Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV: Strong Competition For Tesla Model X, BMW X5 xDrive40e

JUL 9 2015 BY STAFF 46

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

There seems to be two camps when it comes to electric vehicles. In one camp lies the pure EVers, who want nothing to do with the combustion of gasoline. In the other camp lies the plug-in hybrid fans, who think that pairing an internal combustion engine with an electric motor is the more practical way. Good, solid arguments can be made for both sides, as both EV setups have their advantages and disadvantages.

The Big Dog in the pure EV camp is Tesla, with its Model S and upcoming Model X SUV. At the moment, one of the bigger names in plug-in hybrids is BMW, with its i8 and upcoming X5 xDrive40e and 330e. The two automotive giants have been facing off a lot lately, trying to one-up each other in the world of electric motoring.

However, there seems to be a newcomer to the game, one that might just have what it takes to scare both while using technology from both — Volvo.

*Editor’s Note: This post appears on BMWBLOG. Check it out here.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

Volvo’s upcoming XC90 T8 will have a plug-in hybrid setup very similar to BMW’s in the i8. It will use a 2.0 liter four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged, mated to an electric motor sending the power through an 8-Speed automatic and all-wheel drive. The T8 is said to have between 15-20 miles of EV range from 96 LG batteries (BMW’s are Samsung while Tesla’s are Panasonic). That’s impressive for such a big vehicle and is on par with BMW’s claims for the X5 xDrive40e. The T8 will also have a whopping 472 lb-ft of torque. So mechanically, the XC90 T8 will be similar to what BMW is doing with its current, and upcoming, models.

On the inside, it gets a bit more like Tesla, though. Volvo has already replaced most of the physical buttons on the center stack with a massive touchscreen, a la Tesla Model S. This high-definition touchscreen can control anything from the radio, the sat-nav, the air conditioning or pretty much anything else.

So from the inside, the T8 will be very similar to the Model S and upcoming Model X. The T8 will also feature over-the-air updates from Volvo, much like Tesla’s do, which will update the systems software overnight. This allows any efficiency or performance gains, through software tweaks, will be implemented on all models, instantly.

AV TurboCord Charges The Volvo Plug-In SUV In In 2.5 Hours

AV TurboCord Charges The Volvo Plug-In SUV In In 2.5 Hours

So the XC90 T8 seems to be borrowing a page from each of the EV giant’s books. However, the competition might be more of a two horse race than three. When both the XC90 T8 and BMW X5 xDrive40e come out, they will be priced, sized and technologically similar. The starting price tag for the T8 will be $69,095 and expect the X5 xDrive 40e to be priced similarly. How about the Model X pricing? Well, it’s looking like it’s going to be close to the Model S P85D’s, with an estimated starting price of $95,000. That’s considerably more than both the Volvo and BMW.

So while it may seem like, at the moment, BMW’s main competitor in the EV world is Tesla, Volvo may be slowly creeping up on both of them. If you take into account all of the aforementioned similarities between the three, but then add in Volvo’s far superior safety technologies and the fact that it will be priced closer to the bottom of the three, the XC90 T8 seems like the winner here. Obviously, we won’t know until they’re all released and we can put rubber to the road, but the T8 seems like a mighty fine addition to the plug-in hybrid segment.

Categories: BMW, Tesla, Volvo

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46 Comments on "Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV: Strong Competition For Tesla Model X, BMW X5 xDrive40e"

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IT MAKES “NO SENSE” COMPARING THESE TWO….Many including myself would never ever Consider buying A PHEV…two engines “DOUBLES” the risk Break downs & Maintenance..I’d Go straight EV Or ICE: Especially for Hi-Way Use…..Just Asking For More Problems with PHEV’s. The Costs..$$$ will never Be Justified.


Although I completely agree: STOP SHOUTING!


“The T8 is said to have between 15-20 miles of EV range”
HA! HA! HA! Ha! Ha! What a Joke!


No trunk. Deal breaker.


How many SUVs have more space behind their 3rd row seats?


For some, an all electric range of 265 miles is a joke. I make about 4 daily drives per month that are over 400 miles, into rural Colorado, with no charging station available. So happy to have a gasoline engine! The rest of the month, my daily drives are usually under 12 miles, so the T8 XC90 is the serious contender for me. Teslas are laughable to me.



