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Smooth operator — Volvo’s handsome XC90 T8 proves agile, economical

POSTED BY Nigel Andretti ON 07 September 2016

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By YAMIN VONG

THE Volvo XC90 T8 is Malaysia’s first locally assembled plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV; pronounced as P-hev by the Volvo people).

This car is a very special car, being the first PHEV to be locally assembled in Malaysia and the first birthchild of Malaysia’s National Automotive policy 2014.

It is also the first XC90 PHEV to be assembled outside Malaysia. For this we have to thank Volvo Malaysia’s immediate past MD, Keith Schafer, who championed Malaysia’s NAP 2014 and persuaded Volvo’s Gothenburg management to invest in Malaysia.

The locally assembled XC90 T8 has already been rolled out and delivered to Malaysian customers, and later to regional customers.

Recently, we had a weekend on our hands and collected one of their first XC90 T8 CBU unit in Malaysia, a test car with 22,000 km on the clock.

We wanted the experience of living with a PHEV for a few days, including charging from the house plug point.

First impressions:

The power cable looked like it had rarely been used. That’s believable. According to British automotive press, about half of PHEV owners seldom charge their cars from the grid.

Living with a PHEV:

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I carefully backed the XC90 T8 into the car bay of my house and the power cord supplied with the car was just about long enough to connect the wall plug point to the car’s wing mounted socket.

It takes three to four hours to recharge an almost completely discharged lithium ion battery pack (weighs 225 kg). The flashing green LED settles to a constant light to indicate that the battery is fully charged.

The next morning, we did an urban cycle test around my Kota Damansara kampong.

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It’s a busy place at the Giza in Kota Damansara. Set on hybrid mode and using the instrumentation to keep the car on
electric drive, the gauge indicated low battery after about 45 minutes of traffic crawl, parking and waiting with the air-conditioning.

For the second test cycle, we started again after charging the battery overnight. Actually it had reached full charge by 2.15a.m. but I left the charger hooked up until the next morning when we set out for our drive to Terengganu via the MRR2 from Sungai Buloh to Batu Caves.

?”?Dependant on the energy supplier’s tariff – in the case for TNB in West Malaysia, fully charging the 9.2kWh battery will cost RM4.60. Per kilometre it is cheaper than running a full petrol engine and electricity prices are not as volatile here as compared to fuel prices. The other benefit of running on electric is that it helps reduce emissions tremendously, especially in city driving conditions,” said Zahir Zaini Product, Digital Marketing & PR Manager?, Volvo Car Malaysia.?

Fuel gauge showing how much electrical and petrol engine power is available

Fuel gauge showing how much electrical and petrol engine power is available

Heavy traffic. Just the stuff for a PHEV. Within an hour the gauge showed low battery but this doesn’t mean the end of the road.

In the hybrid mode, the car will automatically choose electric mode or internal combustion engine mode or both together. The car’s power management computer will also command when the 316 BHP petrol engine charges the battery and when it wants power from the battery to drive the 86 bhp electric motor.

It’s this interplay of modes, and the regeneration of energy from braking, that gives a PHEV such phenomenally good fuel consumption.

Using the Toyota Prius hybrid with a 500 metre-1,000 metre electric range as a benchmark, it felt so luxurious to have that much electric range from the XC90 T8. The fuel efficiency is said to be 134.5 mpg on a combined cycle but our combined (wife, son and I) driving performance returned 9.6 litre per 100 km. My wife is a moderate speed driver, my son is a slow driver (100kph) and I’m the heaviest footed of all. The fuel tank capacity of 50 litre provided a comfortable range even though there is only one mini petrol station along LPT2 or the East Coast Expressway 2.

Driving impression:

The XC90 really shows its true proportions when you park it next to a Proton Saga (below).

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You forget that it’s a huge seven-seater SUV until you start to hustle it like a sports car. Then you come back to earth and remind yourself that it’s a 2.5 tonne vehicle, almost one tonne more than B or C segment cars. You out accelerate them and drive comfortably at a higher top speed but you can’t chuck it around corners like a Proton Saga or a Honda Civic.

On the other hand, it’s a lovely highway cruiser for both driver and passengers. You don’t realise the total comfort, especially as a rear seat passenger until you sit in another brand of Japanese
SUV where the front headrests block out almost 30 per cent of the forward view.

The 2.0 litre engine is a new downsizing direction for Volvo. A supercharger pumps in air at the lower rpm range after which it cuts out. The turbocharger takes over the pumping of air into the
engine at the higher rpm range. It’s an expensive way of building engines as VW found out but it spins out the horses, all 316 of them bhp’s.

The petrol engine drives the front wheels and the electric motor drives the rear wheels.

There is 2.5 bhp starter motor cum generator connecting both the front and rear engines. Both engines are employed when the XC90 T8 is in all-wheel drive mode.

The lithium ion battery cells are installed in what seems like the transmission tunnel.

With a price tag of RM403,000, this car is the best value buy of the year, thanks to the government’s rebate on taxes on locally assembled hybrid and electric cars. It’s only rival is the BMW X5 40e, also another PHEV privileged with tax rebates to encourage local assembly.

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XC90 T8 PHEV Technical specifications:

Petrol Engine, 316 bhp: 1,969cc four-cylinder turbocharged and supercharged. Electric motor, 86 bhp

Maximum torque: 640 Nm

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic by Aisin

Performance: 0-100, 5.6 seconds, top speed 230 kph (140 mph), 49g/km CO2

Weight: 2343kg

Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4950/2008/1776

Price: RM403,000

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