The 2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-in Hybrid SUV Has Me Saying Yes!

Volvo Xc90 Featured Image. Photo: Kymri Wilt
Volvo XC90 Featured Image. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Rolling Into the (Extended Range) Future With Volvo

When I first laid eyes on the 2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge plug-in hybrid (PHEV) SUV I was definitely intrigued, but as compact hybrid driver who doesn’t own an SUV or have enough kids to necessitate 3 rows, I had questions.

Would I consider driving an SUV if it got decent mileage?

While 26 MPG (gasoline only) is okay for a vehicle that size, a whopping 66 MPG combined gas/electric mileage is terrific! Yes. I’m in.

Would I be comfortable driving 6 passengers around in a high-profile spacious SUV?

Yes. It’s a Volvo, one of the best-ranking automotive brands when it comes to safety. It also ranks as one of the best family cars of 2022 in Parents Magazine’s 3-row ECO SUV category.

Related: Get to Know this Name: Volvo EX90, Volvo’s First Fully Electric 3 Row SUV

Would a Volvo XC90 Extended Range work for how I roll?

Yes. With a 2.0L turbo-charged engine, a combined 455 Horsepower and 523 lb.-ft. of torque, it delivers in performance. With a hybrid electric battery, it reduces emissions and dependence on fossil fuels. Top it off with an incredible sound system (yes, I car dance), massaging front seats, and a panoramic moon roof to sweeten the deal, say no more. Luxurious comfort is most definitely the way to roll!

Before I get rolling on all the fun car review stuff, let’s just be right up front about the other big number on the sticker, the price. The XC90 PHEV pricing starts right around $50,000. The fully loaded VOLVO XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription ER which I drove has a suggested retail price of $84,090. The package pricing breakdowns may be explored in detail on the Volvo website, but before you head there, read on!

Related: Five Features I Loved in the 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid T8 R-Design

Engine Start And Shifter On The Volvo Xc90 Recharge T8 Inscription Er. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Engine Start and Shifter on the Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription ER. Photo: Kymri Wilt

What Is it About Volvo? Everyone has a Volvo story, and Here’s Mine

I have always been drawn to Volvos, a fascination that began at a very young age. When I first learned to ride a bicycle, I was allowed to ride it (with training wheels) on the sidewalk all the way around the block, past the many houses and driveways. There was a house just around the corner which had two distinctively beautiful cars in the driveway. They caught my gaze not only for their unusual colors, but for their rounded shapes and European style. They captivated my curiosity – I could read the five letters on the grille, so that evening I asked my dad what does “V-O-L-V-O” mean. I was smitten.

Related: Volvo C40 Recharge: Recycled materials, Fresh Design and a Peek at the Future of Driving

Front Grille Of The Volvo Xc90 Er. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Front grille of the Volvo XC90 ER. Photo: Kymri Wilt

What Does “Volvo” Mean?

The word “Volvo” is rooted in Latin, and means “I roll.” That’s how my Dad explained it to 5-year-old me when I asked. Rather than just tell me it’s a brand of automobile, he wanted me to understand why the word “Volvo” would be, appropriately, on a car. It made absolutely perfect sense then, and still does.

Ask the same question of adult me today, and I’ll tell you that Volvo means safety. Okay, that’s not the actual definition, but it’s certainly accurate in terms of the company’s dedication to safe cars. Volvo was well ahead of early standard safety regulations – already padding dashboards, adding head restraints, and installing seat belts long before they became law. I remember when my best friend in high school got her driver’s license, her first car was the family Volvo. Why? Because it was safe. Whenever my family and I visit Ireland or the UK, and drive on the opposite side of the road, we make sure our rental car is a Volvo. The added assurance of Volvo’s safety record makes our foreign road trips just that much less stressful, and a whole lot more comfortable.

Additionally for this model, the “XC” is short for cross country, the “ER” means extended range, and “PHEV” stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. Now, you too can save yourself embarrassing nomenclature mix-ups and get it straight from the start.

Related: Volvo XC90 Review: The Luxury SUV That Makes the Carpool Less Painful

A Mode for Every Mood

PURE MODE (ECO): This Plug in Hybrid SUV has an electric (battery-only) range of just 30 miles. While that doesn’t sound like much, it’s actually just enough for local outings: driving kids to school, going on a grocery run, hitting the gym, or, in my case, loading up a surfboard and heading to the beach for my own work-out, in nature. How nice that I can do so without spewing emissions into the air!

HYBRID MODE (EVERYDAY): To maximize both fuel and electric efficiency, hybrid mode is the way to go, and is the most practical for combination of freeway and city driving. Because hybrid vehicles will draw first from electric, you have the option to “hold” that battery charge – say you’re going to be on the freeway for a long distance – so that when you arrive you haven’t completely drained the battery in the first 30 miles. But the great thing is, by simply driving and braking, you are actually regenerating more power to the battery. I was able to leave the house with only a quarter charge in the battery, but after the first 50 miles the battery had almost completed re-charged itself. Alternative to the “hold” option, the “charge” option directs the engine to charge the car using the fuel generator.

