The Jewel of the XC90 Mountain / by Zach Sorensen-Nielsen

The new Volvo XC90’s list of awards is so long you have to scroll and scroll and scroll to read them all on Volvo’s website. After driving the V90 Cross Country in February, I knew that I needed to give this award-winning Swedish machine a drive and the kind folks at Fields Volvo were kind enough to accommodate. I went out on a deceivingly sunny Wednesday afternoon. The sun was shining but the wind was biting.

I said hello to Jamie and we went to select just the right XC90 for the drive. Jamie and I agreed on the XC90 T8 R-Design, the truck was sent to be washed, and I sat down to enjoy Fields Volvo’s waiting area complete with fruit, ice cream, and drinks. As comfortable as the dealership is, when I saw the XC90 pull up in all of its clean and shiny glory, I hopped up, grabbed the keys from Jamie, and was ready to go! I walked outside to bask in the Onyx black paint’s glory. It is dark and deep, but when the sun shines on it just right, it maintains a metallic flake.

The R-Design styling gives this SUV a more aggressive presence than the standard XC90. The grill is specific to the R-Design and it gives the front end a menacing but nice grimace when combined with the headlights. “Thor’s Hammer” running lights separate the high and low beams on each side headlights. Below the grill and headlights, a re-styled, color-matched splitter outlines the bottom lip. Silver side mirrors unique to the R-Design complete the look on the sides. Bringing up the rear a pair of wide exhaust pipes covers the smaller, round pipes hidden inside each. The damn sexy tail lights we know and love from these new Volvos rest atop the exhaust, contouring the rear hatch which is thin and trim on top, rounding off at the husky lights that extend out with the body below the windows.

But you want to know how it drives. The XC90 always starts in hybrid mode with just the electric engines going. When you put your foot on the gas or change the drive mode, the gasoline engine turns on, but you would never know because it kicks in effortlessly and quietly even while giving you much more power.  The XC90 pushes higher revs even though it barely feels like it is doing any work.

The T8 R-Design has the same gasoline engine as the V90 Cross Country that I reviewed here.  It is a 4 cylinder, super and turbocharged engine making 317 horsepower. In addition, there is an electric motor making roughly 85 additional horsepower bringing the total to 400 hp and 472 pound feet of torque. The third row of seats allows you to bring 7 people from 0 to 60 in 5.3 seconds. Five point three seconds! In a truck that weighs in in just over 5000 pounds. Try to wrap your head around that.

Switching to “Power” mode gives the driver both electric and gas engines working together for all the moose power and torque this SUV has to give. Driving in Power mode, I used the steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to shift the 8 speed transmission. The paddles had surprisingly quick response in Power mode, but in all the other drive modes the paddles felt a little slow. Hybrid mode is perfect for around town driving. The electric motor gives you immediate power to fill the lag that would be there with just the gasoline engine.

For a little context, my daily driver is a lowered Camaro. I am neither used to riding high up and nor do I normally enjoy it. However, sitting in the XC90 R-Design felt very familiar and confident. The body of the XC90 sits just under 70 inches tall, which is just about Land Rover height but the seating position of the XC90 feels a little lower than some other larger SUVs.  Sitting in the R-Design, it is apparent that you are in a sporty trimmed truck. The steering wheel is wrapped in lush leather which makes it feel substantial in your hands. Behind the wheel, the small, but responsive paddle shifters wait for your command. The seats hug your sides just right, making you feel planted and secure, while still being some of the most comfortable seats I have ever sat in. The center console is home to my favorite element of the XC90 T8; the crystal shift knob by Orrefors. It truly is the jewel of the mountain that is the XC90. The crystal is handmade using Swedish glass blowing techniques and a crazy video of them being made can be found right here. (Seriously, you need to watch this video) The crystal shift knob can only be found in the T8 model of the XC90 as well as the S90. It just highlights the whole driving experience with a crystal shimmer and the notion that this SUV is way more important than yours.

This brand new XC90 hd only delivery miles, so I did not take it far. Being that it isn’t mine, I didn’t push its limits so this really is just my initial impressions of the Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design. As they say, you only get one first impression and this XC90 really left it's mark with me. The XC90 T8 R-Design is the ultimate 400 horsepower Swedish mountain.