volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
A seven-seater with luxury appointments and better fuel economy than most hatchbacks? Yes, please.
volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

The XC90 is a true seven-seater. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

The middle seat and front seat passengers benefit the most with ample head and legroom. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

With all seven seats in action, there's 291L of cargo capacity available. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

That jumps up to 651L when the third-row seats are folded flat. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

When only the front seats are in action, you get a substantial 1950L of cargo capacity. (image: Dean McCartney)

Back in the day it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear my parents mutter, ‘Bloody Volvo driver’ while on the road and you’d be forgiven for thinking of the stereotypical Volvo driver as a cardigan-sweater-set-leather-loafer-wearing individual with their noses barely off the steering wheel. Well, that’s old Volvo and this is the newly upgraded XC90 Recharge Ultimate grade – and it’s a completely different experience.

I’ve been driving this for a week with my family and I’ve discovered that the XC90 Recharge is still sophisticated but now has a bigger electric battery for this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version, and improved fuel efficiency compared with the previous model (which was already impressive).

What does it look like?

Volvo tends to lean towards an ‘understated elegance’ vibe when it comes to design and the XC90 Recharge doesn’t really stray from it. There hasn’t been many updates since this generation of XC90 appeared back in 2015, but why change what works?

The shape retains a glimmer of the old boxy styling but manages to refine the edges and gives this low-profile SUV some cool-kid cred. There’s a hint of limo-like mystery with the darkly tinted rear glass, while the black grille, large LED lights and massive 22-inch alloy wheels makes it look polished, but also kind of mean.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
Volvo tends to lean towards an ‘understated elegance’ vibe when it comes to design. (image: Dean McCartney)

The interior carries through the refinement and every aspect looks luxurious and well executed. It screams quality without shouting, ‘I cost a lot to own’.

The exterior colour choices are fairly muted but its sophisticated kerb-side appeal makes it attractive enough without having to peacock the exterior.

How does it drive?

The Recharge Ultimate T8 PHEV has a four-cylinder turbo-petrol plug-in hybrid powertrain, which is a winner in this SUV. That’s a big call considering that combo can sometimes make the drive experience feel disjointed, but the switch between the engine and the electric motor is seamless.

It feels effortlessly powerful, regardless of speed. Need to dart across traffic? Or get up a steep hill? Or overtake? No problem, it feels like there’s still power in reserve when you put your foot down, ensuring confidence, no matter the situation.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
The Recharge Ultimate T8 PHEV has a four-cylinder turbo-petrol plug-in hybrid powertrain, which is a winner in this SUV. (image: Dean McCartney)

It has an eight-speed automatic transmission that is smooth and the adaptive power steering truly optimises the drive experiences – there’s no heavy handling here, despite the big body you’re moving.

Even in full ‘engine’ mode, there’s very little engine noise. It’s growly but it’s more like a lazy big cat that’s just reminding you not to mess with it. And despite some minor wind and road noise at higher speeds, the cabin is blissfully quiet.

The driving performance was so lovely that I tried to convince my husband to trade in our older V60 wagon for one (I wasn’t successful, but one can live in hope).

How spacious is it?

It’s a true seven-seater and even the third row gets more space than the average SUV (I’d still consider them occasional seats for adults, though). The middle seat and front seat passengers benefit the most with ample head and legroom.

The storage throughout is pretty good with numerous cubbies – the middle console is quite shallow but the glovebox is a good size. The front and middle rows have drink holders in each door but all rows get two cupholders.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

The XC90 is a true seven-seater. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

The middle seat and front seat passengers benefit the most with ample head and legroom. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

With all seven seats in action, there's 291L of cargo capacity available. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

That jumps up to 651L when the third-row seats are folded flat. (image: Dean McCartney)

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review

When only the front seats are in action, you get a substantial 1950L of cargo capacity. (image: Dean McCartney)

The XC90’s boot is surprisingly spacious when all seven seats are in action, with 291L of cargo capacity available. That jumps up to 651L when the third-row seats are folded flat and when only the front seats are in action, you get a substantial 1950L of cargo capacity.

How easy is it to use every day?

Once you get used to the systems, it’s an easy car to operate. There are some teething moments with the tech (like a sunroof button that seems to play tricks) but overall, there are some fabulously practical features that families will enjoy.