Tell that to all of the thousands of happy Volt owners (like me), including those with over 100,000 miles and no problems.

David Murray

I disagree. When used in EV mode most of the time (like my Volt) the ICE barely ever runs. And without the constant heat and vibration of a running engine, those parts should last a long time. So 10 years from now that ICE and all of the supporting parts will still be like-new.


So far, all the PHEV (beside Fisker Karma) has NOT shown to have more problems than traditional ICE or hybrids…

CR rates the Volt, LEAF and Tesla Model S all with “average reliability”.

So, your claims are truly just your personal bias…

Also, a PHEV mostly operated in EV mode has far less service requirement in its ICE powertrain due to lower usage.


Actually, PHEV’s seem to be enjoying a “Win-Win” where it comes to wear and tear.

A typical Volt owner who drives 70% of their miles in EV mode, will only have 30K miles on their ICE at 100K. And the miles the ICE is running, it is running at fairly constant loads, not the constant up and down RPM’s and changing torques that most ICE’s suffer in city driving that are so tough on engines.

On the other hand, PHEV’s also don’t suffer as badly from battery degradation as pure EV’s either. Volts simply aren’t losing range, unlike some Leaf’s in poor climates. And even if you do lose range, you can still drive it as far as you want. The ICE just come on sooner. With most typical pure EV’s with 70-80 miles of range, losing 25% of range can really impact usability.

So PHEV’s have wear and tear advantages vs. both traditional ICE vehicles, and vs. the typical short range pure EV’s that most companies are currently selling.


Nix said:

“On the other hand, PHEV’s also don’t suffer as badly from battery degradation as pure EV’s either. Volts simply aren’t losing range, unlike some Leaf’s in poor climates.”

There are two reasons the Volt has suffered less (or nonexistent) range loss compared to the Leaf:

1. The Volt uses a liquid cooling/heating system to “baby” the battery pack, unlike the Leaf which has no battery temperature management at all.

2. GM engineered the Volt to reserve some battery capacity, allowing a certain amount of loss over time without losing any range at all.

So let’s not pretend this has anything to do with PHEVs being inherently better at maintaining range as the car ages. All else being equal, the PEV with a bigger battery pack will lose range more slowly, and the Leaf has a bigger battery pack than the Volt. But in comparing those two particular PEVs, the Volt vs. the Leaf, all else is not the same; in fact, all else is mostly different.


“So let’s not pretend this has anything to do with PHEVs being inherently better at maintaining range as the car ages.”

Actually it does have something to do with the inherit design of PHEV.

Being a PHEV, it means that you don’t have push for the capacity as much so you can afford to derate the battery more in range than a BEV. In a BEV you sort have to expose as much as of the capacity as you are willing to take the risk. In a PHEV, you got a backup, so you can “afford” to save some of that capacity which will reduce the speed of capacity degradation.


The Volvo V60 diesel hybrid has been selling very well in Europe, and has had no reliability problems. The history of cars has always been one of increasing complexity and increasing reliability. I’ve even heard you can’t even buy a car with a starter crank anymore, you got to buy one of them new fangled electric starter-motors. And they’ll probably just break.

I’ve driven the XC90 T8, it is a very nice car. I would consider buying one. As with the Volt, many people will drive 80-90% on the electric motor alone, with the gas engine coming on fairly infrequently.

Yes, more maintenance will be required, but when the car has 100,000 miles on it, that ICE will only have 20,000 miles.

It will be a lot cheaper to operate than an typical SUV with $400 mo gas bills.

Price will come down over the next 10 years, and you’ll eventually see battery electrics as range issues go away and people want to save the extra few thousand it costs for the ICE “insurance policy”.


Good input and reminder about the limited time the ICE is on. Means less maintenance just like on my Volt with 1 oil change in 3.5 years. “both supercharged and turbocharged” XC90 ICE seems like overkill as I guess they are going for performance with the ICE running. I’d be concerned about the ICE having maint problems.


Well said.

Not to mention that SUVs have higher load factors and might need to tow/haul more weight which will lead to much lower range in the BEV configuration. With PHEV configuration, it can leverage existing infrastructure while save significant amount of fuel in the least efficient mode (city cycles).


