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New XC90 T8 hybrid: A Volvo technological showcase in SA

2016-05-25 08:12

MOST ADVANCED VOLVO YET: The XC90 T8 is a technological showcase for Volvo in South Africa but how does it fair against local rival hybrids such as the BMW X5 xDrive40e and Lexus RX450h?Image: Wheels24 / Sergio Davids

Sergio Davids

Pretoria - Volvo's XC90 has enjoyed stellar success since its launch in 2015. Locally, the luxury SUV has grabbed the 2016 SA Car of the Year title  and globally the demand is increasing.

Building on the success of its premier SUV, the Swedish automaker has added a new flagship variant to its local range - the T8 plug-in hybrid.

Prices

Momentum - R1 053 400
Inscription - R1 092 100
R-Design - R1 117 700

All models are sold with a five-year or 100 000km warranty, a five-year or 100 000km maintenance plan, Tracker Connect and laminated glass all round.

Power

Powering the hybrid is an electric motor coupled with a two-litre turbopetrol four with a total output of 300kW/640Nm mated to an eight-speed Geartonic auto transmission.

The front wheels are powered by a turbo and supercharged Drive-E petrol unit capable of 235kW/400Nm, while power is sent to the rear wheels by an on-demand electric rear axle drive system with a 65kW/240Nm electric motor and a 9.2 kWh Lithium-ion battery pack.

Volvo claims a range of 43km on electric power alone.

Gallery: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Accompanying the Twin Engine setup, a Crank-Integrated Starter Generator (CISG), located between the engine and the gearbox, performs three functions. First, it is a powerful 34kW starter motor which allows the car to alternate seamlessly between pure electric and hybrid driving. Secondly, it acts as a powerful electric generator to recharge the battery pack, and thirdly as an electric engine-booster, working with the supercharger and turbocharger when extra power is needed, providing up to 150Nm extra torque.

According to Volvo, fuel consumption is rated at 2.1-litres/100km with emissions of 49g/km CO2, a startling result considering the size of the vehicle.

Charging it

Unlike its rivals, the XC90 T8 does not require a special charging station; it uses 220V household current from an earthed, two-pin Schuko-type power outlet at a maximum of 13 amps to charge the battery in as little as three hours. Volvo claims a total cost of about R20 at current electricity unit prices.

According to Volvo: "For added safety, the charge cable includes an integrated circuit breaker, temperature sensor and power monitor. The charging port, located on the front left fender of the vehicle, is easy to operate and fitted with an LED indicator - supplemented by a charging status display in the car’s digital instrument cluster, which indicates the estimated remaining charge time. It also features a locking mechanism for the charge connector to ensure a tamper-proof charging environment."

Drive modes

Drivers can choose between three modes - Pure, Hybrid and Power modes.

Pure mode - electric power only, at up to 125km/h, with the petrol engine off, for as long as the battery lasts.

Hybrid mode - the default start-up mode - balances electric and petrol power

Power mode - maximum power with sharper throttle, steering and transmission response 

Two supplementary modes are available: AWD keeps both engines running with power to all four wheels while off-road mode also activates the hill descent control as wheel as the electronic limited-slip front differential, up to 40km/h.

There are also three battery modes: In Normal/default mode the vehicle manages energy consumption; Save 'locks' the battery, keeping it fully charged for later use, while Charge uses the starter/generator and regenerative braking to charge the battery for about 15km of electric driving.

Gallery: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Driving it

The XC90 plug-in hybrid is the most technologically advanced (read: expensive) Volvo yet and arguably one of the best local luxury SUVs. The addition of a plug-in hybrid serves to increase its value proposition and tap into a local niche - wealthy, environmentally-conscious South Africans. Given it's bulk, the XC90 can’t get as far on electric-power as conventional, smaller hybrids but with the addition of conventional fuel, you're not prone to being stranded once the battery is depleted. 

The XC90 T8 is smooth and silent in EV mode while toggling between petrol and battery power is seamless, especially in default hybrid mode. Even under constant strain of switching between power modes during normal city driving (robot-to-robot), the drivetrain remains impressively smooth. Unlike other plug-ins, you’re only going to make the most of its efficiency by charging it from the mains of your house or office (assuming your employer allows this). Sadly, despite the arrival of EV vehicles and hybrid from many automakers, South Africa still lacks the necessary means to support battery-powered vehicles. 

The XC90 T8 is a technological showcase for the Swedish automaker; it’s a superbly refined and luxury SUV with the added benefit of low emissions and a pure electric mode. Use the petrol engine and you'll see your fuel consumption soar. If you're fortunate to live close to a city centre and/or your office , you could arguably enjoy many kilometres of emissions-free, low-cost (at least compared to the current cost of fuel) driving. If you don’t have regular access to a charging point, the diesel variant could be a more efficient choice in SA.

Inside

The T8 is differentiated from its siblings by a special instrument panel along the dashboard and a 'crystal' gear lever. The new display shows battery level and battery range (next to the conventional fuel gauge), while a power gauge replaces the traditional rev counter. The XC90 T8 Twin Engine is available in the same three trim levels as its siblings - Momentum, Inscription and R-Design.

Standard kit includes Thor’s Hammer LED daytime running lights, auto-dimming interior, adaptive brake lights, keyless entry and stop/start, 19” alloys, auto wipers with a rain sensor and a high performance audio system. The seven-seater is equipped with a tyre repair kit, leather upholstery, four-zone climate control with air outlets for all seven passengers and a cargo net. 

XC90 vs local rivals:

Ground clearance on the T8 is 238mm (or up to 278mm with air suspension).

How does the XC90 fair against its competitors? Volvo SA shared the following insights:

1. BMW X5 xDrive40e (plug-in hybrid) main differences:
- More expensive (+R44 000)
- 5 seats only
- No LED headlights as standard
- No touch screen
- No collision warning as standard
- Slower top speed by 20 km/h
- Slower 0-100 by 1.2s
- 70kW less overall
- 190Nm less overall
- 28 g/km more
- 1.2-litres per 100km higher fuel consumption (3.3)
- About 20 km less electric driving range (21)
- Lower ground clearance by 29mm
- Warranty is 3 years shorter on vehicle, 2 years shorter on hybrid system

2. Lexus RX450h (full hybrid) main differences:
- More expensive (+R5 000)
- No touch screen
- 5 seats only
- No active headlights as standard
- Slower top speed by 30 km/h
- Slower 0-100 by 2.1s
- 70kW less overall
- 82 g/km more
- Lower ground clearance by 43mm
- 3.4-litres per 100 km higher fuel consumption (5.7)
- Warranty is 1 year shorter


3. Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid (plug-in hybrid) main differences:
- Much more expensive (+R513 000)
- No standard navigation
- No standard sunroof
- 5 seats only
- No LED lights as standard
- Slower 0-100 by 0.3s 
- 50Nm less torque overall
- 30g/km more
- Lower ground clearance by 23mm (10mm with air suspension)
- 1.3-litres per 100km higher fuel consumption (3.4)
- About 20 km less electric driving range (22m)



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