Saturday, March 20, 2021

2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge: The Brand’s Semi-Autonomous Flagship Plug-In SUV

Highlight: All of Volvo’s electrified vehicles have been renamed Recharge for 2021. By 2025, the Chinese-owned brand projects that half of the cars they sell will be all electric. And by 2030, every vehicle in its line up is expected to be pure electric.

Test Vehicle’s MSRP: $79,990 (Base MSRP: $64,945)

Seating Capacity: 6 to 7 passenger seating

Standard Safety Features: airbags; ABS; a blind spot information system; run off road mitigation; run off road protection; lane departure warning; lane keep aiding; headlight high pressure cleaning; automatic high beam; rearview camera; a hillstart assist system; stability control system; a radar-activated cruise control system; a drowsy/driving alert control system and front and rear park assist sensors

Standard Equipment Inscription Expression (7-Seater): 19-inch wheels; all-wheel drive an 8-speed automatic transmission; a plug-in outlet with charging cable; headlight with active bending lights; an in-car wireless charging system; leather seats;  heated front seats; a four zone automatic climate control system; a navigation system; a keyless entry with illuminated door handles; power tailgate with hands free access; auto dimming interior/exterior mirrors; drive mode settings; a 9-inch touchscreen infotainment system; a co-pilot assist steering system; a keyless entry system; a keyless ignition starter system; and dual integrated tailpipes

Standard Equipment Inscription (7-Seater): 20-inch wheels; all-wheel drive; tailored wood blend seats; ventilated front seats; tailored dashboard; and a Harmon Kardon audio system; and power memory front passenger seat

Options: a heated windshield wiper blades; heated rear seats; heated steering wheel; 360-degree camera; a HUD system; metallic paint; integrated booster cushion; Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system; a 4-corner air suspension; air quality with advanced air cleaner; and 21-inch multi spoke alloy wheels

Other Trim Levels:

XC 90 Recharge R-Design

Standard Audio On Test Vehicle: an AM/FM/SiriusXM with Harman Kardon Premium sound system

Android/Apple CarPlay: Standard

Bluetooth Connectivity: Standard

USB Connectivity: Standard

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 4 years or 50,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty:  4 years or 50,000 miles

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder /400-hp

Towing: 5,000 lbs

Hybrid Warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles

Recommended Fuel: Premium

Standard Fuel Mileage: 26-city/28-hwy

What’s New: The XC90 T8, the brand’s plug-in hybrid, is now known as the XC90 Recharge. Added to that, Volvo makes a few adjustments to the vehicle this year, adding wireless charging, a front park assist system, two USB ports, a headlight high pressure cleaning system and an enhanced Bowers and Wilkins premium audio system

Why: The brand just announced that by 2025, half of the vehicles they sell will be all electric. And by 2030, the brand plans for every vehicle in its line up to be all-electric.

For those who associate electrified vehicles with lacking muscle power, Volvo has caused all of us to pause. The brand’s XC90 Recharge spewed out a whopping 400-horsepower from its 4-cylinder twin-engine. To put this in perspective, there are 8-cylinder and for that matter 6-cylinder engines that are incapable of pushing out in many cases 300-horspower. Volvo has managed to do such with its 4-cylinder engines.

While the brand’s flagship XC90 is available as a gasoline or a hybrid plug-in, we spent time behind the wheel of the XC90 Recharge. The all-wheel drive Volvo is available in a three-row configuration, as either a six-or-seven passenger seating, depending if the second row seats are outfitted with bench seats or captain chairs.

The XC90 Recharge we reviewed had a driving range of 18 miles, before the gasoline engine kicked in. By using a standard Level One charger, it took our vehicle upwards of 8 hours to gain a fully-electric charge. On the other hand, with a Level Two charger, the time could be cut in half.

For those seeking maximize the MPG and/or power with the Recharge, the XC90 engineering team has outfitted the vehicle with a variety of driving modes: hybrid, pure and power.

