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Cruising electric-avenue in the Volvo XC90 T8

29.08.2016

The Volvo XC90 has been a break out machine for the Swedish car maker, filling its trophy cabinet since its introduction. I drove one towards the end of last year and I really enjoyed it. What I liked most about it was the look. There is no better looking SUV on the market, in my opinion. Now the model that I drove was a diesel, however the global push towards electric cars is becoming so strong that we now get Eskom powered supercars, sedans and little city cars. It makes sense then for a manufacturer to offer an electric powered SUV then, right?

Well that’s exactly what arrived at our offices recently, a black Volvo XC90 T8. The T8 is the top of the range model, what made the smile on my face even bigger was that the car featured the Inscription package. It’s massive wheels and chrome detailing contrasting against its metallic black pant makes the car look as if it is wearing a tailor made tuxedo. The grille also features the iconic arrow which has been elegantly aligned with the diagonal slash across the grille. Other features which I like are the T-shaped DRL lights, which are said to resemble Thor's Hammer.

Step inside the Volvo XC90 and you are greeted by a clean, well designed, driver focused interior. In fact, this interior is really one of the nicest that I have been in. There are so little buttons and they are so meticulously made. For instance, the start/stop button is a crystal like switch that you turn. The same goes for the Drive Select button, it looks like a piece of jewellery which you rotate with your finger. I could select between Dynamic, Efficiency, Comfort and Off-Road. As for the volume button, that too is a neatly designed dial.

The reason why there are so little buttons in the car is because everything is controlled via an iPad like touch screen which is imbedded into the centre of the dashboard. The operating system, known as Sensus is much like that of a tablet and thus quite easy to use. You swipe left or right to access specific menus. You can also drag your finger from the top of the screen down to access a drop-down menu. There is one button which takes you back to the home screen. Even the cars climate control functions are operated via the screen. As for the instrument cluster, well that is all digital as well and once you have the navigation activated the map will appear right in front of you.

Ok, so now that you know what the car looks like let me tell you how the electric motor and petrol engine work together. Under the hood lies a turbo and supercharged two-litre Drive-E petrol unit capable of 235kW/400Nm. This motor drives the front wheels while a 9.2 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack powers a 65kW/240Nm electric motor which drives the rear wheels. It's easy to charge and takes about three hours.

After some maths I worked out that the combined power output is 300kW and 640Nm, when the batteries are fully charged that is. There is also something called a Crank-Integrated Starter Generator which is located between the engine and the 8-speed gearbox. This device performs three functions; firstly, it’s a 34kW starter motor which allows the car to change seamlessly between pure electric and hybrid driving modes. Secondly, it acts as an electric generator to recharge the battery pack, and thirdly as an electric engine-booster. Volvo says that it can boost up to 150Nm.

To help you control what happens under the skin the XC90 T8 features a Drive Select function. This includes Pure, Hybrid and Power as well as an AWD an Off-Road setting which gives maximum torque to the wheels for tough conditions, however I wouldn’t even bother with that mode as you’d be daft to go off-roading in this beauty.

Is it all rainbows and unicorns? Well, no, not exactly. You see, Volvo claim a fuel consumption figure of 2.1l/100km, a figure most probably achieved in an alternating universe as I managed around 8.0l/100km over my test week. Without assistance from the batteries the XC90 T8 did come across as slightly thirsty. The plus side however to having the electric motors is that the car, when fully charged will be able to travel about 30km at speeds of up to 125km/h. Something which came in handy when I needed to drive around town. I managed to do 27km without the engine even switching on. Now don’t think that I was disrupting traffic at some ridiculous crawl speed, I managed to stick to the speed limits.

So what are my final thoughts on the car? Well I love the look and the elegant interior, unfortunately as impressive as what the electric motor is and the occasional benefits it provides I’d walk straight past the R1 092 100 T8 and get the XC90 D5 turbo diesel Inscription model.

 

 

 

Article written by Justin Jacobs
29.08.2016
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