From £63,7058
Most of the package is as impressive as the D5 diesel, but the drivetrain still needs work, as Volvo knows

What is it?

Volvo’s people call this Volvo XC90 a Twin Engine, but if they really wanted to be that pedantic, they should have called it a Triple Engine.

This is the plug-in hybrid version of the new XC90, Volvo’s large SUV, and it arrives in early 2016, about six months behind the D5 diesel and T6 conventional petrol.

Like those versions it has a four-cylinder, 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet. Here it’s supercharged, for low-rev response, and turbocharged, for higher-rev response, and is engine number one. It drives the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Engine number two is the one at the back. It sits neatly within the rear subframe and is an 81bhp electric motor driving the rear wheels.

It’s powered by a battery pack stored in the transmission tunnel, where there’s space because, unlike in other XC90s, there’s no propshaft. Plugging in the XC90 charges the batteries.

How engine two delivers its power is flexible. You can choose to drive on electric mode alone, where the range will be 24 miles. Or you can opt not to use it and save the battery power for later. Or ask for maximum input. Or choose a specialist 4wd mode for best traction off-road. Or, as is most likely, just let it sort it out itself.

If you want to get pernickety, there’s a third motor: a 25bhp starter motor/generator between the petrol engine and gearbox. It’s not much of an engine but it does pitch in from time to time, to smooth the transition between the different drive methods and fill any torque gaps.

What's it like?

Good, but there’s work still to be done. Volvo knows it, to be fair, and says it has time to sort what is, at the moment, sometimes jerky progress. The worst of it is extremely poor brake pedal feel, as it slips between regenerative braking and conventional braking.

It shows promise, though, and is brisk. What it lacks is the aural quality to match big, vee-shaped engines, but if you’re a sucker for a big engine, Volvo is content to admit that maybe it’s not the brand for you.

What is impressive is the 59g/km return on the official combined cycle - an anomaly of the current legislative cycle, as with most plug-in hybrids. Our route was too short to determine a realistic fuel return, but as usual, it’ll depend how you use the car. Commute 15 miles across town every day and you’ll never use a drop of petrol. Never plug it in and I’d be surprised if it bettered 30mpg.

What’s equally impressive on the T8 as other XC90s, though, is its interior, which is fantastically plush and comfortable, and still has decent accommodation in the two rearmost boot-placed seats, because the batteries sit in the transmission tunnel rather than under the boot floor as they do on some rivals. 

Should I buy one?

It’ll take a specific set of circumstances for this XC90 to be the one for you, especially given how good the regular D5 is.

As is often the way with a plug-in hybrid, it’s the financial advantages or fuel benefits for a specific set of customers where it appeals most. But if the drivetrain is tuned properly between now and when it goes on sale, there’s no reason this XC90 shouldn’t be as good as the rest – and it’s an exceptionally good car.

Back to top

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine Inscription 

Price £63,705; 0-62mph 5.9sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 112.9mpg; Co2 59g/km; Kerb weight 2350kg; Engine 4cyls in line, 1969cc, supercharged and turbocharged petrol; Power 314bhp at 5700rpm; Electric motor 81bhp; Torque 295lb ft at 2200-4500rpm - Electric motor 177lb ft; Gearbox 8-spd automatic

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Dark Isle 20 February 2015

I'm just not feeling the new XC90

It looks... nice, and the interior is lovely. But the bland looks combined with the new power trains that you just know aren't going to come close to their 'official' economy claims leave me a bit cold.
Will86 18 February 2015

Page 2 Open for Business

Was just reading the Mondeo review and discovered I could read the second page of posts!!! Let the celebrations commence.
JOHN T SHEA 17 February 2015


The starter motor/generator produces 34 KW or about 46 HP, and 150 NM of torque. Overall the T8's 400 hp nearly doubles the D5's 225 hp, which is reason enough to buy it regardless of fuel or tax savings.
Sporky McGuffin 19 February 2015

JOHN T SHEA wrote:The starter

JOHN T SHEA wrote:

The starter motor/generator produces 34 KW or about 46 HP, and 150 NM of torque. Overall the T8's 400 hp nearly doubles the D5's 225 hp, which is reason enough to buy it regardless of fuel or tax savings.

You can't just add all the peak outputs together - they happen at different RPM. The T8 never produces 400bhp.