The 2023 Volvo XC90 Recharge tries to be all things to all people — and mostly succeeds.
For families, the luxury mid-size, three-row SUV seats seven in comfort. For environmentalists, the plug-in hybrid engine will go over 30 miles on electricity alone, enough for most daily driving, before switching over to a traditional fuel-saving gas-electric mode. For the safety conscious, it comes standard with all-wheel-drive courtesy of dual electric motors. And for enthusiasts, the plug-in hybrid powertrain delivers stunning performance.
The only people who might be disappointed are those who demand the utmost in luxury. The sustainable Tailored Wool Blend fabric that covers the seats and door panels might be good for the planet, but is not as premium as the leather that is available in other Volvos. Partly making up for that is a handcrafted genuine Swedish crystal gear shifter made exclusively for Volvo by Orrefors.
The CX90 comes in two electrified versions, hybrid and Recharge plug-in hybrid. The hybrid version is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and two electric motors that produces 247 horsepower in the base Core version or 295 in the top-of-the-line Ultimate version. All versions of the plug-in Recharge use the T8 engine that produces a whopping 455 horsepower and — more important for acceleration — an awesome 523 foot pounds of torque. All versions use an incredibly smooth shifting eight-speed automatic transmission deliver their powers through the AWD system for maximum traction.
When the Recharge was first introduced a few years ago, it could only go up to 18 miles on electricity alone. Although that wasn’t much, it was as good or better than most competitors. But plug-in technology is rapidly improving and the EPA now rates the Recharge at up to 36 miles. That’s more than many if not most people drive every day, and the traditional hybrid system provides unlimited mileage when refilled at gas stations, allowing for unexpected and long trips.
The CX90 Recharge is also practical. Owners can load up 1,210 pounds into the back with the rear seats folded down. And its plug-in hybrid powertrain is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds. And because Volvo built its reputation on safety, all versions of the CX90 include engineering designs and technologies that help reduce risk and protect their occupants.
But the 2023 XC90 is first and foremost a luxury vehicle. It comes standard with advanced automotive technologies and can be ordered with even more. Volvo's Sensus infotainment package is showcased on a nine-inch touchscreen mounted vertically in the center of the dash. It responds to horizontal and vertical swipe gestures to switch between functions, including climate control features and vehicle settings.
The hybrid and plug-in hybrid Recharge versions of the 2023 Volvo CX90 come in three trim levels each. The base Core hybrid starts at $57,095 and the Recharge Core begins at $72,995. The top -of-the-line hybrid Ultimate begins at $70,295, while the Recharge Ultimate begins at $80,995. Our highly-optioned Recharge Ultimate was priced at $85,495.
Driving the 2023 Recharge is a joy. In all-electric mode, it is as smooth and quiet as an EV, if not more so. The eight-speed automatic shifts so smoothly, it seems closer to a direct-drive transmission. The switch to hybrid mode is seamless and does result in increased noise or vibrations. Only when driver really push the plug-in CX90 does the turbo 2.0 make its presence felt, and even that is just a low growl.
Although equipped with AWD, no version of the CX90 is intended for anything but light off-roading. The tire are too low profile for that. But it provides excellent traction in wet Pacific Northwest weather, including heavy rain and the light snow that otherwise shuts cities down. The suspension is also supple enough to absorb broken pavement without spilling lattes in the center console. The overall goal seems to be keeping the driver and passengers as comfortable as possible under all conditions — which it easily meets.
Plug-in hybrids are more than a bridge between gas and all-electric powered vehicles. They are viable choices that offer the best of both worlds — daily driving on electricity and longer trips that flip over into a traditional gas-saving hybrid mode. And when the vehicle is as satisfying as the 2023 Volvo CX90 Recharge, no further choice needs to be made.
2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge
Base price: $79,400
Price as tested: $85,495
Type: Mid-size SUV
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter plug-in hybrid and two electric motors (455 hp, 523 lb-ft)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
EPA estimated mileage: 58 MPGe, 27 MPG on gasoline