2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

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$63,450

starting MSRP

2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid
2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

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2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid review: Our expert's take

By Aaron Bragman

Volvo’s electrification strategy is particularly interesting. In some cases, you have full electric models, like the new 2021 XC40 Recharge. In other cases, you have hybridized models, all of which exist at the top of the regular model range, like the 2021 S90 Recharge T8 or this 2021 XC90 Recharge T8 (both plug-in hybrid models and previously known only as T8s). And if you want something related but just a little different, Volvo’s Chinese parent company, Zhejiang Geely, has started up an entirely new brand called Polestar, which sells pure electric vehicles based on shared platforms and components from Volvo models. 

Related: Volvo Amps Up 2020 XC90 With Mild-Hybrid Version

2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge charging port 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

The Ride

The plug-in hybrids like the XC90 I tested use a combination of gasoline and stored electricity to power the vehicle, enabling a mix of internal combustion and electric-motor systems or allowing for a full electric experience up to a limited speed and range. They feature a driver-selectable Pure setting that keeps the SUV in electric mode, even if you have the climate control running, with the idea of allowing you to commute to work in electric mode and then charge the battery overnight at home. It’s meant to offer the best of both worlds: pure EV power for your commute, but still retaining the gasoline engine in case your needs extend beyond commuting. As long as you keep filling the vehicle with gas, you can keep driving indefinitely, something that’s not as easy to do with a pure EV, which requires a longer recharge time with more limited range.

The 2021 XC90 Recharge T8 uses Volvo’s “Twin Engine” powertrain, a supercharged-and-turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s augmented by an 87-horsepower electric motor to generate a combined 400 hp and 472 pounds-feet of torque, making it the most powerful version of the XC90 you can buy. It’s also EPA-rated to go 18 miles on electricity alone before the gas engine kicks in, allowing you to go up to 520 miles before needing to put more gas in the tank. For 2020, Volvo updated this powertrain to include a kinetic energy-recovery braking system with brake-by-wire technology, which it says reduces fuel consumption and emissions. I wanted to see just how far this comfortable SUV, which can be outfitted to seat up to seven passengers, could go on just its battery power alone before the gas engine kicked in. 

2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge touchscreen 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge | Cars.com photo by Aaron Bragman

The Route

Testing a plug-in hybrid in winter presents some challenges. My route doesn’t change: It’s a simple run from my driveway in Ann Arbor, Mich., to a barbecue restaurant in Dearborn, Mich., and back. The combination of city streets and higher-speed boulevards is a good mix of conditions to see just how far the vehicle can go on electric power alone. I keep the climate control off, since using it with air conditioning can drop range by a couple of miles, or in the winter it usually either activates the gas engine to generate heat or uses an electric heater that can sap range just as much as air conditioning. The windows are up, tires adjusted for proper pressure, and gas tank and battery both full. My driving style is calm and relaxed: Despite selecting the Pure mode to keep the XC90 Recharge in electric driving mode, too much accelerator pedal will punt you into gasoline mode because it uses the engine to help deliver more thrust than the electric motor can provide on its own.

The Results

The Volvo XC90 Recharge is rated to go 18 miles on electricity, but my testing turned in a total distance traveled of 20.8 miles before the gas engine kicked in — slightly more than advertised. This isn’t uncommon; I’ve found most plug-in hybrids can outperform their EPA-rated range when driven carefully. Recharging the XC90 Recharge can be done via the Level 2 plug in the front fender or by activating a mode in the touchscreen that runs the gasoline engine to recharge the battery over time. It’s not the most efficient way to recharge the battery (that would be plugging into an outlet), but if you need to recharge the battery on the way to a zero-emissions zone so you can enter it on EV power alone, the XC90 will let you. Admittedly, this is a much more common condition in European cities that have congestion charges for their inner-city regions, but such zones have been discussed for American cities as well.

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Photo of Aaron Bragman
Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman grew up in the Detroit area, comes from an automotive family and is based in Ann Arbor, Mich. Email Aaron Bragman

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.6
  • Interior design 4.5
  • Performance 3.6
  • Value for the money 3.5
  • Exterior styling 4.6
  • Reliability 3.6

Most recent consumer reviews

2.3

Run. Do not buy!!!

Waiting over 8 weeks for my car to be fixed the hybrid battery stopped charging. Battery replaced and car still doesn’t work properly. Case is in with Volvo techs in Sweden. Still no answer. This car has 5k miles on it

2.9

Stopped charging after 4000 miles

I have a 2022 XC90 Recharge with 4500 miles and the car has stopped charging. There is a bad part between the battery and the engine. I am waiting on 6 weeks for a replacement part with still no date given for when there will be one available. The dealership said none exist. This is my second XC90, but first Recharge and I so regret buying it. Without the battery the car is very loud and I get maybe 15 miles to the gallon with my suburban driving. I foresee every special part that goes bad will be impossible to get.

4.6

Awesome initial road trips with our XC90 Recharge

We already have had a few road trips with our new XC90 Recharge and we love it. It is very spacious, comfortable, solid handling, and terrific driving features like Pilot Assist. The car is very sophisticated and takes a while to get things set up but that was part of the fun with this vehicle. One thing we wish was available is a rear view camera display when driving. We had a loaded vehicle and view was obstructed with rear view mirror. Another thing we missed on this car is the doors will not automatically lock when exiting the car like on our other GM and Toyota cars. The Pilot Assist is an excellent feature but it could still use some refinement. Exit and entrance lanes will sometimes fool it and car will steer towards them. There are also times when it will oscillate back and forth a little bit but all in all I used the feature most of the time on our long road trips. One reason we purchased this vehicle was for the plug-in feature. It is so nice to be able to do short local trips all on electric. It doesn't quite get me back and forth to work all on electric but it covers most of the trip. That feature will save us trips to the gas pump and wear on the engine. The handling feels very solid and more sedan like than a lot of SUV's we have driven so it feels more secure. You do feel more of the bumps, but for us that is a fair trade-off. The back seat had plenty of room for our adult kids and a good amount of cargo space for the dog and luggage. It was nice for the dog to have a middle seat that folded down separately so the crate could be in the back and the dog could come out and visit. The automatic wipers and head lights are also really nice features and the 360 degree camera for parking is very nice. It is just a terrific road vehicle packed with really nice features with lots of room, and comfort.

See all 11 consumer reviews

Warranty

New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Volvo
New car program benefits
Bumper-to-bumper
48 months/50,000 miles
Corrosion
144 months/unlimited distance
Powertrain
48 months/50,000 miles
Hybrid electric
96 months/100,000 miles
Maintenance
36 months/36,000 miles
Roadside assistance
48 months/unlimited distance
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Less than 5 years/less than 80,000 miles
Basic warranty terms
5 years/unlimited miles , upgradeable up to 10 years
Powertrain
N/A
Dealer certification required
170- plus point inspection
Roadside assistance
Yes
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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