2016 will present U.S. buyers a handful of choices for high-end SUVs with hybrid powertrains that will allow them to travel short distances on electric power alone. Available in the fall of 2015, the impressive new Volvo Hybrid XC90T8 “Twin Engine” is one of these.
The Volvo will have an advantage over its competition, like the plug-in BMW X5 and the Mercedes-Benz GLE. The large Volvo is the only luxury SUV crossover with such a powertrain in mind. Meanwhile, the competition must work within existing design constraints, like placing batteries within the load bay thereby decreasing otherwise available load space. But the XC90T8 design has batteries located in the tunnel that runs between the front passenger seats. The cargo space for the hybrid remains just the same as for the gasoline model.
While the BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Mitsubishi Outlander only have room for five seats in their two rows, the Volvo has a third row of seats. Therefore, it is the only hybrid sport-utility vehicle with a capacity for seven occupants.
Utilizing the 80HP electric motor that drives the rear wheels, the 9.2 kWh capacity battery bank will provide a range of 18 to 21 miles of driving. Combining the four-cylinder, 2.0 liters, 319HP turbocharged gas engine with the electric motor provides a healthy 472 ft-lbs of torque. The gasoline-only version produces 295 ft-lb. In addition, the 46HP generator/starter motor can add power to the front wheel drive.
Both electric motors and batteries are liquid cooled. That coolant can even be left in the fridge if the heat is excessive. Volvo states that it takes just two and a half hours to charge the battery pack.
The XC90’s architecture platform is the first redesign for the class since 2002. While it is by all measurements larger than the older models, it weighs about 200 pounds less. The plug-in model is substantially heavier than the gas-only versions due to the additional battery and electrical components. The eight-speed automatic transmission has several drive options. “Hybrid” is the standard setting. “Power” provides better acceleration. “Off Road” is a lower mode. “Save” prolongs battery life, and “Individual” is a custom setting. You can anticipate “electric only” speeds to max out around 50mph.