The pure mode activates the start-stop engine, while setting the gearbox, engine and climate system to Eco mode. Furthermore, the electrical heating of the windscreen, rear window and door mirrors are deactivated too. All of these functions are instituted to maximize the efficiency of the vehicle.

Yet, when one seeks an extra punch, the power mode can be set. By using this mode, the steering and braking system is set to Dynamic. The ESC system is set to the off position, while the fuel-saving start-stop system is deactivated. And the adaptive digital display on the vehicles electronic IP kicks in the Sport mode.

And the hybrid mode is a combination of both the pure and power settings.

Moreover, the well-appointed vehicle was accessorized with the brand’s Tailored Wood Blend fabric seating. The seating pattern reminded us of what one would expect to see, while walking through a furniture store. It was an appropriate and stylish seating fabric for the vehicle, distinguishing it from others in its class. From Volvo’s crystal-like shift gear selector to its integrated i-Pad-like infotainment screen to the placement of its center subwoofer on the instrument panel, attention to detail definitely earns this vehicle five stars.

Lastly, the high end audio system as well as the array of safety driving aids bar none matches in some instances exceed its competitors.

Why Not:  With a standard Level One charger, it could took us up to eight hours to fully charge the vehicle. While Volvo is touting that they are the only luxury make to offer a plug-in application with their entire portfolio, Volvo needs to expand its plug-in charge range beyond 18 miles, we experienced in our XC90 Recharge. As a side note, we know they’re capable of extending such being that the brand will be introducing the C40 Recharge, its first fully electric vehicle later this year.

Added to that, Volvo has a hold charge feature one can activate to keep the current electric battery charge for later use, while driving on the gas. We found that this system didn’t work as designed in our test vehicle. Even when activated, the electric charge allowed our electricity to disburse.

Moreover, using Volvo’s infotainment screens, reminds us of using Instagram or a dating app -- which requires us to swipe left to access additional screens. Unlike a number of today’s user-friendly infotainment systems, with Volvo, one has to navigate, no pun intended, through a number of screens to make such simple adjustments to adjust everything from the audio to the ventilation system. Volvo needs to take a page from Genesis and Cadillac, who has finally gotten their new system right, after their CUE system was an industry failure.

We must note, with all of the premium features in the brand’s flagship crossover/SUV, Volvo has failed to add a power tilt-telescopic steering wheel to luxury vehicle. Go figure?

Lastly, the third-row seats are not designed for adults due to its limited legroom.

Verdict: Since separating from Ford and getting the much needed capital they have secured from their new owners, Volvo has managed to gain a foothold in the luxury market. The brand, which was once on life support, has been elevated from a near premium brand like Acura, Buick and Infiniti to a brand that can compete with the likes of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.

With that said, the XC90 Recharge is a worthy contender to consider for those who work and live near-by, especially as result of Covid-19 causing more of us to telecommute. Even for those who have to make long distance trips, range anxiety won’t be top of mind as a result of the gasoline engine serving as a back up with the electric juice has been used. Behind the wheel of the Volvo one can move about in both style and comfort, while riding on 19, 20, 21 or 22-inch wheels.

Despite all of the features on the XC90, currently, for those seeking a plug-in luxury SUV, the closes competitor is the five passenger X5, which comes up short, when comparing apple to apple. Unlike the Volvo, the BMW has more of a performance-oriented feel to the vehicle. And the Volvo edges out the BMW slightly, in terms of the electric driving range too. Lincoln has announced plans on adding a three row plug-in Aviator to its portfolio. The Aviator is expected to be a closer match to the Volvo.

With that said, how many SUV/crossovers offer semi-autonomous driving, electrification, utility, power and safety in a stylish package? The Volvo XC90 is literally in a league by itself.

Competition:  2021 BMW X5 xDrive45e and 2021 Lincoln Aviator PHEV AWD (coming soon)

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