Volvo’s first full-size plug-in hybrid SUV, the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8, has been given an official fuel economy rating of 134.5 imperial MPG on the NEDC test cycle, the Swedish automaker announced this morning, with a carbon dioxide emission of 49 grams per kilometer and an all-electric range of 26 miles per charge.
The seven-seat plug-in hybrid, based on all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 SUV, is a through-the-road plug-in hybrid powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged Drive-E engine and two electric motors: a small 34 kilowatt combined starter generator up front connected to the engine’s crankshaft and a much larger 60 kilowatt motor mounted directly on the rear axle. Power while in electric mode comes from a 9.9 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack that can be recharged in around 3.5 hours from a compatible domestic charging station. Charging from a household outlet meanwhile, will take a little longer in Europe, or about twice as long on the 120-volt outlets of the U.S.
Combined, that drivetrain can produce a maximum of 407 horsepower and 552.86 pound feet of toure, accelerating the XC90 T8 from 0-62 mph in 5.6 seconds and making the T8 both the fastest and the most environmentally friendly of Volvo’s XC90 family.
It’s worth noting too that the official announcement of the NEDC test cycle figures for the XC90 T8 match rumors we reported on last week which stated the XC90 would achieve a fuel economy figure far better than Volvo had previous promised. This apparently was due to Volvo’s wishes to keep final figures a closely-guarded secret until its nearest rival — the Audi Q7 e-tron quattro — had been unveiled.
Thanks to a larger 14.1 kilowatt hour lithium-ion battery pack, the XC90’s German rival will actually beat it in terms of all-electric range, offering 34 miles per charge to the XC90’s official 26 miles. But while the Q7 e-tron quattro is a five-seat SUV, the Volvo XC90 T8 does benefit those extra two seats.
As with other plug-in hybrids, the Volvo XC90 T8 will default to all-electric mode when switched on, with an option for the driver to engage Battery Save mode if required to save that power for later on in the trip.
But while the NEDC test cycle predicts an optimistic 26 miles per charge, we feel it’s worth noting that the NEDC test cycle is atrociously optimistic about both fuel economy and electric range.
Under the same NEDC test cycle for EV range, the Nissan LEAF electric car is rated as having a range of 124 miles per charge. That’s far more than the official 75-mile rating of the U.S. EPA. for the same car. Consequentially, we’d expect the EPA to rate the electric-only range of the XC90 T8 to be somewhere around 15 miles per charge, with real-world range anywhere from 10-20 miles, depending on driver skill, weather conditions and road type.
In Europe, the way plug-in hybrids are officially rated also differs from the U.S. In America, the EPA test cycles for plug-in hybrids call for individual tests for both all-electric and hybrid operation, rating the vehicle in Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPGe) for electric operation and Miles Per Gallon for hybrid operation.
Under NEDC test cycles, overall fuel economy is set using a special plug-in hybrid test cycle, which asses vehicles overall fuel economy based on two-thirds of the driving being in electric mode and one-third in internal combustion engine mode.
This partly explains why such a large vehicle as the Volvo XC90 T8 manages an overall combined fuel economy of 134.5 Imperial miles per gallon.
If we translate that figure into U.S. measurements — an imperial gallon being about 80 percent smaller than a U.S. gallon — we’re left with 111 U.S. mpg. Account for the disparity between NEDC and EPA testing, and we’re guessing a real-world, U.S. fuel economy of somewhere between 55 and 80 U.S. mpg.
While that’s barely better than the fuel economy of the third-generation Toyota Prius, we’d like to remind readers that we’re talking about a full-size SUV here: a class of vehicle whose average fuel economy hovers in the mid-teens and low twenty mpg. Being a plug-in hybrid too, fuel efficiency will really depend on individual driving style and how much it is plugged in.
And that’s the biggest challenge facing the XC90 T8. While it’s a competent, well-built full-size SUV, its small electric range could put buyers off. Worse still, its price tag — starting at £59,995 in the UK and $69,100 in the U.S — means that it will be competing directly with the Tesla Model X all-electric SUV.
While final pricing and specifications haven’t been launched yet, that vehicle is expected to retail from $80,000 upwards, but include at least 200 miles of range per charge, towing capability and free fuel for life, not to mention the same autonomous driving capabilities promised of its sibling, the Tesla Model S electric sedan.
For Volvo, that’s a tough competitor to do battle with, especially given both companies’ shared interests in producing safe, uncompromised cars.
Let battle commence.
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