Volvo XC90 Recharge hybrid review
“The Volvo XC90 Recharge is stylish, luxurious and desirable but it’s not the most economical large hybrid SUV”
- Good performance
- Fantastic comfort
- Modern styling
- Expensive to buy
- Real-world economy not great
- Engine noisy when pushed hard
A rival for the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, Audi Q7 TFSI e, BMW X5 xDrive45e and other large luxury hybrid SUVs, the Volvo XC90 Recharge is a petrol-electric hybrid that aims to combine the practicality and comfort of the rest of the range with good performance and improved fuel economy.
The Recharge sits at the top of the XC90 range, so while it's certainly not cheap, it is bristling with equipment and features. Its interior is a fantastic place to be, beautifully designed and packed with technology – most of which is controlled or monitored by a centrally mounted portrait infotainment screen that behaves rather like a tablet. It’s airy inside and the leather-trimmed seats are among the most comfortable fitted in any car for long journeys.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre petrol engine plus an electric motor, which combine to produce almost 400bhp. It’s very fast for this type of vehicle, but the XC90 Recharge isn’t a sports SUV – the BMW X5 xDrive45e, for example, handles better on tighter roads. Think instead of the XC90 Recharge as a powerful and very comfortable car for everyday driving, and the Volvo takes some beating.
Despite having seven seats and a hybrid powertrain, the Volvo XC90 Recharge is still very practical. The batteries only reduce boot space by 40 litres and even with all seven seats up, you’ve still got a boot that’s a similar size to a supermini's. Adults will be quite happy in the rearmost seats, although a Land Rover Discovery will be even more comfortable if you’re regularly carrying lots of people.
MPG, running costs & CO2
With the Recharge’s officially quoted economy figure of 83 to 100.9mpg, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was one of the most frugal hybrids around, but sadly this isn’t the case during real-world driving. To achieve anything close to this figure, you’ll have to drive without making the most of the car’s great performance, drive mostly around town and make sure its batteries are fully charged, too. Its electric-only range of between 27.3 and 30.4 miles (depending on the wheels and equipment fitted) is competitive with most rivals, but the BMW xDrive45e is currently ahead of the pack with its 50-mile range, thanks to a massive 24kWh battery. The XC90 Recharge has a 10.4kWh lithium-ion battery.
As it’s a hybrid with CO2 emissions of 61-68g/km, the XC90 Recharge has a low first-year tax bill (usually rolled into the on-the-road price). After this, you’ll pay the alternative-fuel vehicle rate per year, plus a surcharge of more than £300 a year from years two to six, due to the Recharge’s £40,000-plus asking price. Thanks to its low emissions, the hybrid XC90 has a low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) company-car tax rating and is also exempt from the London Congestion Charge until 25 October 2021, so long as the exact spec of the one you buy emits under 75g/km of CO2. Choosing bigger wheels and some of the optional extras could push the CO2 output above this threshold.
As with all Volvos, the plug-in XC90 comes with a warranty that lasts for three years or 60,000 miles, whichever comes first. Thanks to the performance on offer, the Recharge is among the most expensive XC90 to insure; it sits in groups 44-45 (out of 50) depending on trim level.
Engines, drive & performance
With 390bhp from its combined petrol engine and electric motor, the XC90 Recharge is the fastest car in the range. It can reach 62mph from a standstill in 5.8 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 143mph. There’s lots of power low down the rev range and overtaking performance is impressive. It’s a second faster to 62mph than the eco-minded Mercedes GLE 350 de, but has a focus on comfort so it’s not the best SUV for twisty roads. It’s a long way off offering the sporty appeal of the BMW X5 xDrive45e, too. The Volvo is best at relaxed, stable, high-speed cruising; it’s a big, heavy car that becomes unsettled if you’re too aggressive in the corners.
The XC90 Recharge is still a joy to drive, however. Its steering is light and there’s lots of grip and traction thanks to its four-wheel-drive system, making it more satisfying than the soft Lexus RX L 450h. Like most XC90s, the Recharge is most at home on wider, open roads, but generally speaking it’s easy to drive in most situations provided its size isn’t an issue. If you’re used to a smaller car, you might need some time to adjust to the Recharge’s considerable length, width and weight.
