New Volvo XC90 to double down on power, efficiency

The 2016 XC90's plug-in hybrid drivetrain will offer a huge amount of power, and excellent fuel economy.

Volvo T8 badge
Volvo's T8 drivetrain combines gasoline engine and electric motor to produce 400 horsepower. Volvo

Volvo seems intent on building up the kind of anticipation for its 2016 XC90 SUV that George R.R. Martin fans hold for the next book in his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Last month the Swedish automaker released photos of the new Sensus infotainment interface in the upcoming SUV. This week, it released enticing details about the engine options, noting the "all-newXC90 will be the world's most powerful and cleanest SUV."

Among the five engine options Volvo will build into the XC90 will be one it names T8, and no, that doesn't mean an eight cylinder turbo. The front wheels connect to a 2-liter four cylinder engine getting forced induction from a supercharger and a turbocharger, similar to the engine in the Volvo S60 recently reviewed by CNET. At the same time, a 60-kilowatt electric motor turns the rear wheels.

Volvo notes the combination of engine and electric motor gives the XC90 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque.

Pitted against the 555 horsepower BMW X5 M, the XC90 can't claim to be the world's most powerful SUV, but it should take the crown for its combination of power and efficiency. Although fuel economy numbers for the T8 drivetrain are not available yet, Volvo says it will only produce 60 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer in the European NEDC driving cycle. For comparison, the Lexus CT 200h, using the same drivetrain as the Prius, produces 82 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer.

In US EPA testing, the S60, with a similar engine, gets a combined city and highway fuel economy of 28 mpg. Adding the plug-in hybrid system for the XC90 should bring that average higher. Of course, plug-in hybrid fuel economy varies greatly depending on the amount of pure electric driving. Volvo says the XC90 will go about 25 miles on electric power. For many drivers, that will cover the daily commute.

Volvo XC90 T8 drivetrain
With the T8 drivetrain, a four-cylinder engine power the front wheels and an electric motor turns the rear wheels. Volvo

The T8 drivetrain raises the question of how the XC90 will be able to comfortably handle this amount of power. Maybe a follow-up press release will detail suspension and handling technology.

Other engines Volvo will offer in the XC90 will also use a 2-liter four-cylinder block. The T6 engine, similar to that in the S60, produces 320 horsepower, while the T5 engine makes 254 horsepower. Diesel engines will be the D5, good for 225 horsepower, and the D4, rated at 190 horsepower. Only the T8 and T6 will be offered in the US.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 should be available in the summer of 2015.

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About the author

Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET. Prior to the Car Tech beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine. He's also the author of "Vaporware," a novel that's available as a Nook e-book.

 

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