For US-style refrigeration capacity without the US-appliance inconvenience, Whirlpool’s SW8 AM2C XARL is a tall, 60cm-wide flush-fitting fridge packed with features. Partnered with the UW8 F2C XLSB freezer and complementary joining kit, it promises vast fridge-freezer capacity that won’t stick out into UK-sized kitchens.
From its stunning fit and finish to its consistent cooling throughout, Whirlpool’s SW8 is a thoroughly impressive fridge. It’s not Wi-Fi smart or fitted with a drinks cooler, but its great performance, zero-degree drawer, filtered air cooling and low running costs make it our favourite big-capacity fridge.
American side-by-side fridge freezers are all well and good but they are not without compromises. The bold looks are not for every kitchen, the freezer space is often narrow and they are ridiculously deep front to back. That means they stick out into the room making their bold looks even more obvious.
For huge cooling capacity with a subtler European style, Whirlpool offers the SW8 AM2C XARL fridge tested here and the matching UW8 F2C XB freezer. and the matching UW8 F2C XB freezer. With the optional link kit you can fit them together snugly.. That gives you wardrobe-like fridge-freezer space with sleek style and a UK-friendly 63cm depth.
The SW8 AM2C XARL is the top-spec fridge model in the line. That series also offers the SW8 AM2C XR and the SW8 1Q XR. The AM2C XARL model tested here has Whirlpool’s stunning Optic Inox finish (1Q has plain stainless steel), a top-spec A++ energy rating and Whirlpool’s Activ0 drawer. This is a separate drawer that can be switched to zero degrees, specifically for meat and fish. Switch off and it’s another handy salad drawer. The XR model forgoes the Activ0 drawer and the flush-fitting option. All clear?
Cutting to the chase, the SW8 AM2C XARL is a bit of a looker. Stunning, in fact. The Optic Inox finish is a lush stainless steel with deeply textured vertical brush lines. The metal-look Whirlpool badge is the only cosmetic adornment.
The vertical handle is equally sassy. It is brushed stainless set in a gloss-grey recess that is easy to wipe clean. Clever hinge design means the outer edge of the door moves inwards towards the machine. This allows the SW8 to be fitted flush beside kitchen cupboards without the door opening being restricted.
On the downside, the hinge only allows the door to open about 15 degrees past perpendicular. Normally that would hamper removal of shelves and drawers, yet all Whirlpool’s interior furniture still pulls out with ease.
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With the door open you are greeted with a vast space over four shelves, three drawers and five door pockets. Everything is neatly trimmed with brushed metal and interior lighting is spectacular. There are two long strip LEDs running down rear of the compartment and an overhead LED too. The strips backlight the shelves while the overhead shines neatly down onto open drawers.
The touch control panel and temperature display are a fair way up in the air, situated on the door frame. You get a Fast-Cool setting to help when you have loaded the compartment with fresh goods and a high temperature alarm. The 6th Sense button switches on the Whirlpool’s Fresh Sensor and its fan that circulates air in the fridge. This offers more uniform cooling, and odour and bacteria reducing air filtration. We find it a mystery why you would ever want to turn it off.
Speaking of bacteria, the entire interior of this Whirlpool is coated with Microban antibacterial protection too.
Whirlpool SW8 AM2C XARL – How much can I fit in it?
With 363 litres of useable storage space the answer is lots. You need to be feeding a big family, love seriously complicated cooking and want to store almost all your groceries and jars in the fridge to fill the available space. The largest US-style fridge freezers offer similar fridge capacity, but very few do it boasting sensor cooling, an Activ0 compartment or an A++ energy rating.
Of the four shelf areas, the upper three offer plenty of adjustment with several different height pegs to choose from. The hanging bottle rack can clip into any of these spots too. The moveable shelves are glass with the plastic top of the Activ0 compartment acting as lowest shelf.
The large lower door pocket means the Activ0 drawer is shorter front to back. Yet the drawer has good depth and glides out smoothly on rollers. If required, it can be lifted clear. Press the Activ0 button on top and the compartment keeps just on the verge of freezing. That is ideal storage temperature for the like of meat, fish and, at the Stevenson homestead at least, beers in the summer.
