The XC90 is an amazing SUV, there is no question about that, and this model brings with it some added exclusivity.
These days, it seems like everyone is trying on their best tuxedo in hopes to impress the crowds waiting outside. Manufacturers are putting their best feet forward, sprucing up their models to appeal to the high-end tastes of consumers. Options that were once only found in some of the most luxurious cars in the world are now readily available in general consumer cars. I remember the days where having a built-in navigation unit was considered an über-luxurious, reserved for the elite.
What are automakers doing these days to push the luxury factor even further? New technology allows occupants to manipulate media controls via hand gestures, while other cars now have scented climate control. Premium marques are creating first class, long wheelbase versions of their flagship vehicles to offer privatized limos for those looking to be chauffeured around town.
We’ve seen this occur with halo vehicles like the BMW 7-series (reviewed here) and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, or even the full-sized Range Rover, where the overall wheelbase is lengthened to create what some are calling “Executive Lounges”. These vehicles include tray tables, embedded coolers for beverages, and multifunction rear seats with massage for optimum comfort. You’d expect things like this from the Germans and Brits, but another player is ready to join the super-elite game.
Volvo has amazed us with their latest 90-cluster of cars, with the S90 (reviewed here) winning the DoubleClutch.ca Car of The Year award, and the new XC90 soaring in sales post-redesign. The new, luxurious yet minimalistic design has attracted a new group of customers. Those interested in the Mercedes-Benz GLE (reviewed here) or Audi Q7 are now taking a gander at Volvo. This new model is a very serious contender when going up against the opposition, even more so with the new 2017 Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence; a 4-seat elite configuration. The XC90 Excellence has its sights aimed at those interested in being driven, as opposed to driving themselves.
This variant of the growingly-popular XC90 sits on the same platform as the regular SUV. As far as dimensions go, nothing changes when upgrading to the Excellence; both the total length and width remain unchanged. There are but only a handful of exterior tell-tale signs that differentiate the Excellence. Design cues exclusive to the Excellence include anodized window trim, which also covers both the B and C pillars, replacing the more common gloss black trim found on the other versions of the XC90.
The only other defining elements are a chrome stripe at the bottom of the front doors with the word “Excellence” embossed into the trim, and an Excellence rank mark on the tailgate. Colour options are rather limited, with only five paint schemes to from. Wheel options are even more limited, so much so that buyers are left with only one factory option of 21” eight-spoke rims. Our tester was in winter mode, so the wheels pictured are factory 20” units from the Inscription (reviewed here). The Crystal White Pearl paint, paired with the anodized aluminum trim and Silver/Diamond Cut makes for a very elegant look.
The Excellence is also only made available as a top of the line T8 Twin Engine eAWD plug-in hybrid. This system boasts a total of 400 horsepower with 472 lb-ft. of torque, all thanks to the turbocharged and supercharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine combined with the electric motor. This makes the XC90 not only powerful, but extremely fuel-efficient. Volvo rates the T8 at 10.0L/100km city and 8.8L/100km highway, with a combined average of 9.5L/100km on 91-octane premium.
The real differences show themselves when you make your way into the cabin. What was once a seven-seater SUV has now been configured to accommodate just four, albeit in a luxurious manner that the Swedes are known for. While the driver and front passenger may not notice much a difference, those sitting in the rear will enjoy luxuries, which were at one time only available on private jets. First and foremost, the rear seats are two front buckets that are placed in the rear, offering the utmost in comfort as Volvo does.
The rear seats do receive extra-wide winged head restraint, heating and ventilation, along with full massage. The controls for said seats are found on a retractable touchscreen that pops out from the rear centre console. Also in the centre console are two foldable aluminum tray tables, for meal consumption or to hold up a laptop creating a mobile office. A refrigerator can be found at the rear of the console, between the side bolsters of the seats, with enough room to stow a few beverages.
Speaking of beverages, two handcrafted Orrefors champagne flutes made of genuine Swedish crystal are included, and have specialized cupholders. Just in front of those cupholders (which, by the way, are also crafted in crystal), is a cooled bottle-holder so that your bottle stays fresh and bubbly. Something also unique to the Excellence is the permanent glass partition that separates the cabin from the trunk space, as a way to reduce external noise even more so, in addition to the double-paned glass windows.
As far as rear-seat entertainment goes, Volvo has yet to integrate a factory entertainment system, so as an alternative, buyers are supplied with headrest mounted tablet brackets, so that occupants can insert their own personal devices instead. These mounts also have integrated USB ports to that those respective devices can charge while in place. While this offers some relief for those who would like some rear entertainment, it appears these mounts are limited to what they can hold. Newer generation iPads will not fit, as they are too small for these brackets, while the older iPad 2 is a perfect fit.
The Bowers & Wilkins audio system calibrated for Volvo applications is by far one of the best audio systems currently available on the market. Adding to this XC90’s comfort is the air suspension system, which offers sublime ride comfort on any road surface. Steering is very smooth and very light in normal driving modes, while the damping and steering both stiffen up when put into the “Sport” mode.
The XC90 itself is a spectacular machine, but there are some concerns with the T8 Excellence model. The idea and ambition to go up against the likes of the Range Rover (reviewed here) through an ultra-luxury sport-utility is more than respectable, though when factoring in the price and what this vehicle delivers is a bit questionable.
A fully loaded XC90 T8 Inscription costs just over $88,000, and that includes a majority of the same features which can be found on the Excellence. The T8 Excellence has an MSRP of $121,150 before taxes and fees. That’s a steep price to pay, considering that for an extra $33,000 you get less seating, and virtually no practical cup holders for those sitting in the back seats, as the champagne flute holders replace the conventional cup holders. What’s redeeming is the rebate of up to $14,000 that the Canadian government offers on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, which makes the price a bit more palatable.
The XC90 is an amazing SUV, there is no question about that, and this model brings with it some added exclusivity. Anyone can appreciate the effort that was put into this truck, though the amount of actual sales is yet to be determined. The 2017 Volvo XC90 T8 Excellence brings with it plenty of luxury, ride comfort that’s virtually unmatched, and some of the best seats in the industry. It may be a very niche product, but it offers an under-the-radar option for elite buyers looking to remain virtually invisible.