The recharged Volvo XC90 hybrid balances power with sustainability

We took the luxury SUV for a spin to Janda Baik and Melaka.

The Volvo XC90 at Tiarasa Escapes (All photos: Volvo)

Volvo is one of the many companies taking climate change seriously. It is “recharging” its operations and aims to reduce total operational carbon emissions by 25% per car by 2025, compared with 2018, and refocusing its global plants to be powered entirely by renewable energy. It also plans on reducing its carbon footprint by 40% per car by 2025, and be climate neutral by 2040.

As part of Volvo Recharge, the Swedish company’s campaign to push for renewable energy sources, a refreshed hybrid XC90 has been released.

We convened at The Club Saujana Resort to take this large SUV for a spin. After a quick briefing, we step into our cars. I am assigned the masculine pebble grey, metallic XC90. The vehicle comes in two models: the T8 has a battery capacity of 11.6kWh, which gives it an improved driving range of up to 50km, while the T5 model has a third row of air conditioning with C-pillar vents, road sign information system and four-zone electronic climate control with cooled glove box.


The Volvo XC90 in pebble grey

Our destination is Tiarasa Escapes, a glamping resort in the foothills of Janda Baik. I am the passenger for the short drive there, allowing me to take in the stylish interior. The leather upholstery complements the wood panels and blackish-grey accents. The large centre display is practically an extension of the smartphone, as it is compatible with Apple and Android. You can play your favourite songs on Spotify, have Waze guide you and control all additional functions — including adjusting the safety settings and passenger seats — from just one screen.

The ride along the meandering roads to the resort is smooth. Several features ensure that the backseat passengers are comfortable. For instance, the second and third-row seats are raised above those in front, affording a better view of what is ahead and preventing carsickness. The backrests of the seats fold completely flat, providing ample space for a lot of cargo when needed, and the third row can even be folded or raised with the touch of a button by the driver.


The cars parked at Janda Baik

As it is my first glamping experience, I am excited when we arrive at Tiarasa. This would let me be at one with nature while still being in the lap of luxury. My air-conditioned Hornbill Tented Villa has a king-sized bed, a spacious lounge and a fully equipped bathroom complete with his and hers sinks. The curtains can be pulled back, revealing mosquito nets that protect you as you enjoy the relaxing sounds of the river nearby.

After refreshments, we are tasked with riding an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) through the jungles of Janda Baik. Although unafraid at the start, I am nervous after the practice ride. We head into the forest in a line, following the instructor and shifting gears accordingly. The terrain makes for a bumpy ride, and is especially muddy as it had rained in the morning. At one point, we have to ride up a dangerously steep incline. As the drivers ahead of me conquer the path, my heart is in my mouth, and remains there right until I reach the top. Unlike with roller-coasters — of which I am a big fan — my life is in my own hands, and I desperately wish to return to the plush, safe sanctuary of the XC90. Although I am not one to say never, I think it is unlikely that I will willingly climb aboard an ATV again!

A picnic by the river had been planned for us but with the rain teeming down, it was cancelled. I am secretly pleased to be able to enjoy my tent a little longer. At dinner, we devour a sumptuous meal, prepared with local ingredients, next to the pool. We then watch a movie under the stars, with pillows and mats for extra plushness.


Some of the special design features include a crystal gear lever created by glassmaker Orrefors

The next day, it is my turn to take the XC90 for a spin. The vehicle, with its Inscription grille, fully chromed bars and automatic LED headlights in the brand’s signature T-shape, awaits me in the gravel parking area of the resort. The car is designed to exude power, yet keep its passengers safe and comfortable. Using the elegant crystal gear lever created by glassmaker Orrefors to shift to Drive, we make our way back home. The 360˚ camera makes the tight squeeze through narrow roads so much easier, and as the tiny lanes turn into bigger roads, I find the SUV effortless to control.

Finding that quick drive too short to appreciate the XC90, I take it for a trip to Melaka. I want to experience this beast full, so I pack it with family and luggage. The teenagers are impressed by the Bowers & Wilkins audio sound system, which was developed specially for the XC90. It has 19 speakers, including a subwoofer that uses air from the outside to create a rich bass. Listening to our Spotify playlist, we experiment with the different sound modes, such as Gothenburg Concert Hall, which produces a surreal surround-sound experience.


The car is powered by a Bowers & Wilkins audio sound system

Taking the scenic route, we cruise through the traffic-free parts of Seremban, Port Dickson and Alor Gajah, before encountering the crowds in Melaka. The Park Assist Pilot ensures easy parking in the city’s tight spaces, and the closer we get to busy, narrow Jonker Street, the more useful the 360˚ camera becomes. With my family on board, I am especially appreciative of Volvo’s safety features. Not only is the XC90’s skeleton made of boron steel — one of the strongest metals available — to form a safe barrier around passengers, it also has City Safety, an innovative technology that warns the driver if it detects an imminent collision. If the driver does not react in time, the system will automatically apply the brakes.

Top that all off with the fact that most of our drive to and from Melaka is powered by electricity, and I’m convinced this is the SUV of the future — one that combines the safety and comfort of its passengers with a commitment to a cleaner environment.


This article first appeared on Feb 10, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.


Follow us on Instagram