I agree with this post, if the owner’s driving habits are more like typical European drivers who drive much fewer miles than US drivers. Or if the owner can charge twice a day. They they can certainly get Volt-like results.

But especially with PHEV’s, YMWV (Your Mileage WILL Vary). Typical US drivers would likely be much closer to driving in EV mode around 50% of the time if they only charge at home each night. And while that’s still pretty cool, it would fall short of that 80-90%.

Buyers will need to smartly self-select based upon their own personal situations in order to hit those sort of numbers.

Anton Wahlman

Under the skin, looking at the architecture, the Volvo XC90 T8 is almost identical to the BMW i8 — not the BMW X5.

The battery sits in the tunnel, and the 4×4 is through the road.

The 3 differences are:
1. Volvo has ICE up front, main traction motor in the back (opposite of BMW i8).
2. Volvo has 4 cylinder, BMW 3 cylinder.
3. Volvo has 8 gears, BMW 6.

Basically, the Volvo is a BMW i8 in a 7 seat, 3 row, SUV body.

Mike I

The Volvo XC90 T8 is far superior to the X5 eDrive. The traditional 4WD driveline in the X5 saps efficiency just like it does in the ICE version. Volvo has definitely done it right with separate motor/generators on the rear axle and on the ICE. This will be clearly borne out in the EPA MPGe ratings for the vehicles.

On top of the driveline differences, the 3-row seating in the XC-90 is a comparison win too.

Electric Bungaloo

Estimated X Price 95$ k? What?

I thought it was 10% more so around 80k $, can the author elaborate a bit further?

Or do you mean X85D? 85k + 10% would be ca. 95k$
So you do not expect a X70D?


I waited years for the XC90 but they announced the battery range about the same time that Tesla announced the 70D. Needless to say, the XC90 has been removed from my list and the X has been reserved. If the X isn’t quite my style, I’ll just move over to an S. With the larger tax credits for the Tesla, the prices are quite similar.


The ~10kwh PHEV formula needs to RIP-

I don’t think the “two camp” (PHEV/BEV) thesis works, until you get closer to 40 miles of electric range. Low mile range numbers still correspond with small (9.4kwh in this case) batteries, weak power (60kw and 5,000lbs, vs. Volt’s 111kw and 3,600lbs) and consequentially slower acceleration times in all-electric mode. On ramps and other places will mean engine interference, unless you go real slow.

I think what’s nicest about PHEVs is the option to go all-electric, and retain reasonable around town electric performance, and save as much of the daily gas bill as possible. Volvo looks to be leaning too hard on the ICE, and if it really is like the BMW i8, electric acceleration will take three times as long as a Tesla P85D. Then, there’s the Audi Q7, coming with almost twice the battery (17.3kwh). This means we should think about more range, **and** more electric power.

It won’t be the worst thing if Audi and Volvo customers realize more battery = more cowbell.

The XC90 performs very well, especially considering its size and weight. You’re getting the equivalent of serious V8 horsepower out of the combination of two electric motors and a turbo+supercharged 4 cyl. It’s quite an engineering feat actually.

I’m a fan of big batteries, but it’s all a matter of application. If your commute or school rounds are less than 20 miles, and you don’t feel the need to trounce the accelerator frequently, this is an all-electric car. If you can charge at work or mid-day at home, double that commute on all electric to 40 miles.

The XC90 T8 will work for a whole lot of families. Between the $4,800 federal tax credit and fuel cost savings, it competes with less expensive SUVs on a monthly Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) basis.

Volvo has done a really nice job. A different Volvo really, one that easily competes with, if not bests, BMW, Mercedes and Audi’s similar offerings.


pjwood1 said:

“I don’t think the “two camp” (PHEV/BEV) thesis works, until you get closer to 40 miles of electric range. Low mile range numbers still correspond with small (9.4kwh in this case) batteries, weak power (60kw and 5,000lbs, vs. Volt’s 111kw and 3,600lbs) and consequentially slower acceleration times in all-electric mode. On ramps and other places will mean engine interference, unless you go real slow.”

Hey thanks, pjwood1! In hindsight that’s blindingly obvious, but it had never occurred to me that the small-range PHEVs are so limited in battery pack power that it’s physically impossible for them to avoid using the ICEngine for a power boost when accelerating or hill-climbing.

