- Acceleration with V-8
- Comfortable seats in first two rows
- Attractive inside and out
- Top-notch safety
- Standard all-wheel drive
- Feels heavy from behind the wheel
- Scrunched third-row seating
- V-6 isn't much more fuel-efficient
The 2009 Volvo XC90 is a sport-utility vehicle done the Swedish way: with a clean design and an emphasis on safe, all-weather driving, instead of flashiness or brute strength.
The 2009 Volvo XC90 caters to American tastes with its optional V-8 engine, but otherwise it’s built for safety-minded families who need an all-wheel-drive SUV, though third-row room is strictly limited. Available since 2005, the XC90 still looks fresh and well proportioned; its basic shape is aging well, inside and out. The cabin’s interior is laid out handsomely and dressed in conservative-looking but expensive-feeling trim.
All-wheel drive is standard, and the XC90 tows up to 5,000 pounds yet maintains a relatively spry, carlike feel. Steering is fast enough and the ride is well controlled. A 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine mated to a standard six-speed automatic is the base drivetrain on the 2009 Volvo XC90. A 4.4-liter V-8, shared with the new S80 sedan, makes 311 horsepower and is teamed with the same six-speed automatic. Unusually, the V-8 is very quiet, even when it's floored. Given its 13/19 mpg fuel economy, it should be heard. The six-cylinder version musters just 14/20 mpg.
Including the optional hideaway third-row seat, the 2009 Volvo XC90 can seat up to seven passengers, making it a viable alternative to truck-based SUVs and seven-passenger minivans. The XC90's second-row seat can also be adjusted fore and aft to maximize either cargo space or passenger room. While the front- and second-row passengers have good room and comfortable chairs, the third-row seat should be viewed as a last-ditch solution.
The XC90 scores five-star crash ratings from NHTSA and is a Top Safety Pick, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Front side and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, roll-stability control, and a rollover protection system are standard on all Volvo XC90s, as is a tire pressure monitoring system.
For the new model year, Volvo expands the XC90 lineup with the addition of the new R-Design models, which more or less replace the XC90 V-8 Sport model. R-Design XC90s are distinguished by a host of exterior and interior styling cues, including 19-inch "Vulcanis" diamond-cut alloy wheels and specific R-Design grille, leather seating surfaces with embossed R-Design logos, steering wheel, watch dial instruments, and floor mats. The 2009 Volvo XC90 R-Design models are available with either a 3.2-liter six-cylinder or 4.4-liter V-8, with the V-8 model also receive standard 20-inch "Cratus" alloy wheels in place of the 19-inch ones and split dual exhaust pipes.
Changes to the rest of the 2009 XC90 model lineup include the availability of a new Convenience Package. The package features Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), power retractable rearview mirrors, rear park assist, Interior Air Quality System (IAQS), and the enhanced Volvo Navigation System II with remote control and Real Time Traffic. Optional features on the 2009 Volvo XC90 are on par with other luxury SUVs, including wood trim, 18- and 19-inch wheels, soft leather seating, and a DVD entertainment system for the second row.