Volvo XC90 T8: We drive India’s first plug-in hybrid SUV

Volvo XC90 T8: We drive India’s first plug-in hybrid SUV

It’s early in the morning in Delhi and, with customary smog enveloping the city, there’s no chance of any photography till the sun pushes on further into the sky. I’m already up, there’s a nip in the air, the roads are empty and it is a wonderful time to get out for a drive. Ignition on, gear lever in drive and we’re off in utter silence. No matter how many times you drive an electric car the novelty of whirring off noiselessly never wears off, and that’s the main selling point of this new Twin Engine XC90 T8.

Greenies, please form an orderly queue outside your local Volvo dealer for this is not only India’s first plug-in hybrid SUV but the world’s cleanest 7-seater SUV. The Twin Engine refers to the petrol engine in the nose and the electric motor at the rear. Charge the T8 overnight and you get 40km of pure electric range. If you live and work in Gurgaon your daily commute will easily be done on the batteries and you’ll be smug in the knowledge that you haven’t contributed to the smog you’re cutting through (though not breathing courtesy the integrated ionic air cleaner). If you live in Delhi and work in Gurgaon, well, only god can help you. Actually Volvo will help you; included in the `1.25 crore price tag are two charging stations that Volvo will install for you so you could re-charge your SUV while at work and in two and a half hours your batteries are juiced back up to give you another 40km of silent, clean range for the exasperating trek back to Delhi.

Charging point is in the front left fender

And when your dear Chief Minister decides to impose the odd-even rule your XC90 T8, courtesy its green credentials, will be exempt. And with (hopefully) empty roads you can now call upon the second engine. Under the hood is a 2-litre petrol that is both turbo- and super-charged. It kicks out 320 (dirty) horses but if you don’t find that enough, in Power mode 87 guilt-free horses from the electric motors are added to it to make for a sum total of 401bhp and 640Nm of torque. And because the electric torque is near-instant 0-100kmph takes just 5.6 seconds. That’s so quick I think it is the fastest acceleration non-AMG, non-M SUV in the country. You heard that right, here’s a Volvo with performance credentials!

On the road it feels as quick as the numbers suggest with very strong acceleration, tons of mid-range shove and a throaty exhaust note accompanying the party. The suspension too drops down on the wheels and makes for a stiffly-sprung but aggressively-cornering SUV. I’d have preferred an individual mode on the Drive Mode selector where you can call up full power but leave the air suspension in Comfort so that the ride is acceptable over our Indian roads.
So you get green cred and you get performance with the T8. What else? The T8 is only available in the Excellence trim and that means twin bucket seats at the rear and massage plus cooling function for all four chairs. It also means you can’t flaunt it as the world’s cleanest 7-seater SUV because India-spec cars are only four-seaters. There’s a 20-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo to drown out the din of the commute back to Delhi. The gear lever is a crystal made by Orrefors along with champagne flutes also by the same Swedish luxury brand.

Orrefors champagne flutes.

There’s a small fridge to cool aforementioned champagne and what I thought were rather ugly looking plastic frames on the front head rests for rear passengers to clip their iPads on to. There’s so much focus on luxury that even the tyres are claimed to have noise cancellation technology (I didn’t notice tyre noise so I guess it does work). It is also super-safe with adaptive cruise control, collision warning that slams the brakes automatically to prevent accidents, blind spot detection, rear collision warning (not sure how you’re going to drive this in Delhi then), automatic parking and lane departure control. The latter does get confused, going mad on the main straight of the BIC as it read the horizontal starting block markers. Of course this isn’t meant for a racetrack but I was surprised by how well it cornered and how hard it accelerated down the straights. It will even go off-road with an appropriate mode to lock it into all-wheel drive and also raise the suspension.

Excellence trim gets individual rear seats that can cool and massage your backside.

The T8’s forte though remains the all-electric 40km range that lets you curse the Delhi smog with a smug, clear conscience.

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