. Tesla is one of the top 10 selling cars in Norway these days because it costs very little compared to other cars due to taxes. For instance, Tesla is 10% cheaper than base GS300h (and 40% cheaper than GS450h) :-).

They tax normal cars a lot, up to 150% depending on country.
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Old 03-08-15, 10:07 AM   #9
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Volvo and Polestar announced that they are working on Performance Packages for this new XC90. These upgrades should add extra horsepower and torque

BUT it will only be for D5 and T6 variants....
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Old 03-08-15, 06:19 PM   #10
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sure, they dont recharge fully though.. and a lot of that recharge is from the engine, not brakes... just look at hybrid display and see how often is the engine charging batteries. Same reason in Prius PHEV, or any other phev, you get similar mpg to hybrid despite much, much larger battery... it is simply useless unless you are going down some steep mountains.

lions are a bit better when it comes to that - they can input/output more energy but the difference is not significant... on the other hand, supercapacitors can do a lot better, which is why they use them in LMP1 but they are too expensive.

Nothing wrong with phevs anyway... just not at $22k extra for 40km.

Denmark,Norway, Netherlands... those countries have huge taxes so hybrids but especially phev and ev's, get incredible tax breaks. Tesla is one of the top 10 selling cars in Norway these days because it costs very little compared to other cars due to taxes. For instance, Tesla is 10% cheaper than base GS300h (and 40% cheaper than GS450h) :-).

They tax normal cars a lot, up to 150% depending on country.
And that's exactly what Mitsubishi did right with their Outlander PHEV. They priced it as their top of the line diesel. No wonder they cant make enough of them.
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Old 03-08-15, 06:45 PM   #11
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Great styling. That's exactly what's needed for good outward visibility and space efficiency inside....a nice boxy design like that. Too many SUVs these days have droop-down rear rooflines and tiny peep-hole windows that are virtually worthless for looking out. Front end, though, with those headlights and vertical-bar grille, looks a little too much like the Jeep Cherokee.
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Old 03-09-15, 05:51 AM   #12
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And that's exactly what Mitsubishi did right with their Outlander PHEV. They priced it as their top of the line diesel. No wonder they cant make enough of them.
yep, keep in mind that pricing is marketing decision... here they dont care about selling them, so they basically put factory price + margin on them, without marketing lowering the price... so we pay $20k extra for phev on the top of diesel... which nobody does :-). I guess since Germany is close, we could easily go there and buy one for $20k less.

If I had somewhere to plug PHEV in my apartment complex, i would seriously look into Outlander PHEV - with $12k goverment bonus and import from the market where is is cheap (Germany or Italy), I would be basically driving it for free :-)
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