My New Volvo Review

  I Feel Volvo Ruining  


New 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 Hybrid

(may apply to other SPA T8 Hybrids)

As a long time loyal Volvo customer that has driven new Volvo XC90's in the past and has seriously considered purchasing two new XC90's I cannot help but feel Volvo keeps ruining everything for us. First it was wagons where Volvo went from a more utilitarian looking wagon like our XC70's then went to the V90 that my wife and I feel is too posh from the look of the rear to the funky steering wheel, dash and dash vents we think are a turn off. Well, after Volvo ruined wagons for us I figured there was always the more utilitarian XC90.

I would like to make it clear this is my own personal review and opinion. I also share my own thoughts going through my head at this time and feelings. 

Well sadly it feels like Volvo is on its way to ruining the XC90 for us as well and just cannot help but needlessly complicate and funk up its vehicles. Yes I said funk up because Volvo keeps doing stupid funky posh things that turn us off like what my wife and I think is the ugly single spoke steering wheel with two piece inlay rim when Volvo has the far better looking split spoke R-Design steering wheel we think should have been made standard a long time ago. Then in S/V90 funky dash vents we think do not belong in higher level Volvos. Well now Volvo is onto the next thing with their new stupid ugly funky nubby shifter where they took a nice basic thing made it stupid and ruined it for us. The shifter is ugly and a simple gearshift feels stupid and awkward to use.

When my wife brought the new XC90 T8 Hybrid home it was like she was operating the NASA Space Shuttle when she parked it in the garage. It made all kinds of strange noises sounding more like driving an espresso machine than any kind of normal vehicle then after she shut it off all kinds of weird popping and strange clicks and noises like the vehicle was doing all sorts of things when it was shut off and really freaked me out. I have heard stories about electric vehicle fires and I was wondering is this thing safe to park in my garage and is this what I feel is an overcomplicated piece of junk going to burst into flames or something but maybe I am just really paranoid myself. 

The first thing visually I noticed as someone that considers himself to know Volvos pretty well is that this XC90 T8 Hybrid had wheels which I feel are not particularly attractive I thought came on base T5 models and when I see stuff like that it feels like Volvo is disorganized and all over the place like they are mindlessly slapping whatever on vehicles let's just put these on other XC90's. It made me think of some First Gen XC90's when I saw what looked like mixed match woodgrain with two totally different shades for center console and glove box then what looked like a third shade if it had the wood rim steering wheel. Actually believe it or not that is one of the main reasons we never purchased because we thought having mixed match woodgrain just looked very stupid.

We became wagon people and we were the most sold on Volvo wagons with our 2005 V70 although we also really liked our 2005 S80. Although it was the NON turbo version it moved for 170 horsepower when we had to floor it with sporty high revving shift programming and also had impressive fuel economy. I did like the 2005 S80's 208HP Turbo direct punch rather than having to rev up like the V70 but the fuel economy on our 2005 V70 was impressive where we could average 28MPG real world during our commutes not even really trying. Also when we smogged our 2005 Volvos they had zero or at near zero smog readings for some pollutants I believe and then had something called PremAir Catalyst radiator coating that according to Volvo helps clean pollution from air passing through while you drive so these felt very environmentally friendly.

I was shocked when we went from our 2005 5cyl Volvos to our new 2016 4cyl Volvos where it now feels like we are always having to get gas compared to our 2005 5cyl Volvos even though the new 4cyl Volvos had better ratings. After this I started to feel skeptical because this was this new "Drive-E" engine that is supposed to be so environmentally friendly and efficient but real world at least with our driving it did not feel that way at all. This brings me to my next point that in my opinion companies like Volvo keep coming out with new stuff like it is better when I feel it is not and I think it is "tech garbage" where in my opinion Volvo is just overcomplicating slapping stuff on their vehicles that is not making them better and in my opinion just making vehicles even worse.

It reminds me of the day I logged into my email account and there was an update "the new and improved" and even as a former computer guy I could not even figure out how to print an email because the printer icon was gone. Then I finally figured out that I had to click the three dots to get a sub menu which felt like things were needlessly made more complicated. This supposed improvement created an additional needless step for no reason and did not make it better I thought worse. It also reminds me of the new energy efficient washer that no longer allowed you to set water level to low when doing small loads and is supposed to auto sense but instead filled even the smallest load all the way wasting water which is worse for the environment! It feels to me like companies are mindlessly making things worse while telling us it is better. Something new should always be better in every single way otherwise stop trying to reinvent the wheel sometimes it is better to just leave things alone.