You get two more drawers for salad and veggies. The upper drawer is tall, has full front to back depth and also rolls out on wheeled runners. This drawer is very cool so would happily handle meat and fish if you have a splurge at the butchers or fish-mongers. The lower drawer still offers decent veggy capacity even though it is truncated for the compressor
No need to put bottles or jars on the shelves either. Room across the five door pockets is ample. They all offers decent depth and height albeit with just one extra position. The top pocket has a flip-over lid for eggs and diary items. At nearly 1.8m up, though, egg juggling for the vertical challenged user could be interesting.
The furniture lineup is complete with a salad drawer divider, bottle pocket divider and clear storage box. This doubles as a bottle separator for bottles resting on a shelf. You get an egg tray and spare anti-bacterial filter too. There is also a clear plastic tray with a sort of central funnel. Years of testing and reviewing fridges, yet we still can’t work out what this bit is for.
Whirlpool SW8 AM2C XARL – How noisy is it?
Modern motors are much less noisy than those fitted to fringes 8-10 years or more ago. The Whirlpool’s energy label claims a very quiet 38dB for this machine, and that is not far off.
We measured 38-40dB while the motor was running and silence when it was not. We also noise test the cooling appliances in free space. Fitted snugly between kitchen cupboards, the SW8’s sound output into the room is likely to be even less. While that is not the absolute quietest cooling appliance we have tested, it remains whisper-quiet in your kitchen.
Whirlpool SW8 AM2C XARL – How well does it perform?
From top to bottom this super-sized refrigerator is a consistent performer. It offers a very even cooling cycle and an average shelf temperature variation of less than +/- 1ºC. The three drawers were all a little more variable during the cycle but even those measured below +/- 2ºC.
A small temperature fluctuation is very important in improving fresh food longevity. As such, this machine will certainly ensure your fruits and veggies will stay fresher for longer.
With a target temperature of 4 degrees set on the controls, the SW8 offered an ideal spread of temperatures from top to bottom. The very top shelf averaged 6ºC, the mid shelves 5ºC and the lowest shelf area just above 4ºC.
Below that, and with Activ0 switched off, the upper drawer averaged 3.5ºC. The largest upper drawer came in at 2ºC, and the lower drawer averaged 3ºC. The largest drawer would be fine for meat and fish and, as it never dipped below freezing, is equally suitable for fruit and veg.
That is a superb result, thanks largely to Whirlpool’s 6th Sense sensor and fan cooling. We would be impressed with that line-up of average temperatures in an under-counter fridge, so that is outstanding in such a tall compartment.
Switching on the Activ0 drawer brought the average temperature inside down to around 1ºC. With the temperature variation still +/- 2 degrees, the drawer dipped below freezing just long enough to keep meats and fish fresh without actually freezing the flesh. There was a little trade off with slightly greater temperature fluctuation in the other two drawers but nothing you would notice without sensitive test equipment.
We don’t usually run fail tests on fridges but as the Whirlpool was on a performance roll we gave it a try. With an A++ efficiency the insulation must be top-notch, so it was no surprise the SW8 did well here too. Over three hours without power, no shelf or drawer temperature raised by more than 3 degrees.
The SW8 turned in the best set of technical test results we have seen from a full-height fridge compartment. There are some very innovative (and expensive) fridge freezers that offer even more stable cooling in the fridge compartment. Yet they can’t compete with this Whirlpool’s capacity or flush-fit design.
Whirlpool SW8 AM2C XARL – How much will it cost to run?
The SW8’s energy label suggests it will use around 114kWh per year. At an average cost of 15p/kWh in the UK that would be a very reasonable £17.10 per year.
With the Activ0 compartment running, and the door opened half a dozen times per day, we measured a little more than that. We calculate the SW8 would use around 140kWh per year or about £21. That is dangerously close to A+ spec rather than A++.
However, given the huge capacity, the cost per litre of available chiller space is very low indeed. Factor in that we had the Activ0 compartment running too, and this Whirlpool’s running costs are impressively low.
Why buy the Whirlpool SW8 AM2C XARL?
Massive capacity, excellent furniture, consistent cooling and low running costs make Whirlpool’s big SW8 fridge a winner. It’s worthy in its own right, even if you don’t pair it with its matching freezer. The zero-degree drawer works well for meat and fish, the interior space is incredibly flexible and the finish inside and out is exemplary. Its ability to fit flush next to kitchen larder cupboards and pair with the UW8 F2C XB freezer are icing on the cake.
Given the wealth of fridge-freezers of this size that crest £1000, the SW8’s sub-£700 asking price looks pretty good value too.