Volvo announced last year that it would electrify its entire line of cars by 2025. This week, it took a step towards that goal with the reveal of the refreshed XC90—the Swedish brand’s flagship crossover SUV.
While the SUV receives an updated grille design as well as new wheel options, the biggest change comes under the bodywork.
The 2020 XC90 now offers a brake-by-wire-based hybrid system that Volvo calls an “advanced kinetic energy recovery braking system.” Don’t let that overly complicated description confuse you. Most other automakers call their similar systems that slow the vehicle while generating electricity “regenerative braking.” Kinetic energy recovery is just Volvo speak for regenerative.
XC90s fitted with this new fuel-saving system are denoted with a distinctive ‘B’ badge. And, no, I have no idea what ‘B’ stands for. ‘Braking’ maybe? Your guess is as good as mine.
Regardless of bizarre badging logic, the new system is apparently quite effective at saving fuel. In fact, Volvo boasts the new powertrain can return fuel and emissions savings of up to 15 percent.
This new ‘B’-badged mild hybrid system ought not to be confused with Volvo’s other plug-in hybrid, the T8 Twin Engine. That model is a traditional plug-in hybrid capable of full-EV mode.
The XC90 B is instead simply a mild hybrid. It is only capable of assisting the gas engine with some electric power here and there, in addition to the aforementioned braking. The B’s electric motor cannot propel the vehicle forward while the gas engine remains at rest, unlike the T8.
On the interior of the refreshed 2020 XC90, customers can now specify the XC90 with four, six, or seven seat configurations. And those seating surfaces can be covered in either leather or a new wool blend.
The brand’s infotainment system, Sensus, now offers Android Auto and Spotify integration in addition to the already standard Apple CarPlay compatibility.
Predictably, safety-obsessed Volvo didn’t cease the XC90 updates there. It added some safety systems, too. For example, its City Safety and Blind Spot Information Systems now offer steering help. And Cross Traffic Alert system now includes autobrake. That means the XC90 will now brake and steer for you in some situations, if it means lessening or outright avoiding a collision.
Typically, when a carmaker changes a vehicle so little during the middle of its lifecycle, as Volvo has done with the XC90, it’s because it doesn’t want to invest the money into improving it. This doesn’t seem to be the case with the XC90.
According to Volvo, it has sold more than 320,000 XC90s. So, this seems like a situation in which Volvo is not looking to fix something that isn’t broken.
So there you have it. For 2020, the XC90 gets more efficient, safer, and, thanks to that new wool cloth option, more vegan-friendly, too—all good things. Just don’t expect to pick out one of the 2020 models on the street. Due to the minimal exterior updates, they’re practically indistinguishable from the rest.