Volvo XC90 T8 long-term review: report 1

A 2019 facelift gives us the perfect reason to run our Plug-in Hybrid of the Year, the Volvo XC90 T8...

Volvo XC90 rear

The car: Volvo XC90 T8 Inscription Run by: Will Nightingale, reviews editor

Why it’s here: To see if our favourite plug-in hybrid has been improved by a range of updates

Needs to: Make long slogs up and down the country relaxing for a car full of people and their luggage

Price £67,045 Price as tested £74,095 Mileage 607 Official economy 113mpg (WLTP combined) Test economy 30.1mpg Options fitted Bowers & Wilkins stereo (£3000), Xenium pack (£1600), Winter Pack (£525), Maple Brown metallic paint (£700), blindspot monitoring with cross-traffic alert and rear collision mitigation (£500), dark-tinted windows (£400), Family pack (£275), 4.5m Type 2 charging cable (£50)

26 July 2019 – The Volvo XC90 joins our fleet

I can hear you now. Why is that Mr Nightingale running a Volvo XC90 when it’s been on sale since 2015? In fact, I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that I’m just being a tart and fancied something posh.

Here’s the thing, though: while I’m not going to deny liking a bit of luxury, the T8 version that I’ve got scooped our Plug-in Hybrid Car of the Year award back in January. And if you look closely at my car, you’ll notice the concave front grille, a sign that this is the new-for-2019 facelifted XC90.

2019 Volvo XC90 long-term cornering

Other changes include a restyled front bumper, new alloy wheel designs and an extra USB port inside. And don’t worry; you’re not going to be reading months’ worth of reports about how good it is to be able to top up my mobile and wireless earphones at the same time, because there are also technical changes.

While the battery is the same size as before, the fact that battery technology gets better every year means the capacity has been increased from 10.4kWh to 11.8kWh. In plain English, that’s hiked the maximum electric range from a relatively measly 21.7 miles to a much healthier 28.6 miles, with the help of changes to the braking system that make it better at putting energy back into the battery when you’re slowing down.

My commute to work is anywhere between 44 and 60-plus miles, depending on the state of the motorway network that day, so those runs will be partly electric-only and partly with the T8’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol engine chipping in. To make life more interesting, while there’s a relatively fast Type 2 charger at the What Car? office, I need to use a slow three-pin domestic plug to recharge the battery at home.

2019 Volvo XC90 long-term dash

When it came to choosing the specification of my car, I will admit to having gone a bit mad. Yes, I did actively choose to have a metallic brown Volvo with brown seats. This colour looks terrific in the sun, while the tan leather upholstery feels warmer and more inviting than boring black.

Other highlights, over and above what you get as standard with the mid-range Inscription trim I’ve chosen, include a £1600 Xenium Pack (tilt-and-slide panoramic glass roof, 360deg surround-view camera and an automatic parking aid) and a £525 Winter Pack (heating for the windscreen, steering wheel and washer nozzles and a headlight cleaning system). I’ve also added a £3000 Bowers & Wilkins sound system and a £500 pack that combines blindspot monitoring with a system that warns if you’re about to reverse into the path of a passing car and can apply the brakes if you don’t respond. All told, the price as tested is a hefty £74,095.

So what’s the car been like so far? Well, the seats are tremendously comfortable and there’s something very calming about running on electric power alone. But that calm is well and truly shattered – in a good way – if you push the accelerator pedal to the floor, with B-road overtakes a breeze thanks to the XC90 T8’s combined power output of close to 400bhp.

2019 Volvo XC90 long-term rear

My only concern is that the ride seems a little jittery, although I need to check the tyre pressures to make sure they’re not on their high-load setting. The only reason I haven’t done so yet is that the XC90 has been in demand from colleagues ever since it arrived.

One of the first tasks for the XC90 will be to transport me and my family down to Devon for a holiday, providing an ideal opportunity to assess its mile-munching and family-swallowing capabilities. You can find out how I fared in the next update.

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