CHICAGO — Volvo may have outdone itself with the 2020 XC90 T8-AWD Inscription. This midsize sport-utility was luxurious, powerful and functional.
The T8 Twin Engine Volvo, that’s what the automaker is branding this plug-in hybrid, had two power sources. A 313 horsepower four-cylinder engine provided the gasoline kick and it was supplemented by an 87-horsepower electric motor mounted on the rear axle.
Together they were rated at 400 horsepower and a hefty 472 lb.-ft. of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission transferred that power to the pavement, and it did so smoothly.
The T8 had an EPA rating of 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. On the way here, we gassed up in Indiana where petrol is cheaper, about 50 miles away from our destination. The XC90 T8 had used a little more than half of its 18.5-gallon fuel capacity. We didn’t think that was bad.
As for brut power, the XC90 had a maximum speed of 140 mph and it could get from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds.
Although this XC90 had regenerative brakes, it needed to be plugged in to fully charge the lithium-ion battery, which took four hours to get a full charge.
Speaking of those brakes, in a what the heck moment on I-94 W a worker stepped out in the road (interstate!) to fill a couple of potholes. We couldn’t believe it but stepped on the brakes to slow the XC90 from 80 mph. It slowed evenly and decisively without locking the wheels. The driving public has forgotten the screeching and sliding that came with abrupt braking before the advent of ABS.
Volvo’s product resurgence started with the XC90. In effect, it is the brand’s flagship. In that regard, it incorporates the best that Volvo has to offer.
This powertrain was smooth and quiet; the gasoline engine remained silent during startup. It wasn’t until the vehicle got underway then it kicked in.
Power was even and subdued until needed. Acceleration was understated, the XC90 would step away from traffic when needed. And it did so quietly. We can’t overemphasize the quietness with which this vehicle operated.
That sophisticated character of the X90’s performance fit the ambiance or atmosphere of the passenger cabin, or minimalist luxury at its best. This trim was called a gray ash wood decor. The wood trim was porous, the perforated leather was leather, so too were the sun visors and grab handles over the doors. The headliner was what Volvo called Nubuck; it was light gray.
We had the Inscription trim line which was luxury piled upon luxury. It had massaging heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel. Amongst its stand-alone options were 21-inch wheels, a four-corner air suspension, park assist pilot and a $3,200 premium sound system. And the gear shifter had Volvo’s crystal knob.
The advanced package featured full LED adaptive headlights, a headlight high-pressure cleaning system, a 360-degree surround camera and a heads-up display.
New to this model year, was the 6 or 7 passenger XC90. We had the 7-passenger version. The Captain’s chairs in the second row did not have arm handles, it was the only thing we didn’t particularly care for. But knowing Volvo, their absence had to be a safety issue.
We tested the Pilot Assist system. We took our hands off the wheel and let the XC90 go where it wanted. When it started to come out of the lane, the system would steer it back in. It did this in curves and on straightaways and with the left or right lane marker.
Combined with adaptive cruise control and it is obvious that automated driving systems are not that farfetched. But they are the future, today, we can see this system saving the life and perhaps lives of nodding drivers, their passengers and those around them.
The T8 XC90 had drive modes, but they had less to do with the suspension and more effect on the powertrain.
The “Pure” mode restricted the power to the electric motor and can be used when the battery is fully charged. “Hybrid” is the default mode and suitable for everyday use. “Power” utilized the supercharged and turbocharged gasoline engine and the electric motor. “AWD” offered constant all-wheel drive on demand. And save, which we didn’t have, allows the battery power level to be frozen for later use.
Of course, the T8 had Volvo’s Intellisafe, a suite of driver assistance systems. They included collision avoidance, pilot assist with adaptive cruise control and distance alert, oncoming lane mitigation with steering assist, blind spot alert and cross traffic alert with automatic braking.
Our test vehicle had a panoramic roof, the intuitive touch screen, navigation and an entertainment system that featured Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It had apps such as Spotify, Pandora, Baidu and TuneIn and it supplied its own Wi-Fi hotspot.
Functionality included a 5,000 lb. towing capability and you can carry up to 220 bombs on its roof. There was 11.2 cu. ft. Of storage space behind the third row, fold it and you have 34.1 cu. ft. of storage space behind the second row of seats, fold that and you’ve got 64.1 cu. ft. of storage space.
At $86,990, the 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription certainly qualified as a luxury utility vehicle. But its equipment, refinement and craftsmanship states that it is not overpriced.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com