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2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design Twin Engine Plug-in Review
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

I’ve test driven hundreds of cars, but I’m pretty sure the fully redesigned Volvo XC90 is the closest I’ll ever feel to Cinderella driving around in a great big fancy pumpkin. This three-row luxury SUV effortlessly integrates classic Volvo design cues into an all-new shape with some of the sharpest technology I’ve witnessed yet on the market, including a twin engine plug-in hybrid version.

I drove a 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design with the twin engine plug-in hybrid that features a supercharged and turbocharged 2-liter with a high-voltage electric battery for a total output of 400 horsepower. My model also had an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission with Start-Stop technology and eAWD. Available in three different three trims (Momentum, R-Design and Inscription) standard luxury and technology highlights on my T8 R-Design model included: a nine-inch touchscreen; Sensus Connect media system; ten-speaker audio system; Bluetooth; HD Radio; panoramic sunroof; leather upholstery; seating for seven; heated and ten-way power front seats; power tailgate; roof rails; crystal gear shift knob by Orrefors; illuminated sill plates; twenty-inch alloy wheels; and a very complex suite of safety technology. Price as described without R-Design options starts at $68,100 for the hybrid model.

The Volvo XC90’s main competitors are upscale mid-size utility vehicles promoting less bulk and more performance like the Audi Q5, BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, but also extends to the Lexus RX 350, Acura MDX, and in terms of combining luxury with off-road ability, the Toyota Land Cruiser.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Volvo XC90 certainly possesses the wow factor with a well-crafted instrument panel that delivers an immediate sense of cutting edge technology featuring a vertical touchscreen more likened to an iPad in terms of size, graphics and swiping motions. While the Sensus may be complex – you can do everything with just that all-too familiar swish of a finger from fold back the second-row headrests to turn off individual safety technology features – there is no argument Volvo has the most vivid and comprehensive system on the market. And the optional built-in booster kid seat ($250) in the second row boarders on genus. My test drive featured an extra $1,900 in specific R-Design features (lower front spoiler, silk-metal exterior covers, special wheels, a special steering wheel, badging); the Vision Package ($1,800) with a positively amazing 360-degree surround view backup camera; $1,000 upgraded 22-inch wheels; a $2,500 premium nineteen-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system; a $1,800 suspension upgrade – the list goes on and all told, my test drive featured over $13k in options. My only gripe is a wish for a power folding third row.

Reliability & Safety Factor: No surprises here – the 2016 Volvo XC90 earned 5-Stars for overall crash protection with The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). With The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety the vehicle received the highest score of "Good" in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests to be a Top Safety Pick. Standard safety equipment highlights are Land Departure Warning and City Safety, Volvo’s version of a trending safety technology other makers are also providing where the vehicle's brakes can actually be applied without driver intervention in low-speed situations.

Cost Issues: An entry-level 2016 Volvo XC90 starts at $43,950 with the standard 2-liter four-cylinder engine delivering 250 horsepower. My XC90 T8 hybrid with all the aforementioned options came in at $82,405 with destination charges. If you’re looking for something that won’t give up luxury but add real off-road ability, try a fully loaded Toyota Land Cruiser.

Activity & Performance Ability: Key road trademarks for the Volvo XC90 include swiftness and power – the 2-liter supercharged four-cylinder engine is quite remarkable and even more so under the hybrid system that cranks the horsepower up to 400 thanks to a powerful electric motor and delivers an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 25 miles-per-gallon. Charging time is pretty typical: with a 240-volt, you need less than three hours to get a full charge and about eight for a smaller 120-volt outlet. Keep in mind if you do need real utility that towing just isn’t going to happen with the XC90.

The Green Concern: EPA-estimated fuel economy for the standard gas-powered 250-horespower 2-liter engine is 22-city and 26-highway. The hybrid is able to retain a combined 53 miles-per-gallon equivalent and 25 miles-per-gallon on gas only.

In your quest for a family SUV with safety, style, and contemporary luxury features you need to look no further than the three-row 2016 Volvo XC90. Power and fuel economy for the 2-liter engine are the performance highlights and while the all-wheel drive is certainly commendable, you’ll have to settle for the Toyota Land Cruiser when it comes to off-road and towing ability.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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