by Roger Biermann
When they first introduced it, Volvo touted their plug-in hybrid technology as "twin-engine" technology. Much to the disappointment of the internet, the SPA (Scalable Platform Architecture) based S90 T8 PHEV didn't have two engines and the one it did have was diminutive by segment standards. But with a decent electric only range, impressive styling, and refinement and executive class on par for the segment best, the S90 made a good canvas for some frankly astonishing outputs that make other hybrids seem like they're all fighting for second place. Throw in two well-equipped trim levels, and the S90 T8 is nearly enough to sway even the most avid German car buyer.
There's a sense in the Volvo S90 that the finishes in the interior are classy veneers disguising something that is less than acceptable. But the deeper you look, beyond the soft touch dashboard, supple leather, polished aluminum and genuine wood finishes, the more the quality shows through. This is no one hit wonder; Volvo is aiming for top honors against staunch competition from BMW and Mercedes.
That longer wheelbase pays dividends when it comes to stability. Make no mistake, the S90 prioritizes comfort over performance, but the chassis is nimbler than it appears. It lacks the athleticism of a Jaguar XF – who doesn't – but it grips keenly and body motions are controlled sublimely. The electrically assisted steering is direct and weighted appropriately, but the lack of feel conveys the comfort bias to the S90's chassis.
The optional air suspension isn't a necessity to have a comfortable ride; even the standard composite leaf springs at the rear do a great job of maintaining contact with the road while finely erasing bumps from the surface. But the variable air suspension adds another layer to the ride comfort, allowing the larger 20-inch alloys to be equipped with zero consequences on the ride quality. Regardless of wheel size, it's a smooth ride that filters out primary and secondary imperfections better than any German offering does.
400 horsepower and 472 lb-ft of torque – they sound like M3 figures, but they're the byproduct of Volvo's twin-engine plug-in hybrid philosophy. A 2.0-liter 4 cylinder is turbo- and supercharged to develop 316hp driving the front wheels, while two electric motors drive the rear wheels for eAWD capability. A third electric motor seamlessly blends electric and combustion power, and allows regenerative charging on the go. On electric power alone, the S90 T8 will cover 15 miles, and the claimed combined consumption figures are decently impressive at 29 MPG – especially when the S90 T8 can claim a 0-60mph time of a little more than 5 seconds.
Two equipment levels are offered for the S90 T8 –Momentum and Inscription. The former includes standard features like Pilot Assist semi autonomous driving, two-zone climate control, leather upholstery, power adjustable seats, and the 8-inch Sensus Connect portrait infotainment system. Inscription adds to the mix four zone climate, a 12.3-inch digital driver display, and 19-inch alloys.
A whole host of options are available, but the 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins sounds system is the must-have option. Safety features include blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, automatic collision braking, and large animal detection. The IIHS rated the S90 as having best possible "Superior" scores for crash avoidance and mitigation systems.
The Volvo S90 T8 Plug-in hybrid is finally a hybrid that doesn't require compromise to enjoy the benefits of electrification. Besides the 3 hour minimum charge time, it's every bit a normal S90, with more power and greater range. Of course the standard S90's class and refinement just sweeten the deal even more.