Yet another reason to demand PHEVs with an absolute minimum of 40 miles in all-electric range, and another reason to sneer at lame PHEVs with tiny electric ranges of 20 miles or even less.

philip d

Yeah. I’m still puzzled why the Volt is still the only PHEV in it’s own class. None of these other PHEVs ever really act like an EV.

They really are just the new and improved hybrid technology. Sure you CAN drive them in EV mode but I can’t imagine you would for very long with an electric motor that has 100 hp or less in a large SUV.

Inevitably after trying it for awhile I’m sure most drivers will just leave it in hybrid mode so they can just drive the thing around town normally. Obviously they will get better gas mileage but they certainly won’t be driving 85% of their miles on pure electricity.


Not to denigrate the Volt, it certainly is a superior piece of engineering from GM; but the fleet average for Volts is only 71% electric miles (see link below). If we want to move up to 85%, then we need a bigger battery pack, and by “bigger” I mean something significantly more than the tiny increase in range for the Volt 2.0.

Lensman, your expectations for PHEV’s might be eternally stymied by the realities of why the ICE engines get used on PHEV’s. For example, here are two cases where adding a larger battery to a PHEV have vastly different results. Driver 1: A PHEV owner has a 2015 Volt that is used exclusively for commuting 48 miles round trip each week day with no charging at work. Another family car (seats 5?) is used for road trips and weekend/evenings He drives 2,600 miles on gas each year, 80% in EV mode. He replaces it with a 2016 Volt, and suddenly he rarely uses gas at all, and nearly all his miles are in electric mode. I’m sure this is the kind of victory you are looking for with more PHEV range. Now lets look at Driver 2. This driver does errands close to home, picks their kids up from football practice with all their gear, drives the family to dinner, weekend family stuff, etc and does less than 20 miles a day. They also use this vehicle to drive to her mother’s for the 5 major holidays (Xmas, T-giving, Easter, 4th, and National Drive Electric Week — of course!) Her… Read more »
Josh Bryant

The 10 kWh PHEV crushes the EU fuel economy standards, which is a major motivation for the manufacturers there.


Much more important is the extreme benefit to a manufacturer’s EU CO2 numbers, allowing them to continue to sell low x per gal/litre bahn-burners at a much higher profit.

the ~20 AER is what the bean counters came up with to maximize their CO2 benefit vs expense.

i.e., not likely to change, regulatory driven.


thats a pretty small trunk in that volvo compared to the X


How do you know?

Have you seen the trunk space behind Model X’s 3rd row seat yet?

BTW, where is the Model X?


XC90 PHEV is rated to have 85.7 cu ft of cargo space.


no fast charging – why?


While it seems inevitable that the ICEngine is rapidly becoming obsolete and within a generation or so will be relegated to a niche application, it’s counter-productive to insist in 2015 that no auto maker should develop and sell a PHEV, or to insist that no one should buy one. Given the choice between only gasmobiles or BEVs, nearly all car buyers will continue to choose gasmobiles.

It is not realistic in 2015, and probably not for the next 5 to 10 years, to expect auto makers to shift all their production to BEVs. Batteries are coming down in cost, but they’re still not cheap enough to make larger vehicles, such as SUVs, minivans, and pickups, with a good range at prices competitive with gasmobiles. During this interim period when BEVs tech is steadily advancing but is still not quite “ready for prime time”, PHEVs offer a practical bridge to the all-electric future.

PHEVs are only a halfway solution, but as they say: “Half a loaf is better than none.”


I should clarify that when I say PHEV, that includes the Volt and future EVs with similar (or hopefully, better) all-electric range. I reject the pointless hairsplitting between “EREVs” and PHEVs.

They’re all PHEVs.


“I reject the pointless hairsplitting between “EREVs” and PHEVs.”

And I reject your poor logic as usual… =)

It is NOT hairsplitting difference if the “EV mode” are never true full performance mode. That is how many of the PHEV are today. Where Volt like EREVs operate differently.

Group cars such as i3 REx and Volt into the same groups of car such as Prius Plugin is counterproductive or unfair…

Mike I

There is a big difference between the PHEVs that are driveable in the city in EV mode and those that are not. This one is clearly drivable in EV mode while the Prius Plug-In clearly is not.

