A three-row SUV with a rechargeable battery seems like an obvious winner for large families. So why hasn’t the idea caught on yet? After all, if Chrysler can make a plug-in minivan, surely someone can make an SUV version. Multiple factors conspire against widespread rechargeable SUVs — size, weight, price, limited hauling ability among them — but the Volvo XC90 Recharge ranks among the few examples. As a luxury plug-in SUV, it’s even rarer.
Inside its richly appointed cabin, which could pass for the corner nook of a Stockholm hotel lobby, there’s plenty of room and seating for up to seven passengers. Under the hood, a four-cylinder engine and electric motor generate 455 horsepower, and an optional large battery pack dishes out up to 35 miles of all-electric range. Being a Volvo, the XC90 also comes with an array of standard safety features and driver aids.
The price for plug-in luxury isn’t cheap, however, nor is it always useful. Stylish as it is, the XC90 Recharge lacks third-row space — not a deal-breaker for kids, but adults won’t want to sit there long — and luggage capacity. None of its competitors offer much better third-row room, but the Lincoln Aviator Hybrid has more cargo space. The BMW X5 xDrive45e rivals the XC90 with its posh interior, and it’s also quicker and can tow more. If you don’t need all the luxury trappings, the Kia Sorento offers seating for six, up to 32 miles of electric range, and a significantly lower price.
The XC90 Recharge combines a turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The two power sources generate 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. An Extended Range option ($1,800 for the base trim, $1,000 for others) includes a larger battery pack and electric motor and makes 455 hp and 523 lb-feet of torque. All-wheel drive and an eight-speed transmission are standard.
Volvo says the XC90 Recharge can travel from zero to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. That’s swift for a three-row family SUV and the same pace as the rival BMW X5 xDrive45e. Volvo says the higher-powered Extended Range is even quicker at 5 seconds. Like most tall three-row SUVs, the XC90 is prone to some body roll in fast turns, but it’s reasonably controlled and aided by firm, precise steering and all-wheel drive.
Hybrids typically struggle with towing due to the demands placed on batteries and electrical components, but the XC90 Recharge can pull a respectable 5,000 pounds. Its BMW rival does better though at 7,200 pounds.
The XC90 Recharge is one in a field of few, a seven-passenger luxury SUV available as a plug-in hybrid. Its classy interior, zippy performance, and electric range make it a natural competitor to the BMW X5 xDrive45e, which offers a similarly appointed cabin and sharper performance. The BMW also starts slightly cheaper and can tow more, but it’s plagued by the same scant third-row and cargo space as the Volvo. The Lincoln Aviator Hybrid isn’t as dynamic as the BMW or Volvo and instead focuses on quiet comfort and larger cargo space.