Personally I think the term hybrid is misleading because when I hear hybrid I feel that should mean something that gets impressive average fuel economy even if driving as a normal vehicle and never using pure mode and that the vehicle should mostly charge itself and almost never have to be plugged in. Assume the average consumer will just drive it like a normal vehicle and not be plugging it in or switching to pure mode to get impressive fuel economy. Again with the extra steps. For a company or something to be "tech" it should make ones life better and easier not add additional steps and the customer should be able to drive like a normal vehicle with impressive fuel economy. From reviews I have read and from my experience if you just drive a T8 Hybrid like a normal vehicle then I believe the real world average is around 24MPG. That is tech and that is progress? I am sorry but I feel that is "tech garbage" when after averaging 28MPG in our 2005 V70 and 26MPG in our 2005 S80.

Then after I have seen complaints on social media from customers having issues and think about how unreliable I believe these hybrids are I think why? I personally believe these hybrids will hurt Volvo's reputation and was a stupid move that reminds me of the 2002-2005 XC90 Twin Turbo T6 Engines when Volvo went to another transmission to accommodate which I believe had reliability issues and really hurt Volvo's reputation when they could have just went with the 5cyl they had and a proven transmission. I just really think that Volvo should never do anything that could create any unnecessary risk. I would much rather Volvo make the T5 version 228HP than drive a vehicle loaded with more weight, more complexities and tech garbage in my opinion. If Volvo improved their shift programming where I feel they dumbed it down too much and hurt performance I think it would compensate for reduced power. 

If you read my 2020 V60 and V90 Cross Country Review then you will know my main problems with new SPA Volvos were the jerky brakes, transmission programming that feels mindless and hurls you toward stops like a clown car which just feels clumsy and stupid for a luxury vehicle. Then what I felt were softer less precise struts on SPA wagons and sedans with less of a European feel that used to be firmer on previous generation Volvos like our XC70's. Also early on even before I even got to the ride and handling the ICU/IHU being less intuitive and more difficult to play my music collection than our 2016 XC70's made me go on a tirade because I felt like it was a distracting mess.

Volvo did it again with the new little nubby gear shifter from hell. First with a shifter that my wife and I think is just plain ugly then the thing is stupid and chaotic in my opinion even after you think you got used to it. I am surprised that a company focused on safety would try to change an industry standard of a normal gearshift with this stupid gearshift. My wife had told me she needed to show me first and I thought it has to be simple. Well after I started the XC90 T8 and tapped down twice thinking it would go into reverse I almost drove through our house! Luckily thank God I never immediately press the throttle and I always ease off the brake first or this XC90 might have ended up in a bedroom off our garage and I was absolutely horrified by this gear shifter. It does not end there when testing the XC90 out I realized that I was going too fast so to downshift I repeatedly tapped this nubby gear shifter and nothing! I realized you have to shift it down then side to side and just felt really stupid.

To add to the stupidity and hilarity when I finally figured out how to manually downshift it seemed the display showed B5 B4 B3 B2 B1 depending on which gear I was in and was just another What The F%#* as if Volvo is playing a joke on me like some of my other more recent experiences have felt. It feels to me like what a hacker would do if they wanted to mess with someone make the gearshift backwards where shifting backward when trying to shift into what should always be industry standard for reverse makes you go forward and then shifting forward makes you go backward and then when you need to slow down refuse to manually downshift then display some confusing gibberish. There was this show and it reminded me of an episode when the electronics on some vehicles were tampered with and vehicles just started going haywire. It should be G for gear or M for manual and shifter situation felt like a prank.  

The suspension felt too soft in the 2020 V90 and V60 I drove and I think Volvo may have went from Sachs struts to Monroe struts that are now too soft and although it could be because it is heavier or has stiffer struts the XC90 does seem to have a firmer more grounded ride that I would expect from a Volvo. However if purchased I would probably want some Bilstein struts installed to have the kind of struts that Mercedes uses along with an R-Design steering wheel because we cannot stand the standard single spoke steering wheel. Then there is the new nubby shifter still haunting me I think Volvo seems to be going to and it just feels like Volvo keeps ruining things for us making us not want to buy when we used to want to buy every Volvo loaner we had driven. I really wonder why something new in my opinion keeps feeling worse to me.

