The Car Connection Volvo XC90 Overview
The Volvo XC90 is a luxury crossover SUV with seating for up to seven passengers. It's the first all-new vehicle from Volvo in several years, and is the Swedish automaker's largest utility vehicle to date.
First launched in 2003, the nameplate is now applied to the new SUV that arrived for the 2016 model year. The new XC90 features three rows of seats, all-wheel drive as an option on some models, and a choice between turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engines, with a plug-in hybrid model in the works.
A related Volvo S90 sedan is set to be introduced for the 2017 model year.
Competitors for Volvo's XC90 include the BMW X5, the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, and Land Rover's LR4. The 2016 Volvo XC90 was named the North American Truck/Utility of the Year at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
MORE: Read our 2016 Volvo XC90 review
The new Volvo XC90
A completely new, second-generation XC90 at last arrives for the 2016 model year. With a new plug-in hybrid option, new Drive-E engines (including a 316-horsepower, turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder), an 8-speed automatic, a radical new interior design, a tablet-like Sensus touch-screen system, and new active safety features, the 2016 Volvo XC90 might again transform the family crossover market.
The plug-in hybrid version of the 2016 XC90 should be the last of the new models to arrive, late in 2015. The plug-in powertrain is dubbed T8, as it provides the output expected of a V-8 engine. It does so, however, with the combination of a turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic driving the front wheels, while the rear axle is powered by an 82-horsepower electric motor for a through-the-road hybrid/AWD setup. Total system output is 400 hp and 472 pound-feet of torque.
The more common powertrain will be the T6 version, which uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder engine good for 316 horsepower 295 lb-ft of torque. It's packaged with an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive.
The trim levels even got a redo for this generation. Base models are now called Momentum, the sporty R-Design returns at the middle of the lineup, and the most luxurious models bear the Inscription badge. All three come with the 316-hp, 2.0-liter Drive-E engine as standard equipment.
Volvo XC90 history
The XC90 was the oldest vehicle in the Volvo lineup before the 2016 replacement arrived. Through the long first generation, it retained its historic pricing position, slightly less expensive than its German counterparts. Perhaps more so than the latest, swoopier Volvo styles, the XC90 continued the tradition of safe and sensible Swedish design. It was voted the North American Truck of the Year in its debut year, and its sedan-like handling made the original model an easy-to-use and practical family hauler for the upscale suburbs where it's normally seen.
The basic shape of the original XC90 wore well over its more than a decade of life. A mild facelift was introduced for 2007, and another one for 2013. The latter included new body-color bumpers and trim, more brightwork on those bumpers, and LED running lamps and taillights. All of these changes contributed to its carlike personality, though the interior quickly grew dated--and showed its age particularly in the lack of the thin "floating" central console and more minimalist look now found in all other Volvos.
Handling was one of the first XC90’s key strengths, in fact. It made the XC90 an ideal alternative to larger, more ponderous sport-utility vehicles and boring, uber-practical minivans. The second-row seats were adjustable, varying the mix of passenger room and cargo volume, and a third-row seat was made standard in 2010. That one, unfortunately, was so cramped that it's strictly for children—and probably agile ones at that.
Toward the end of its life cycle, the XC90 offered just one engine in U.S. versions, a 235-hp, 3.2-liter inline-6 mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The pair returned EPA estimated fuel economy of 16 mpg city, 23 highway. Front-wheel drive was standard, while all-wheel drive was an option. In prior years, Volvo had offered a 311-hp, 4.4-liter V-8 in the XC90, but it returned poor gas mileage and was discontinued after the 2011 model year.
Previously, for 2009, Volvo had added the R-Design option on the XC90, which gave the SUV some sportier touches such as 19-inch alloy wheels, a new grille and split dual exhaust pipes. For 2010, however, the R-Design trim was limited to the six-cylinder model.
For 2012, the Volvo XC90 received new Premier Plus and Platinum trims that added a few new features, and tech options were repackaged. The XC90's sound system gained both Bluetooth audio streaming and Pandora playlists the same year. Those updates followed a 2011 instrument panel revision that upped the XC90's standard equipment, adding Bluetooth, satellite radio, and new watch-dial instrumentation.
Over time Volvo sweetened the deal with more standard features and new options. For 2014, the XC90 got a folding front passenger seat, a 19-inch "Galateia" wheel design, and the option for upgraded Sovereign leather. The sportier R-Design model also received a Homelink garage door opener. And the company moved all-wheel drive, the blind-spot monitoring, and the dual-screen rear entertainment system to the list of standalone options.