The stadium middle row seating meant my five-year old enjoyed a great view this week and the retractable blinds were a winner for him but they’re also a handy feature in my books, especially when you have little ones.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
Once you get used to the systems, it’s an easy car to operate. (image: Dean McCartney)

You might balk at the size of the car initially but once you start driving it, you sort of forget its size. You do need more clearance in a car park but the steering, camera system and parking sensors take out the guesswork. The park assist feature is also handy but I don’t like that you have to access the touchscreen to activate it. A button on the dash would have made it a simpler process.

The powered tailgate with kick-function was welcome but the storage solutions in this car are its main feature. The middle and third row are made up of ‘individual’ seats and they can be folded as such, giving you a plethora of storage options.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
You might balk at the size of the car initially but once you start driving it, you sort of forget its size. (image: Dean McCartney)

How safe is it?

As you’d expect of a Volvo, the safety game is strong – but this generation model launched a while ago, and the 2023 model doesn’t reset the benchmark. Still, the XC90 has a host of features that are fitted as standard. Some highlights include rear and front cross-traffic alert, rear collision alert, whiplash protection system, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, 360-degree camera, park assist, and lane keeping and departure aids (to name a few).

It also has a Pilot Assist which, when activated, if there is no input from the driver after repeated alerts, the car will stop itself, put on the hazards and connect with emergency services. This is a pretty cool feature.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
As you’d expect of a Volvo, the safety game is strong. (image: Dean McCartney)

It has all of the usual airbags (there are seven) – including curtain airbags covering the third row, but unlike some newer cars on the market, it doesn’t have a front centre airbag, and the current generation model’s five-star ANCAP rating has just expired. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe.

There are ISOFIX mounts on the second row’s outboard seats and three top tether child seat mounts. The width of the middle seat should allow for three child seats to sit side by side.

What’s the tech like?

The tech is good – sometimes too good! There is a sense of some over-engineering going on inside that takes a bit to get used to. The sunroof button likes to be coy and opened differently each time I used it. I got used to it but it was annoying enough that I didn’t use as much as what I could have. The glovebox is electric, which I thought was amusing but it does make it blend in seamlessly.

The 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system is easy enough to use and the graphics look great. The built-in sat nav is a bonus and it is simple to connect my iPhone to the wired Apple CarPlay. The wireless charging pad is also really handy to have.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
There is a sense of some over-engineering going on inside that takes a bit to get used to. (image: Dean McCartney)

The Bowers and Wilkins sound system is fantastic and my five-year old liked it so much he insisted on the windows being down and the volume being turned up so everyone could enjoy it.

The seats are the highlight – both front seats include a heating function and are power adjustable with a memory function, lumbar support and extendable knee cushions. The second-row outboard seats are heated too, allowing for the same luxury for back-seat passengers. The heated steering wheel was lovely on the cooler days we had during the week of testing.

How much does it cost to own?

There’s only one hybrid variant available on the XC90 and it will cost you $121,990 before on-road costs. Which is slightly more expensive than the previous model but the ‘Ultimate’ package is aptly named because you get a heck of a lot for your money. If you want to spend less, or don’t want a plug-in hybrid, there are three other petrol versions to choose from that start from $92,990.

The official combined fuel cycle figure is 1.8L/100km. Granted, that is when the electric motor is engaged in the hybrid mode. The electric capacity range is 77km and you’ll get the most out of your efficiency if you charge it regularly.

Even when you don’t charge it for a few days and it just uses the engine, it still only got to a top of 6.6L/100km. That is outstanding for a seven-seat SUV with this much power.

volvo xc90 recharge 2023 review
There’s only one hybrid variant available on the XC90 and it will cost you $121,990 before on-road costs. (image: Dean McCartney)

The XC90 comes with Volvo’s five-year/unlimited km warranty, which is standard for this class but it also comes with eight-years roadside assistance, which is great for peace of mind.

You can pre-purchase three or five-year capped-priced servicing and on the five-year plan, services average $600, which is competitive for a large SUV – and in fact, means the Volvo is cheaper to service than a Kia Sorento plug-in hybrid! Servicing intervals are reasonable at every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.

If you’re considering a vehicle like this, then it represents reasonable value for money because it has most of items you want and all of the packages that other prestige SUVs may have as add-ons are just included on this. So, it makes it easy to see what you’re getting.

Keyword: Volvo XC90 Recharge 2023 review

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