It's a shot across the bow of rivals like the Audi Q7, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, and the BMW X5.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine AWD (or T8 for short) is the flagship piece in the Swedish brand's new game of luxury chess with its German counterparts. Building on the overwhelmingly positive reception given the T6 version that lead the XC90 charge earlier last year, the XC90 T8 introduces a plug-in hybrid component to its supercharged/turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder drivetrain. Not only does this battery-powered arrangement improve the full-size SUV's fuel efficiency, but it also substantially boosts performance.

Everything that was already good about the Volvo XC90 remains in place with the T8 model, including its upscale interior presentation, high end materials use, and trick vertically-mounted LCD touch panel on the center stack. Seating for seven is standard with the T8, as is all-wheel drive, and it's no stretch to say that visually Volvo's biggest people mover is the most attractive model to have left Gothenburg in over a decade. It's a shot across the bow of rivals like the Audi Q7, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, and the BMW X5, and with the new hybrid drivetrain onboard it's got enough firepower to make a legitimate claim on the attentions of high end customers who might not have previously considered a Volvo.

Pros:

  • The T8 edition of the 2016 Volvo XC90 brings with it a big jump in output. You get 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque from the hybrid drivetrain, which consists of a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that is both supercharged and turbocharged, combined with a small electric motor just ahead of the transmission and a larger electric unit that motivates the rear axles. Thanks to the instant torque delivery inherent in electric motors, the XC90 T8 reaches 100 km/h in just a few ticks over 5 seconds.
  • The Volvo XC90 T8 is not just quick, but it's also relatively frugal. Official fuel consumption ratings for Canada have yet to be released, but we were able to observe in the neighbourhood of 9 L/100 km in mixed driving, which is better than what you'd get from the less-powerful, gas-only XC90 T6. There's also roughly 30 km of battery-only driving available from the SUV, depending on how heavy you are on the throttle.
  • Volvo has gone all-out with the XC90's interior, particularly if you order the Inscription package that came with our tester. High-end leather and heated and ventilated seats highlight a cavernous interior, and ample cargo room combines with comfortable seating for as many as seven passengers.
  • There's a full raft of active safety features available from the brand including Volvo's follow-along Pilot Assist for low-speed traffic, a self-parking system that will get you in and out of tight spaces, adaptive cruise control with automatic braking in the event a potential collision is detected, and of course lane departure and blind spot monitoring systems.

Cons:

  • The Volvo XC90 T8 is very much a premium vehicle, which means pricing to match. To get behind the wheel of the T8 you're looking at a window sticker of $74,150, plus an additional $1,600 for the Inscription package. This means buying-in to the concept that Volvo has built a vehicle equal to its Mercedes-Benz and Audi rivals (it has), but potentially missing out on brand recognition out on the street.
  • The shifter design drove us crazy during the week we spent together. The short, stubby gear selector insists on stopping off in Neutral between every shift, which means to go from Park to Drive you need to click it twice rather than making the transition in one smooth motion. The same is true when moving from Drive to Reverse, which made for some pulse-quickening moments trying to back out into traffic.
  • Volvo has elected to use a large, vertically-oriented LCD touchscreen to control the vast majority of the XC90 T8's various functions, with mixed results. The screen looks great, but the fonts used to display information are small, the menus slide out of the top and both sides, and there's so much info being displayed that it can be tough to use the system while the vehicle is moving. Then there's the glove factor: once winter rolls in, you're going to be taking off your mitts to access climate features and heated seat controls, which is a big no-no in the frigid Canadian market.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8

 

ENGINE

2.0-litre 4-cylinder PHEV

OUTPUT

400 hp / 472 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION

8-speed automatic

0-100 KMH

5.3 seconds

TOP SPEED

N/A

FUEL ECONOMY

N/A (9.0 L/100 km observed

WEIGHT

2,299 kilograms (5,509 lbs)

SEATING CAPACITY

7

CARGO VOLUME

2,426 litres (85.7 cubic feet)

BASE PRICE

$74,150

AS-TESTED PRICE

$75,750 (Inscription)

 

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