POWER MODE (SPORTY): This mode relies more heavily on the fuel engine, with quicker take offs and more reactive braking, and will regenerate more charge back to the battery. While you would hardly imagine a 7-passenger vehicle to be sporty, don’t underestimate this baby – even fully loaded (with passengers) the additional acceleration push is both surprising and impressive.

OFFROAD (ROUGH TERRAIN): in this mode the body of the Volvo lifts up from the tires for clearance, as the All Wheel Drive suspension maneuvers safely and capably in the harsher road and weather conditions. While it would be rarely necessary for every day driving, it’s nice to know this Volvo’s got your back when needed.

A note about charging: The charger locks into vehicle when vehicle is locked. You have to unlock the car to disconnect the charger. It doesn’t let you drive away with the charger in, nor does it let anyone else disconnect the charger when you aren’t in sight.

Related: How to Decide if an Electric Car Is Right for Your Lifestyle

Cargo Space With 3Rd Row Down And 2Nd Row Split - Room For 4 Passengers, Surfboards And Gear. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Cargo space with 3rd row down and 2nd row split – room for 4 passengers, surfboards and gear. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Spacing Configurations Galore

The Volvo XC90 is a 7-passenger SUV. When you don’t have all the seats occupied, that means lots and lots of cargo space, up to 87.5 cubic feet! For my personal use, I especially appreciated the 40/20/40 split in the second row, which allowed me to have 3 passengers, ample room to slide our surfboards down the middle, and more space for gear in the rear!

Car Dancers and Car Singers Delight

If you’re like me, driving is when you crank up your favorite tunes and sing at the top of your lungs while rhythmically bobbing and grooving in your seat, sometimes keeping beat with your free left foot or drumming along on the steering wheel. Is 4 speakers enough? How about 10? The basic Volvo XC90 PHEV model starts with no fewer than 10 speakers. Taking it next level, the Harmon Kardon premium sound system brings 14 hi-fi speakers, a 600 watt digital amplifier, and an air-ventilated subwoofer. As if that’s not enough, for a bit more cash, take the Bowers & Watkins package and you are completely surrounded in your own concert bubble. You can also adjust the sound experience to your liking with 4 options: Studio sound, Individual stage, Concert Hall, and Jazz Club.

When a colleague and I pushed the limits creating our own music club inside the Volvo XC90, we rolled up the windows and discovered that all that sound stayed right there inside the vehicle. Just a few feet away, an on-camera interview was being taped and they never heard a note from us.

Swipe Screen Control Console In The Volvo Xc90 Er. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Swipe screen control console in the Volvo XC90 ER. Photo: Kymri Wilt

What You Should Know about the Volvo XC90 ER

Now that you know my favorite features about this PHEV SUV, I did have a few hiccups in my experience.

Center Console Menus: What seems simple enough actually took some studying and stumbling around to find various menu items and controls – swipe to the left direction for some, but to the right for others. Then each little option had a further menu to select from. Basically, battery settings like “charge” or “hold” had to be set before pulling away, as changing them while driving was too many steps with eyes off the road to do so safely. Same with safety assist features (heads up display, camera displays) and seat features (heat, massage, etc.). Perhaps voice commands can do all those things while in motion, but I didn’t instinctively know what to command, my guesses weren’t working, and resourcing an owner’s manual that only exists online is a lot of work.

Sticking Seat Handles: After a full day of passengers getting in and out of the back row, the handle which moved the second row seat forward began to stick, and the process was more clumsy than smooth.

Charging from home: Something was off because once plugged in, the status display indicated the charging time remaining was 2 hours, 45 minutes (from low charge to full). But even after a full overnight plugged in to a standard 110v outlet, it barely reached a quarter charge. Clearly, the faster way to charge is at a charging station using the Level 2 fast charge adapter, or just start driving and use gas to charge the battery.

Volvo Xc90 Er Phev Great For Everyday Errands Using Only Electric Power. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Volvo XC90 ER PHEV great for everyday errands using only electric power. Photo: Kymri Wilt

Rolling Safely in Spacious Luxury and Comfort into a greener future

In the end, after my incredible week long drive experience putting the Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription ER to the test in real life, I’ve had to further expand the definition of Volvo. It has evolved from “I roll” to “I roll in safety and comfort” to “I roll safely in spacious luxury and comfort,” and now, “with a cleaner environmental conscience, too!”

Disclosure: Volvo provided me with the XC90 to drive and review, but all opinions are my own.


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Based in Cardiff by the Sea, California, Kymri is a freelance travel photographer, writer, and videographer. Between travels, she... More about Kymri WIlt