2021 Volvo S90 T8 Recharge review: Comfy plug-in hybrid serenity
While Volvo's all-electric models are the ones making headlines, the company still offers a range of plug-in hybrids that all wear the Recharge name. The XC60 and XC90 crossovers are the most notable Recharge PHEV models, but Volvo also offers this powertrain in its stylish and comfortable sedan, the S90 .
Volvo's four-door S90 received an update for 2021, but the changes are pretty minor, mostly consisting of tiny nips and tucks to the front and rear fascias. The 2021 S90 is available in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trims, but only the latter two are available with the T8 Recharge plug-in hybrid setup.
T8 is Swede-speak for a 2.0-liter I4 engine that's both turbocharged and supercharged powering the front wheels, and an 11.6-kilowatt-hour battery and electric motor on the rear axle. All told, this system pushes out a healthy 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. Power going to the front and rear wheels means the S90 T8 has all-wheel drive, too.
Charging the 11.6-kWh battery takes 2.5 hours on a Level 2 wall charger, or about 5.5 hours through a standard household outlet. When fully charged, the S90 says I have an indicated 25 miles of all-electric range, which is enough for me to toddle around my small desert town for a couple of days, running errands and going to the gym, all while having the air conditioner on full blast to combat the 100-degree heat.
The S90 has Comfort and Dynamic driving modes, as well as an Individual setting you can tailor yourself, but make no mistake, this sedan is made for smooth cruising, not canyon carving. The car is quick, with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission, and the ride is comfy, especially with my tester's optional air suspension. The S90 has great steering feel, too, with solid on-center feedback. This is a great road trip machine. My only gripe is that the gear shifter is one of those double-tap nightmares, where instead of just pushing all the way up to to from drive to reverse, you have to tap twice to get reverse. Sometimes I think I'm in reverse but I'm actually in neutral. It's frustrating.
However, the S90's real-world fuel economy makes up for any quibbles. Running the gas engine, I'm able to see 31.3 mpg, which beats the EPA's 30-mpg estimate. Obviously you'll be much more efficient if you plug in as much as possible.
The S90 has plenty of driving aids standard, like blind-spot monitoring, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, road sign information and adaptive cruise control. All work as expected, although I do have a few surprises with the adaptive cruise control during my week. It can bring me to a full stop but the system disengages pretty quickly. Other manufacturers build in a three-to-five-second pause before ACC disengagement, but I have to tap the gas to get moving again. The S90 has Volvo's Pilot Assist, too, which combines the adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist, but this is a hands-on system and must be treated as such.
Volvo's Sensus infotainment is fine, but definitely not my favorite system in the luxury space. It looks nice, and the 9-inch screen is big enough, but it can be tough to navigate the system while driving, and everything save for audio volume and track selection are tied into the touchscreen. Sometimes I just want to turn up the heat a bit and I shouldn't have to swipe through screens to find the climate controls.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, thankfully, but the real plus to Volvo's tech is the Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system. Yeah, it's $3,200, but it's probably the best stereo I've heard save for maybe a Naim setup in a Bentley . I can digitally change the quality so it sounds like I'm sitting in the Gothenburg Concert Hall, on an individual stage or even in a studio. This is one stereo upgrade that is absolutely worth the price.
Keep devices charged, the S90 has two USB-A ports and a 12-volt outlet in the center console. The back seat gets two USB-C ports and the obligatory 12-volt, as well.
The S90's interior is nicely appointed with supremely comfy front seats. The outboard rear seats are similarly supple, but the middle kid will likely complain. My tester has heated and cooled front seats standard, but the $750 Climate Package adds heated rear seats while the $1,300 Lounge Package adds rear seat cooling as well as front seat massage. I am a sucker for a good in-car seat massage and this feature along with some heat makes and traffic jams a non-issue. I could sit here for days.
For a large-ish sedan, however, storage is on the small side. The 13.5-cubic-foot trunk is one of the smallest in the class and the center console is so shallow I laughed out loud when I first opened it. There is a little cubby to the left of the steering wheel and average-sized door pockets, but you'll probably find yourself using the cup holders for more than just your soda.
The 2021 Volvo S90 T8 Recharge starts at $61,095 including $1,045 for destination. The Inscription and R-Design models are the same price, and I'd probably for the latter. The R-Design has less chrome and generally looks cooler, though it doesn't have as many standard features and you can't get the aforementioned Lounge package. The S90 can be had with a $1,295 Polestar Performance package, which Volvo says improves throttle response and engine performance.
The Volvo S90 goes against some pretty heavy hitters like the BMW 5 Series , Genesis G90 and Mercedes-Benz E-Class , but only the Bimmer is offered as a plug-in hybrid. If the powertrain isn't a must-have for you, you'll find oodles of tech in the E-Class and plenty of value as well as stunning good looks with the Genesis, but still, it's hard to argue against this rock-solid Swede.