The XC90 is the flagship SUV for Volvo and is one of the most stylish options in the luxury midsize SUV category. It’s loaded with tech and available with several different power trains including a plug-in hybrid. There’s room for six or seven passengers in three rows of seating. The interior looks straight out of a Scandinavian design catalog with tasteful and upscale materials such as leather and wood.
The XC90 got a makeover for the 2016 model year and has been tweaked every year since then. For 2020, the XC90 gets updated exterior styling including a new grille, and there are now optional captain’s chairs in the second row so you have a choice of seating for six or seven passengers.
The XC90 is available in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trims. Once you choose the trim, you select between the T5, T6 and the T8 plug-in hybrid powertrains. The base T5 Momentum with front-wheel-drive starts at $48,350 which is lower than average for a luxury midsize SUV. The top-of-the-line XC90 Inscription with T8 powertrain starts at $73,300. Front-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available.
The base T5 powertrain has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that makes 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The T6 has a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine that produces 316 horses and 295 pound-feet. My tester with the T8 takes the same engine in the T6 and partners it with two electric motors for a total of 400 hp and 472 pound-feet. No matter the engine, each XC90 is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. While it shifts smoothly, it sometimes takes a moment or two longer to downshift.
The T8 E has an all-electric range of about 18 miles. It takes about two-and-a-half hours to charge the battery with a Level 2 240-volt charger. It takes several hours on a regular 110-volt household plug.
The XC90 feels stable on the road. Brakes are strong and it stays planted when cornering. While the XC90 isn’t the sportiest performer, my tester is quick off the line and has plenty of get-up-and-go for merging and accelerating at freeway speeds. It’s smooth and steady driving around town.
All the trims get decent fuel efficiency, and my tester with the plug-in hybrid T8 powertrain gets excellent mileage. EPA ratings for it are 55 MPGe with the gas and electric motors, and 26 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and a combined rating of 27 mpg with just the gas engine. I got 35 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The XC90 has one of the most beautiful interiors in the class, and that’s saying something since its rivals include Audi, BMW, Lexus, Lincoln and Mercedes-Benz. Passengers in the first two rows have plenty of leg- and headroom. The third row is fine for kids but is a tight fit for adults. Seats are comfortable and supportive.
The interior has the Swedish design influence of less is more. Materials are gorgeous and include beautiful leather and wood veneers. The driver can keep tabs on multiple functions with a huge digital gauge cluster.
The center console houses the Sensus infotainment system which with its large tablet-like touchscreen that controls many functions, including audio, climate and communications. Unfortunately, the system can be challenging to use as you have to use the touchscreen for just about everything, from adjusting the climate settings to turning the heated seats on and off. And sometimes you have to go through a number of sub-menus to make what should be a simple adjustment. Hey, Volvo—it’d be great to have some old-school buttons and knobs for these routine functions!
The other pet peeve is that the two USB plugs are located in the front row. That means passengers in the second and third row have no place to plug in their devices.
The XC90 does have a long list of standard features including proximity keyless entry, rearview camera, four-zone automatic climate control, 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, synthetic leather upholstery, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, the Sensus nine-inch infotainment system and touchscreen, navigation, 10-speaker audio system, satellite radio, Bluetooth, two USB ports, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, panoramic moonroof, and a hands-free power liftgate.
Volvo is known for building safe cars so there are a ton of standard driver assistance technologies including blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, road sign recognition, rear parking sensors, and a driver drowsiness monitor.
Available features include a surround-view parking camera system, leather seating, heated steering wheel, heated, ventilated and massaging front seats, heated second row seats, upgraded navigation system, 14-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system, adaptive headlights and a head-up display.
Available driver assistance features include front parking sensors and hands-free parking assist.
The XC90 has more cargo space than most rivals. There are 15.8 cubic feet behind the third row, 41.8 cubes with the third row folded and 85.7 cubes with the second and third rows folded. The wide opening makes it easy to load bulky items. A hands-free power liftgate is standard.
As you’d expect in a Volvo, the XC90 gets good crash ratings. It gets an overall rating of five out of five stars in NHTSA crash tests.
Unfortunately, the XC90 has one of the worst reliability ratings: just two out of five stars from J.D. Power.
Lower than average starting price
Lots of passenger and cargo space
Loaded with standard tech
Great fuel efficiency for the class
Available as a plug-in hybrid
Price can climb quickly with options and higher trims
Lower trims could use more power
Infotainment system can be difficult to use
Only 2 USB plugs and they’re in the front row
Bad predicted reliability rating
My tester starts at $67,500. The Inscription features are $6,300 and include Inscription exterior elements, Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, tailored dashboard, front seat power cushion extensions, interior high level illumination, 20-inch Inscription wheels with all-season tires, Front park Assist, Linear Walnut wood inlays, and a 600-watt Harman Kardon premium audio system with 14 speakers. The Advanced Package is $2,450 and adds full LED headlights with active bending lights, headlight high pressure cleaning system, 360-degree surround view camera, and graphical head up display. The Luxury Package is $3,100 and includes backrest massaging front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, headliner in Nubuck, leather grab handles and sun visors in leather. Metallic paint is $645. Bowers and Wilkins premium sound is $3,200. Park Assist Pilot is $200. Four-corner air suspension is $1,800. 21-inch eight multi spoke wheels are $800. Destination charge is $995 bringing the grand total to $86,990.
The XC90 will appeal to shoppers who want something a little different in the luxury midsize SUV category. The XC90 has a lot to offer including its stylish design, choice of three powertrains, good fuel economy, elegant cabin, and all of its safety and driver assistance technologies. The XC90 is definitely worth a look, as are other contenders in the midsize luxury SUV category.