Review: 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge has plug, will travel
The XC90 three-row SUV is Volvo’s biggest vehicle. It seats seven, has a lot of cargo space, and comes in various iterations to match lifestyle wants. The T5 has a turbocharged four-cylinder and the T6 supercharged four. The T8 gets renamed the Recharge and has a plug-in hybrid setup.
At a Glance
- Recharge model, renamed from T8, has more power than the other options
- Styling, design, and ergonomics are top notch
- Very fuel efficient large SUV in this PHEV setup
- Infotainment leaves much to be desired
The Volvo XC90 first appeared in its current rendition in 2016 and has been steadily installing itself as a favorite since. Unexpectedly, the most powerful of the three options for the XC90 is also the most efficient. The Recharge model uses the supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder from the T6 model and adds electrification via a motor and battery pack. This boosts power from the T5’s 250 horsepower (186.5 kW) to a whopping 400 (298 kW). Even the supercharged T6 can’t match that at 316 hp (235.6 kW).
Most will be immediately drawn to the 2021 XC90’s style and design, probably long before realizing the Recharge has high fuel efficiency as a bonus. The XC90 is sleek and confident looking and has a plush, but not ostentatious, interior. As with all Volvo vehicles, it’s smartly done without being too much. Little touches of class like the available Swedish crystal shift knob and standard four-zone climate control definitely mark it above the average.
When driving, the 2021 Volvo XC90 feels well-mannered and confident, as should be expected of a luxury SUV. Safety technologies are tucked away and forgotten, but ever-vigilant and quickly engaged when needed. Forward collision mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and other systems are quietly working in the background, which is unusual for today’s market where these safety technologies are very often front and center as bragging points.
The Recharge model, with its plug-in (PHEV) drivetrain, is rated at a combined 55 MPGe (4.3 l/100km) when fully charged and a still respectable 27 MPG (8.7 l/100km) when running on gasoline only. The XC90 Recharge has an EPA-rated 18 miles (29 km) of all-electric range when fully charged. In our testing, we got about 19.5 miles of EV driving before the engine kicked in by staying in town at lower speeds and foregoing air conditioning. Going at highway speeds requires the engine to augment the 87 horsepower (65 kW) motor and using the A/C requires the engine to run a pump. The total range of the XC90 Recharge is over 500 miles when fully charged and fueled.
That’s 500-plus miles on air suspension with front seat massage under simulated suede, if you option the high-end Inscription model and a couple of option upgrades. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
This is not to say that the 2021 Volvo XC90 doesn’t have its problems. While Volvo’s infotainment interface was relatively cutting edge (if still clunky) when it arrived in 2016, it’s now outdated and awkward. Even simple tasks like changing the station can become onerous until one becomes used to doing them. Worse, the voice recognition controls are only moderately good at understanding spoken English. Even after my best Swedish Chef impression, there was still a lot of confusion. Short, clipped drill sergeant-style commands seem to work best, which kind of wrecks the luxury atmosphere.
That complaint aside, there’s a lot of excellence in this luxury SUV. The engine and motor combination mate beautifully with the eight-speed automatic transmission and create both a muscular appeal for the driver and a smooth ride for the passengers. This is achieved without the grunt of a larger displacement engine and the sometimes over-the-top lux of some other high-end models.
The 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge has a starting price of US$68,695 plus delivery. Our nearly fully-loaded test model rang in at $81,690 after delivery.
Product Page: 2021 Volvo XC90