ModernMarvelFan said: “It is NOT hairsplitting difference if the ‘EV mode’ are never true full performance mode. That is how many of the PHEV are today. Where Volt like EREVs operate differently.” That’s like arguing that the Ford Model T shouldn’t be called an ICEV because it can’t drive at 55+ MPH on the highway. Sure, there are a lot of poorly engineered PHEVs out there, and very few well-engineered ones. That doesn’t mean we should create a new category of EV in which to pigeonhole the few well-engineered ones. It probably won’t be many years before all those low-range PHEVs disappear from the market. “Group cars such as i3 REx and Volt into the same groups of car such as Prius Plugin is counterproductive or unfair…” Just as “unfair” is it is to label both a Yugo and a Rolls-Royce as “gasmobiles”. Assigning categories to different EVs should be based on whether or not the definition of the category makes sense and is self-consistent… not any subjective standard of “fairness”. We’re not kids dividing up candy; fair or unfair is irrelevant to the situation. Now, if there is any PEV which actually does deserve its own category, it’s the… Read more »

“It probably won’t be many years before all those low-range PHEVs disappear from the market”

So far the trends has been exactly opposite. That is why the distintion is important.

“The i3 REx is basically a BEV, but has an optional gas scooter motor grafted on as a range extender, more or less as an afterthought”

Hmm.. NOT an afterthought. In fact, the car was specifically designed with REx in mind. It just pushed the REx concept slightly farther than the Volt did (not surprised as they “stole” one of the original Volt designers). The fact is that they are both designed to be full electric first and hybrid second is what makes them more EREV than PHEV…

That “splitting hair” difference is important in the new PEV market especially since there are actually more short range PHEV gettting offered than longer range PHEVs..

Technically they are all PEVs and why don’t we just call them cars then?


Your ‘hairsplitting’ is another’s Milestone, i.e., what was it designed to be: (please, no comic analogies)

Volt=BEV extended
i3rex=BEV extended

i8=ICE with benefits
PHEV=ICE with benefits.

If that disagrees with Your viewpoint, more power to ya’, but grafting an electric onto the same tried&true ICE vehicles is stopgap at best, and CO2 gaming at worst – as opposed to selling a BEV and grafting on an ICE to reduce “range anxiety” to a minimum.

If you live within the low AER of the ‘graft electric on’ camp, then it Does help (stopgap) but also serves the “well, if I gotta” mfg’s, doing the absolute least possible to fulfill regulatory requirements.
Quite different from developing a car, ground up to Be elctric is the distinction I and others are aiming for.

An example that I will no doubt take abuse for: VW’s multi-platform is utterly brilliant in concept, but low and behold, the BEV offers Adequate performance, when a motor’s superiority over ICE is well-known and documented. Why does their BEV perform only Adequately.. hrmm.. gimme a minute..

Jim Gord


This EV range is probably better suited for use in Europe than in the US. 15-20 mile EV range is a maximum of 5,500 to 7,000 miles per year in EV range, if the vehicle is charged once a day. That matches up pretty well with the EU average of 6,721 miles per year for ICE vehicles that I’ve seen listed on a few websites. That’s compared with a Outlander PHEV with approx 25 miles of range (we’ll see what the EPA rates it). That would be a maximum of approx. 9,000 miles per year in EV mode, which is pretty close to the 9K-10K miles that the median Nissan Leaf owner drives each year. There seems to be a whole lot of European PHEV’s coming that seem to be more suited for typical EU drivers, vs US drivers. I’m glad to see more choices in PHEV’s, don’t get me wrong. Replacing 5.5K-7K miles worth of miles on the ICE version of the XC90 at 20 MPG still saves roughly the same number of gallons you save by replacing a typical ICE car with a Toyota Prius. Anytime you can get an SUV owner to save as much gas as… Read more »

Don’t forget that those are often the “worst” miles which are cold start/short range/running errands miles.

You will be lucky to get 17-18mpg in those situation on those large 3-row SUVs…


If I was in the market for a PHEV luxury SUV like the Volvo or the BMW, I would definitely wait until the Audi A7 is released since that promises twice the battery of both these vehicles.


You might be right. But what is the chance that A7 PHEV would be under $70K?


Should be Q7 eTron instead…