If you read my last review I thought the Harman Kardon system sounded like trash and thank goodness this had the base sound system which I think really blows away the Harman Kardon system. I have come to know these vehicles fairly well so after I got in quickly went into equalizer slightly turning up bass frequency on the far left and turned the midrange frequency all the way down. I cranked up songs from my music collection like Genesis Turn It On Again, Land Of Confusion, Hall and Oates Say It Isn't So and I Can't Go For That during my road test and the base audio system sounded awesome and on par with our 2016 XC70's but what absolutely ruins it for me is the ICU feels less intuitive and does not just show my sorted music folders from my collection when even our previous platform Volvos will show my folders with less steps! Then when I go into library and select by artist there is this dreaded extra step where you have to then select by album when my music comes from many albums since most only have a few good songs which ruins the experience.

The transmission shift programming on new Volvos drives me absolutely nuts I hate it and think it is so stupid that a safety focused company obsessed with stopping performance and I believe went to softer brake material that is now too grabby would allow vehicles to be hurling to stops like clown cars. If Volvo wants the best brake performance then shift program should downshift more! This lack of downshifting and feeling like there is no resistance when coasting to stops I feel is really hard on the brakes and just makes the jerkiness worse. The problem in my opinion is that Volvo dumbed down their shift programming too much and it stays in too high of a gear I think maybe 7 or 8 even after coasting for a long time. I approached stops with vehicles stopped in front of me at 35MPH and again at 25MPH and it feels like nothing is holding it back I just go hurling in and then the braking is jerky. It feels almost as if the Volvo wants to ram into vehicles stopped in front of me and is chaotic not smooth.

At first I thought Power mode solved the issues I have with shift programming and I really think Dynamic drive mode should feel the same in T5 and T6. Unfortunately after driving the second time I noticed that it felt inconsistent at slower speeds approaching and coasting to stops and at times still felt like I was being hurled to a stop with little to no resistance but then other times not. It seemed like if I had just put my foot on the throttle it remained in lower gear. This is how new Volvo transmission programming should be in the first place if it would be more consistent with the gradual slow down at slower speeds. I also think that Power mode along with Dynamic mode in other Volvos should be called Performance mode and shifts should also firm up with hard throttle. The main differences in my opinion between Performance drive modes and Comfort should really just be softer slower smoother shifts in Comfort mode. Power mode and the gradual slow down felt more comforting than comfort.

When I changed to Power drive mode with the T8 the first thing I noticed is wow it woke up the engine and sounded really good and brought back the thrill of driving but honestly to me did not feel like 400HP. It felt to me along the lines around what the 316HP T6 should be doing anyway all by itself if Volvo gave it the more aggressive transmission shift program it should have. I think problem is not very aggressive shift programming is probably holding it back but with T8 for good reason 400HP is stupid and ridiculous in my opinion. You would have crazy torque steer and wheel spin all over the place if it had an aggressive shift program anyway and I cannot help but feel Volvo should have given the T8 combined rating of like 368HP with more aggressive shift program that could have helped give T8 more acceptable engine based fuel efficiency. The T8 we drove was averaging 24.4MPG which seems inline with the reviews I believe that I read but again we could get 28MPG with a 2005 5cyl Volvo!

As an update to be fair to Volvo and to be honest it does appear from what I have read and experienced that they had finally started improving transmission software and making updates around 2022 although I believe this should have been done years sooner. The first thing I did when buying two XC90 T6's was have a Total Update for all SW performed by dealer before I would drive those vehicles and there seems to be more downshifting and no hurling to stops. It seems that this issue should also be resolved for 2023 model year vehicles. 

