2017 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design Hybrid: A Wheel Thing Car Review.

Whilst the purely electrically powered car debate rages, some companies are just head down bum up when it comes to hybrid technology. Volvo, not unexpectedly, is one of those and has chosen to showcase that tech in their top of the line SUV, the XC90. Add in a few extra letters and you have the Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design. Did I mention it’s a hybrid?2017-volvo-xc90-t8-r-design-profileVolvo list the beast at a blueback under $123K. The vehicle tested was fitted with an option pack called the Technology Package. For your three thousand extra you get a Head Up Display, parking camera with 360 degree viewing, DAB and Apple CarPlay, then for an extra $650 there’s heated front seats (great for Europe, cooling should be included for Oz as standard) plus metallic paint at $1900. This takes the price to $128450 plus government charges. But apart from those bits listed, what else do you get?To get the 2315 kilo machine motivated, there’s a combination of a 2.0L petrol engine that’s both supercharged and turbocharged and produces 235 kW on its own. A battery powered motor adds an extra 65 kW. Torque is…substantial, with a total of 640 torques available and the petrol delivers its share between 2200 to 5400 rpm. Zero to naughty then takes 5.6 seconds along the way to a top speed of 230 kph. When in cruise mode, Volvo says you should get just over two litres per one hundred from a fifty litre tank. Bolted to the combination of petrol and electric is an eight speed auto which is almost the last word in refinement.Volvo have gone a different route in the procedure to Start/Stop and Drive.  There’s a switch mounted in the centre console that’s a right or left to engage Start or Stop. Ahead of that is a genuine Orrefors crystal gear selector and it’s a tap & rocker motion to go from Park (which itself is brought into play by a separate button) through Reverse and Neutral to Drive. It’s different but not necessarily user friendly in an attempt to differentiate. More than once Neutral was found instead of Drive as the mechanism  failed to engage electronically.The hybrid package works on braking charging the battery, tapping an icon on the 12 inch touchscreen mounted in the dash or by plugging in the supplied power cable adapter into your mains power. The socket in the XC90 is mounted high on the front left fender. It’s a simple procedure all round to get the battery charged and on Start, when the Drive selector dial is in Hybrid, will have the XC90 roll away with only the crunch of the 20 inch tyres on the road surface to disturb the serenity. In the driver’s screen layout, there’s a section of the right side dial that shows the interplay of usage between petrol and electric, a smaller section showing the range available, and a tab in the touchscreen that shows overall energy usage. When plugged in, Volvo say that a full charge should be expected in around four hours.It’s an impressive drivetrain, this. The engine is calibrated to engage only when the sensor system feels its urge is required, such as accelerative moves to overtake or hill climbing. It’s effortless, smooth, integrates seamlessly and, for the most part, is unnoticed by the driver. However, it’s still moving over 2300 kilos and although quiet in its workings, the petrol engine around suburbia still saw figures of between nine and ten litres of consumption per one hundred kilometres. The switchable drive mode allows Hybrid,  Power mode for a more sporting experience, Eco, AWD for a bit of mud work, and Individual for those that like to tweak a bit.There’s been some serious suspension fettling undertaken as well.  There’s big 275/45 rubber from Michelin on those 20 inch alloys and there’s a sports car ride to be found with them. No, not a harsh, back breaking, teeth rattling, sports car, but the kind that’s firm, taut, and gives gently and willingly just enough to absorb without numbing the feedback. Quite frankly, it handles like a car half its physical dimensions and weight. Body roll is non existent, directional changes are handled deftly and with gracious poise. Couple it with a precise steering setup, with point and go there calibration, virtually eradicating understeer and responding to power on or off demands from the right foot, you’ll find one of the most enjoyable chassis’ in a vehicle this size.Inside there’s seven seats, three zone air-conditioning, the afore-mentioned touchscreen, three position memory for driver and passenger, the tech  pack, plenty of room front and rear, the full LCD screen for the driver and plenty of all round vision thanks to the airy glasshouse plus full glass roof. The seats themselves, although well padded, do lack a measure of lower back support and allow some hip movement in harder cornering. The driver’s info screen is clear in its look, easy on the eyes and, when you first get in, plays a short animation in greeting. The Orrefors crystal selector is bespoke, hand blown for the XC90.The touchscreen is a bane for A Wheel Thing. For starters, it’s a fingerprint magnet and quickly looks like a dirty window. To select any basic operation, such as the climate control, necessitates a swipe or two of the screen and, once done, requires a manual closure of the screen, rather than a preset closure of five or ten seconds. Not every operation is intuitive and it’s again a usage of technology for the sake of showing “look, we have technology”. In a direct comparison between the XC90 and Audi’s Q7, the four ringed brand won out in this area by simply offering manual operation in the form of switches.2017-volvo-xc90-t8-r-design-touchscreenOutside, it’s no longer the block of flats on wheels we saw a decade plus ago. It’s still squarish from some angles but mitigated with a mix of sensual curves, assertive body add-ons such as the front end’s chin spoiler, a powered tailgate and Volvo’s now signature front end look, the “Hammer of Thor” headlights. It looks big yet manages to squeeze in just under the five meters, at 4950 mm. Yes, it’s tall at 1776 mm, which accounts for the high view from the cabin, and has a massive 2008 mm width which helps with the 1422 mm and 1435 mm hip room front and rear. Rear leg room is 940 mm, thanks to a near three metre wheelbase. Rear cargo expands to a cavernous 1868 litres from 369 litres when the seats are all laid flat.At The End Of The Drive.
It’s a ripper handler for a big car, nimble to a fault and takes commands from the driver without question. There’s cubic metres of space, plenty of comfort, an intensely rewarding engine combination, and an imposing presence on road. Bearing in mind car reviews are of a personal nature, A Wheel Thing is still left slightly underwhelmed by the technology. You’re not isolated from the outside, the car engages you on road and lets you know you ARE part of the overall experience however that touchscreen doesn’t engage.
Personal opinion.
2017 Volvo XC90 is the place to go for all info on this behemoth.

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