Volvo was the first carmaker to respond to the Malaysian government’s call to assemble vehicle locally in the 1960s. The company, together with Federal Auto, its local distributor, built the first assembly plant in the country (a fact which some government officials don’t seem to know) in 1967 in Shah Alam, Selangor. With a known reputation for durability and safety, its cars were popular among Malaysians and the reputation for safety remains to this day.
Over the many decades, Volvo has supported various government policies and although not often recognised for its contributions, it has also helped the development of the local auto industry. When intra-ASEAN trade began in the 1990s, Volvo established a complementary program with its plant in Thailand to exchange vehicle bodyshells. The move reduced costs for the Swedish carmaker as the bodyshells of certain models were prepared in Malaysia and sent to Thailand and vice-versa.
In the past decade, Volvo’s plant in Malaysia has grown in importance to the company as it is the only production facility in the ASEAN region. Not surprisingly, Volvo has been using it to produce some models for other markets in the region.
Now, as the era of ‘electrification’ is dawning and with the government wanting Malaysia to become a production hub for Energy Efficient Vehicles (EEVs), Volvo has again shown its support for this objective by assembling the XC90 plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) in Malaysia – the only place outside Sweden to assemble the advanced model – and also exporting some of the production.
Today, the company has added the new S90 T8 Twin Engine variant to its range, also assembled locally. This is the second PHEV produced in Malaysia and it too will be exported. What’s more interesting is that lefthand drive versions will also be produced, allowing Volvo to export to Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Priced at RM368,888 (without insurance), the S90 T8 is the flagship of the Volvo range and to emphasise this, it is available only with the Inscription equipment level which is the highest for Volvo models. There is also an Inscription Plus version which costs an additional RM20,000 and apart from a more premium audio system, the main difference is that the Inscription Plus has an ‘Four-C’ Active Chassis with 2-corner Air Suspension (the S90 T8 Inscription has a Dynamic Chassis) which enhances ride and handling.
The prices could be higher but as the S90 T8 qualifies as an EEV and Volvo has made substantial investments as well, the government rewards the company by providing incentives which offset the production cost that is high for such as advanced car. The full benefit of the incentive must be passed on to the customer and the company cannot gain from reduced production cost.
Just how sophisticated is the S90 T8 Twin Engine? Well, the ‘Twin Engine’ will already give a hint and yes, it does have two engines or more correctly, two propulsion systems. One is the internal combustion engine (ICE) which has been in used for over 100 years and the other is a powerful electric motor which is the propulsion system of the future. This is a transitional period as the industry moves towards pure electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid technology where an ICE works together with an electric motor is a how many companies are making the transition. In fact, Volvo has already declared that it will not sell any model with just an ICE alone before this decade ends and every model in its range will either be pure electric or have an electric motor. That is what it calls the ‘electrification strategy’.
The 4-cylinder petrol engine has a displacement of 1969 cc and has its output boosted by both a supercharger and turbocharger to 344 ps/400 Nm. It is used to drive the front wheels while the electric motor powers the rear wheels. The motor produces 65 kW (equivalent to about 88 ps) with 240 Nm and the combined output available is 407 ps/640 Nm. That gives a claimed 0 to 100 km/h time of 4.8 seconds and a top speed which is shown as 250 km/h (probably limited).
The beauty of being a hybrid is that the car can run on just the electric motor, saving fuel and generation no exhaust emissions at all. Because it is a PHEV which can be recharged from an external power supply (as opposed to a conventional hybrid which only recharges as it runs), the larger battery pack can provide a driving range of up to 50 kms, it is claimed. The battery pack is installed inside a tunnel running in the middle of the cabin.
So, assuming traffic conditions are not congested, it would be possible to go from Kuala Lumpur to Klang or to KL International Airport on just electrical power alone. Of course, once you reach your destination, then the battery pack is fully drained and needs recharging, which takes between 3 and 7 hours. But unlike an EV, the S90 T8 can still run as it can use the ICE (of course, that too needs petrol to operate) which is one reason why acceptance of hybrids is better than EVs. Drivers won’t have ‘range anxiety’ worrying that they will be stranded or have to wait a long time recharging if the battery pack is fully drained.
In most cases, owners are likely to drive using both the ICE and the motor, the computer balancing the usage. There is also an All-Wheel Drive mode which sends power to all four wheels for enhanced stability in slippery conditions. Of course, how the car is driven will have an effect on the fuel consumption but generally, the S90 T8 should still run much more economically than a car with a 2-litre ICE that produces 344 ps.
It would be expected that the S90 would have the highest level of safety features since it is the flagship model. Its Intellisafe package combines a number of different safety systems and includes Intellisafe Assist. This includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Distance Alert. The ACC monitors the speed of vehicles in front and maintains a safe distance, varying the speed when necessary. It can even bring the car to a standstill when the car ahead stops, and then automatically starts moving again if the car in front moves forward. There’s also Pilot Assist, a semi-autonomous driving feature that keeps the car within lanes on the road at speeds up to 130 km/h.
Of note is the sound system in the Inscription Plus version which is by Bowers & Wilkins, an audio equipment company with 50 years of experience. The system which the company has customised for the S90 has a 1,400W output delivered through a 12-channel Class D amplifier. No less than 19 speakers are strategically positioned around the cabin.
The audio technologies used are advanced with aluminium tweeters and Kevlar midrange drivers. In Bowers & Wilkins believe that the midrange is where the real musical action is invariably found, and a smooth midband is an invaluable loudspeaker quality. It has found that Kevlar (better known as the material for bulletproof vests) is an ideal choice and has used this material since 1974.
The cabin is typical of Volvos with the Scandinavian ambience which the company is proud to highlight. You definitely get a lot, commensurate with the amount of money you pay, and this includes a Orrefors Crystal gearknob with illumination, Nappa leather and a CleanZone Interior Air Quality system. The latter is more than just a multi-filter system and has sensors that ensure air quality is maintained at its cleanest and healthiest at all times.
The future is electric and Volvo is leading the movement forward so if you want to be an ‘early adopter’, the S90 T8 Twin Engine is what you should get. If you purchase the car before October ends, authorised Volvo dealers will give you a RM20,000 reduction on both versions as an introductory offer.