The all new, updated Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV will go on sale in America in the fall. The entry level model, called the Mometum, is priced at $68,100. The sportier R-Design model lists for $70,000. There is a destination fee of $995 added to the price of both models.
Volvo is now owned by Chinese manufacturer Geely, which has supervised the first full redesign of the popular XC90 since 2002. The top of the line Volvo SUV is offered in Europe with either a gasoline or diesel engine. Buyers can also order the advanced plug in hybrid version of the car. That powertrain, which Volvo calls its “Twin Engine” system, pumps out a respectable 390 horsepower from a 4 cylinder engine, an electric motor between the engine and the transmission, and a second electric motor powering the rear wheels. Using only the 80 hp rear motor, the XC90 can travel about 25 miles on electric power alone.
The gasoline engine is unique among production engines at the moment because it features not only a turbocharger but also an electric supercharger. A turbo operates best at higher engine speeds, which means it can take several seconds before it begins supplying boost to the engine. An electric supercharger spins up to speed in less than half a second, so it begins providing boost immediately when the car needs it most — such as moving forward from a dead stop. When engine revs rise, the supercharger shuts off and the turbo takes over. Thanks to modern electronics, this all happens seamlessly so the driver and passengers are never aware of the transition. All they feel is a rush of acceleration. Look for other manufacturers to use electric superchargers soon.
The diesel engine will not be offered in the US model and it may take a while before American buyers can get their hands on the PHEV version of the XC90. Demand for the plug in drivetrain has far exceeded Volvo’s expectations. They thought about 5% of buyers would go the plug in route, but demand in Europe has been four times that. As a result, the PHEV XC90 is on back order well into 2016. That’s a problem Volvo is happy to have.
When the new XC90 T8 PHEV finally gets here, it will be facing stiff competition from the BMW X5 xDrive 40e and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE 550e, both of which are scheduled to go on sale in the US this fall. Maybe the long rumored Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV will arrive sometime this decade. Or at least by the next one for sure.
The marketplace is hungry for plug in hybrid SUV’s. But a fully optioned Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV will cost $80,000 or more and the offerings from BMW and Mercedes are not likely to cost much less. Is the market that hungry?