2023 Volvo EX90 electric SUV preview
The Volvo EX90 is the long-awaited successor to the XC90, but while it retains its predecessor's seven-seat layout, the new car is an electric SUV – we've had a sneak preview...
On sale Early 2024 | Price from £96,255
The striking Oscar Fredrik Church in Volvo’s home city of Gothenburg is a Neo-Gothic building, which means its architect looked to the past for his design, but the future for the engineering behind it. And the team that developed the new Volvo EX90 has taken a similar approach.
You see, at first glance this luxury SUV doesn’t look all that different to the hugely popular Volvo XC90. However, under the skin it fully embraces the latest technology by switching to electric power. The current XC90 will continue to be sold alongside the EX90 over the next few years for those who'd prefer a petrol, diesel or a hybrid car variant.
Two versions of the EX90 will be available when sales begin at the start of 2024. Both have two electric motors (one on the front axle and the other at the rear to give it four-wheel drive), producing a combined 402bhp in the standard version and 510bhp for the Performance model. The Performance will have a 0-62mph time of less than five seconds, and matches the range-topping versions of the closely related Polestar 3 and the rival BMW iX for power.
Power for the EX90’s motors comes from the same 107kWh (usable) battery as in the Polestar and, not surprisingly, the two cars have similar official ranges: 373 miles and 379 miles respectably. Both narrowly trump the iX’s figure (369 miles). To help maximise range, the rear motor can also decouple itself under certain conditions, leaving just the front motor to keep momentum.
The EX90’s maximum charging speed of 250kW is enough to get its battery from 10-80% in less than 30 minutes if you use an ultra-rapid public charger. If you charge at home using a 7.4kW wallbox you can expect the battery to go from zero to full in just over 11 hours.
As a bonus, this is the first Volvo electric model capable of bi-directional charging, meaning you can use it to charge another electric vehicle that’s running low on juice – the modern equivalent of a jump start.
Perhaps more significantly in this era of sky-high energy bills, the technology could potentially allow you to power your home from your car during peak times, then recharge the EX90’s battery at night, when electricity is at its cheapest. Volvo says it’s even looking into the possibility of allowing customers to sell energy they don’t use back to the grid.
Volvo also says it is working with various public charging networks on a new system called Plug and Charge that will allow the car to start charging as soon as it is plugged in. In theory, payment would be taken automatically from an account managed with a smartphone app.
The EX90’s interior represents far more of a departure from recent Volvos than the exterior, with a big 15.0in central touchscreen replacing the 9.0in one we’re used to. That should hopefully mean big icons that are relatively easy to hit on the move, although in our experience even the best screens require more of your attention than using old-school control knobs.
There is at least one physical dial on the centre console for changing the volume of the stereo. Plus, the EX90’s operating system has been developed by Google, so you get hands-free help from Google Assistant, in addition to navigation via Google Maps and access to various Google Play apps. Wireless Apple CarPlay is included and Android Auto (on a wired connection only) will arrive later.
A second, smaller screen puts the most relevant driving information directly in front of you, and this is complemented by a head-up display that projects your speed and sat-nav instruction on to the windscreen.
As with many modern cars, the EX90’s technology will be improved over time without you needing to visit a dealer, thanks to remote software updates. What’s more, a 5G internet connection should allow superfast streaming from your favourite music service, and a (likely optional) 25-speaker stereo from Bowers & Wilkins promises Dolby Atmos surround-sound technology.
There’s no need to worry about losing your car keys, because your smartphone can be set to automatically unlock the doors as you approach and lock them as you walk away. And keeping your phone topped up shouldn’t be an issue, because the EX90 has a wireless charging pad, plus enough USB-C ports to make sure none of your passengers’ electrical devices go flat.
Indeed, the new model’s biggest trump card could be its family-friendly nature – it’s one of the few electric SUVs with seven seats.
We've sat in an EX90 and can confirm that adults will be able to fit in all three rows. There's a huge amount of head and leg room in the front and middle row seats, while the third row is best reserved for average sized adults. A 5ft 11 occupant back there will hunch slightly to clear the roof lining, while their knees will brush against the middle row backrest. You can slide the middle row bench forwards to free up some space, though, and while it's not as spacious as a BMW X7 or Range Rover LWB, it will be fine for shorter trips.
Exact boot space has not been confirmed yet, but we expect the EX90 to improve on the already impressive XC90. At first glance, there appears to be room for a couple of large bags, even when all seven of its seats are in use, and we'd expect it can take two large pushchairs or up to 10 carry-on suitcases with its third row folded away.
Under the boot floor is a deep storage area for the retractable load space cover and items you may want to hide away, while a row of buttons on the right-hand side of the load area can fold and raise the third row seats, and lower the rear suspension to ease loading.
There's also a handy second boot (or ‘frunk’) under the bonnet where you can store the charging cables if you wish to keep them away from the rest of your luggage. It's quite a shallow area, due to the electrical ancillaries underneath, but it's one of the widest we've seen so far.
Beyond the fact that it’s electric, Volvo says the EX90’s eco credentials are burnished by recycled materials used in its construction, including 15% of the plastic and steel, and 25% of the aluminium.
And, as with all of the brand’s cars, safety will be a key selling point, and that's reflected in the exterior design. The raised section towards the front of the EX90's roof that resembles the taxi sign on a black cab is a lidar scanner designed to detect even small objects that are hundreds of metres ahead. That should give more time for the car’s driver aids to react to potential dangers.
The presence of the lidar scanner also means that the EX90 has all the hardware it needs for fully autonomous driving – at least in certain conditions and when legislation permits.
Meanwhile, facial recognition sensors and cameras inside the car monitor the driver for signs of distraction or drowsiness so alerts can be issued if necessary. And if the worst does still happen, and you fall asleep or are taken ill while driving, the EX90 is designed to safely bring itself to a stop and call for help.
A starting price at launch of £96,255 means the EX90 is significantly more expensive than the XC90 – and £10,755 more than a five-seat Polestar 3 with the same battery. If that rules it out for you, the good news is that much of the same technology will filter down to cheaper models in the Volvo range.
The brand says it intends to reveal a new electric car every year, with the aim of having a fully electric line-up by 2030 and being a carbon-neutral company by 2040. That’s anything but backwards looking.
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