I prefer the XC90 interior because it does not have the funky dash vents that I feel look funky and cheap in V90 and S90 and has normal dash vents. I really love the signature look and feel of the headrests in our 2016 XC70's that Volvo has traditionally used over the years and I really preferred those headrests. The headrests I thought looked cheap from the rear with plastic behind them and I noticed it felt like there was some very slight play in one headrest that can be felt when I leaned my head back which our past Volvos did not have. I thought the plastic behind the seats just kind of made the seats feel cheap. Volvo should go back to the exact same headrests as in previous P3 Volvos and signature look of prior headrests that should have never been changed. The seats were otherwise comfortable but I missed the signature headrests.

In addition to Volvo changing its signature headrests which was disappointing my wife and I found the sun visors to just be clumsy and stupid. First Volvo switched the airbag warning font to some new weird looking font that does not really look serious and does not look Volvo like to me at all. Maybe Volvo in the future should change font to comic sans or something more out of place? Then as we put the visors up my wife and I were nearly hit in the face because it seems the new visors can pop out when pulling up on the side they clip in. Then this happened again and again and we both could not believe this would happen and was another thing that felt as if Volvo was playing a joke on us. This was yet another thing made worse that should not have been changed. As an update Volvo had revised visors in newer models since but this is just another thing that I believe Volvo had needlessly made worse for no reason.

The positives for me exterior looks are perfect but I thought the wheels were an ugly looking mindless corporate wheel design that detracted from looks and I have been disappointed with the XC90 wheel designs. One wheel design I like is an option but in 22 inches which I think looks stupid and will lead to damaged or bent wheels due to having thin ultra low profile 35 rating tires and in addition wheels over 20 inches will create a harsh ride due to ultra thin tires. I feel Volvo should have offered other wheels in 20 or 21 inch option instead. The dark ash dark gray or black woodgrain looked fairly nice in person and I think it would be better in R-Design than the metal mesh I really cannot stand. I cannot help but miss that there is no longer a nice traditional dark woodgrain which I feel would look a lot more upscale or Volvo could bring back the walnut woodgrain in a nicer darker brown because it was really too light in person.

The best way for me as a loyal long time Volvo customer and huge fan to describe new Volvos is that they feel totally chaotic from shift programming that hurls you to stops when coasting toward stops then jerky brakes where it does not feel synchronized like the vehicle is having a tug of war with itself. Comfort mode to me is a joke because Power mode and having a nicer more gradual slow down is much smoother and more comforting than being hurled toward stops with little to no resistance but felt inconsistent at lower speeds. Then to add to the chaotic experience every time you restart you have to reselect drive mode when I believe even our '94 850 could retain drive mode and after selecting it stayed on that screen instead of closing in 2-3 seconds. In addition playing my music collection just feels more difficult than our 2016 XC70's then Volvo I believe seems like it wants to transition to this new nubby gearshift from hell that felt really awkward and stupid creating more chaos!

I took the new Volvo XC90 T8 to pick up my kids from school and when I was parked waiting to be let in I dreaded the new shifter which took something I normally do not have to worry about making life a more stressful experience. In the V60 and V90 I drove music was also displayed in the middle of the instrument cluster which I found annoying and then for some reason in the XC90 a map was showing between gauges although not even using navigation which felt like too much in my face and like an unnecessary driving distraction. At first I could not figure out how to turn it off until driving later SPA Volvos. My kids and I had a very comfortable and nice pleasant ride home that we all enjoyed aside from me being annoyed with some of the being hurled toward stops and jerky braking but aside from that we really enjoyed the ride home. We listened to Talking Heads Life During Wartime and Once In A Lifetime and the base audio system was very impressive unlike Harman Kardon system.     

It is just very sad for me because I feel Volvo has now taken what could have been a perfect SUV and keeps ruining things for us doing stupid things and now Volvo is also threatening to make all of their vehicles hybrid and electric which we really would not even want. I am all for the environment but I think jumping to things that in my opinion are not really helping solve any problem and will just be less reliable and also create other issues is not the solution. I believe that Volvo should have also focused on reducing boost for more fuel efficient T5 and T6 models starting with a 228HP T5 FWD and 280HP T6 that I think could average around 4 more miles per gallon with higher engine based fuel economy than T8 Hybrid when driving as a normal vehicle in my opinion. Volvo should compensate by focusing on more aggressive shift programming to get the most out of horsepower and compensate for reduced ratings. While I feel Volvo is not listening hopefully they are and will quickly make changes.

Click here for 2022 Volvo XC90 T6 Review




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