Interior & comfort
One of the biggest advantages the Volvo XC90 Recharge has over its rivals is its fantastic interior. It’s hugely comfortable regardless of where you’re sitting, with lashings of leather and quality trim making it feel distinctly upmarket. It’s designed in a pleasingly unfussy manner, too.
The dashboard is dominated by a central touchscreen that controls everything from the multi-zone climate control to the sat nav, stereo and various settings. If you’re very technologically minded, you’ll love the tablet-like interface – but if not, it might take some time to get used to. It’s joined by another screen that replaces traditional dials behind the steering wheel. This is easy to read and can display all manner of information, including sat-nav directions. DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity and a great 10-speaker stereo come as standard.
Provided you don’t work the engine too hard, it’s remarkably quiet in the XC90 Recharge’s interior, which when combined with the comfortable and extensively adjustable seats, ‘CleanZone’ air quality control system and a soft, controlled ride, makes it a very nice car to travel in. If you specify the optional air suspension (standard on the Inscription Pro and R-Design Pro models), things only get more pleasant.
Standard equipment is excellent on the Recharge, regardless of which trim level you choose. The hybrid can be had in Inscription Expression (replacing entry-level Momentum), sportier R-Design and luxurious Inscription trims, along with ‘Pro’ versions of the latter two that get some extra kit. Even the cheapest is fairly luxurious, with 19-inch alloys, full LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, a powered tailgate and full leather trim, among other appealing features.
R-Design adds sportier touches inside and out, including 20-inch alloys and sharper exterior styling. Inscription brings similar equipment to R-Design, but with a more luxurious focus. The top-of-the-range Inscription Pro comes laden with kit, including massaging front seats and adaptive headlights.
Practicality & boot space
As one of the largest cars on the road, it’s not surprising that the Recharge is also very spacious inside. With all seven seats in use, there's 262 litres of space in the boot – great for a car of this type. However, fold them all down and you’re left with a huge, van-like 1,816 litres to the roof. With all seats in the second and third rows folding individually, Volvo claims the seats can be configured in 32 different ways. The XC90 is much bigger and more versatile than the five-seat BMW X5 xDrive45e; only the electric Tesla Model X can match it in the class – it beats the Volvo’s total seats-folded space, but its third row isn’t quite as accommodating.
Leg and headroom are excellent in all three rows and third-row passengers shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into their seats thanks to big doors and sliding middle-row seats. There are plenty of cubbies scattered throughout the cabin, with even third-row passengers getting their own storage bins.
If you plan to tow with your XC90 Recharge, it’s important to note that its maximum braked-trailer towing weight is 2,400kg. This is 300kg less than XC90s with the most powerful engines, so if you plan on towing a large caravan, horsebox or boat trailer, you might need the petrol or diesel model. The Recharge’s towing capacity is still decent, especially as many hybrids can tow a fraction of that weight.
Reliability & safety
The newest Volvo XC90 didn't feature in our Driver Power 2020 survey but the smaller Volvo XC60 came 30th out of the top 75 cars on sale. Volvo itself finished 10th out of 30 manufacturers. Owners praised engines and gearboxes, as well as comfort and in-car entertainment, and the brand performed well for safety. All of this bodes well for the range-topping hybrid XC90.
Volvo is famed for its safety and the XC90 is no exception, earning a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test score and great 97 and 87% ratings for adult and child protection respectively. The XC90 also has lots of clever technology fitted as standard to help avoid crashes, including IntelliSafe, a system that warns of hazards ahead and brakes for you if needed – essentially an advanced AEB (automatic emergency braking) system.
The car also features an advanced blind-spot monitoring system that can steer back into lane if you’re about to sideswipe another vehicle, and will even brake and steer itself if it senses you’ve left the road. These, plus plenty of other standard systems, make the XC90 Recharge one of the safest SUVs around – hybrid or otherwise.
See how this car scored on our sister site Driving Electric