Powered by
Subscribe to the only car newsletter you’ll ever need

Volvo XC90 2023: patent images suggest facelift; ‘EXC90’ electric variant to be sold alongside Embla

John Law

Although previously rumoured for replacement by an all-electric SUV based on a new platform, it’s looking more likely that the current XC90 will live on in some form

The Volvo XC90 may be set to get a new lease on life with a potential facelift and new electric variant to sit along existing plug-in hybrid models. 

It was previously thought that the XC90 would be fully replaced in 2023 by a new EV dubbed the Embla. This could still be the case, but signs point to the current XC90 living on in at least some capacity. 

Volvo XC90 story 2022-7
Patent drawings show what an electric XC90 successor (or facelift) could look like

The latest development in the XC90 saga comes from patent images obtained by Motor One. These pictures are accompanied by Volvo filing a trademark for the name ‘EXC90’. 

It suggests that what we’re seeing is the development of comments made by former Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson to Automotive News Europe in February this year.

Sameulsson said that the current XC90 would live on outside Europe in markets such as America and China (and Australia, potentially), where demand for hybrid and petrol vehicles is still strong. 

The original XC90’s 12-year life also suggests the patent images depict not an all-new model, but a facelift and new electrified variant sitting on the current SPA platform dubbed the EXC90. 

What about the Volvo Embla?

Of course, this theory could be wrong. The patent images could indeed be the Embla, an electric SUV built on Volvo’s new SPA2 platform. 

Volvo XC90 story 2022-8
These images could show the new Embla, but the proportions are awfully similar to an XC90’s

The Embla is slated to offer three rows of seating, be larger than the current XC90 and wear sleeker lines. The Embla’s electric powertrain should send power to all four wheels with a range of about 500km; a rival for the BMW iX and Audi E-Tron

When it comes to naming conventions, Volvo’s move to something such as ‘EXC90’ fits its history. Why, after so many years of alphanumeric car designations, would Geely-owned Volvo switch to Embla instead of EXC90? 

And if what we’re seeing is an electric version of the XC90, Volvo would probably call it the XC90 Recharge Pure Electric, much like the convention applied to the electric XC40.

Why do we think this is an XC90 facelift?

Naming logic aside, without reference to physical proportions it’s hard to place the ‘EXC90’ patent images. 

Volvo Concept Recharge, Exterior right side/rear
We can’t see much resemblance between the Recharge concept and the patent drawings

Being a concept, the Embla will likely be softened somewhat from the Recharge Concept (pictured) before it reaches market. However, in the past, Volvo’s concepts often stay true to the final designs. The original XC90, for example, bore plenty of resemblance to the Adventure Car concept of 1997. 

The pictured EXC90’s glasshouse, rear haunches and overhangs in the are almost identical to the current XC90. The wheelbase to overall length ratio is very similar also. Essentially, the renderings bear little resemblance to Embla’s super sleek lines. 

Instead, it’s the detailing that has changed; a blanked off front grille, new LED tail-lights, Thor’s Hammer LED headlights and flush door handles are significant differences, but not ones that suggest this is more than a facelift. 

Volvo XC90 concept 1997-1
The original XC90 looked a lot like the concept that previewed it

The other reason we think this could be a facelift – or new electric variant – of the XC90 is the previous version’s 12-year life. It started sales globally in 2002 and sold all the way through to 2014 in North America, Europe and Australia. 

The original XC90 lived on even longer in China where it wore ‘XC Classic’ badging until 2016, crossing over sales with the second-gen XC90. 

That gave the first-gen XC90 model a life cycle of 12 years globally, and with the second-gen car’s 2015 release it’s possible Volvo will continue selling the current XC90 until 2027. 

To make this work, it could be the case that an all-electric version – perhaps dubbed EXC90 – is in development as a flagship to tide Europe over until the Embla’s eventual unveiling.