2010 Volvo XC90 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 9, 2010

The 2010 Volvo XC90 has aged gracefully and now is more feature-packed than ever; however, its poor fuel economy tarnishes an otherwise superb vehicle.

At TheCarConnection.com, the editors have test driven the 2010 Volvo XC90 to bring you their expert opinion here in the Bottom Line. TheCarConnection.com has also researched available road tests on the latest Volvo XC90 to bring you the most useful information.

The Volvo XC90 was first unveiled back in 2003 when vehicles combining SUV capabilities with carlike dynamics were just starting to gain popularity. Catering to U.S. tastes with an optional V-8 engine and packing the latest in Volvo safety gear, the XC90 quickly became popular with safety-conscious families who wanted a little bit of power.

The 2010 Volvo XC90 is styled essentially the same as when it was launched, but its lines are aging well, inside and out. The interior is dressed in conservative-looking but expensive-feeling trim and switchgear, and it's well laid out. The only quibble is the limited space in the third row, which relegates this section to smaller children only.

One of the major trump cards of the XC90 is its towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, which is impressive for an SUV with such refined handling and carlike dynamics.  The steering is responsive, and the ride is well controlled. Power in the 2010 Volvo XC90 comes from a 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine or a 311-horsepower 4.4-liter V-8. This latter is shared with the S80 sedan and is quiet and well refined, though a little uninspiring for rev heads. Both engines come mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission. The V-8 has a fuel economy of 13 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, while the six-cylinder musters just 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.

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Capable of carrying up to seven, the 2010 Volvo XC90 is the ideal alternative to trucklike SUVs and boring minivans. Its second-row seats can be adjusted to maximize cargo space or passenger room, and along with the front row, it's spacious and comfortable. Unfortunately, the third row, which has been made standard for 2010, is cramped and should be used as a last alternative.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the XC90 is a Top Safety Pick, and it has a five-star crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It includes front, side, and side curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist; stability and traction control; roll-stability control; a tire pressure monitoring system; and a rollover protection system as standard.

Another change for the 2010 Volvo XC90 lineup is that the R-Design trim is no longer available with the V-8, which means only six-cylinder XC90 buyers can pick this option. R-Design XC90s are distinguished by a host of exterior and interior styling cues, including 19-inch Vulcanis diamond-cut alloy wheels, an R-Design grille, leather seating surfaces with embossed R-Design logos, a sports steering wheel, watch dial instruments, and custom floor mats. Other features available on the 2010 Volvo XC90 include rear park assist as standard, and the recently launched Convenience Package. This features Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), power retractable rearview mirrors, Interior Air Quality System (IAQS), and the enhanced Volvo Navigation System II with remote control and Real Time Traffic.

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2010 Volvo XC90

Styling

The 2010 Volvo XC90 is conservatively styled but still attractive inside and out.

The 2010 Volvo XC90 is styled essentially the same as when it was launched, but its lines are aging well, inside and out.

Motor Trend points out that XC90 got “a new grille, bumpers, and taillights” in 2007 but notes that the vehicle still maintains its nondescript styling. Road & Track says "to further accentuate the sporty nature and to create a sleeker appearance, the car is not fitted with roof rails, although these are still available as an option." On sale in the United States since 2005, the XC90 still looks fresh and well-proportioned. Kelley Blue Book observes "the XC90 looks like a bigger, taller version of the popular XC70 wagon,” and points out that "all the familiar Volvo styling cues are present, including the raised-V hood bulge and the elongated taillights running the length of the D-pillars." Edmunds has a rare complaint for the XC90, remarking that its "overall design is getting a bit stale."

The interior is dressed in conservative-looking but expensive-feeling trim and switchgear, and it's well laid out. The only quibble is the limited space in the third row, which relegates this section to smaller children only. The same can be said for the interior, which Car and Driver describes as “first rate.” Cars.com states "the dashboard and instrument panel dome employ slanted, angular themes, as does a three-spoke steering wheel with audio and cruise controls.” Kelley Blue Book also notes that "tending towards understated, the interior is tastefully appointed and very user-friendly."

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2010 Volvo XC90

Performance

Despite being one of the most carlike SUV's in its class, the 2010 Volvo XC90 still suffers from poor fuel economy. The available V-8 engine has strong acceleration, though.

One of the major trump cards of the XC90 is its towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, which is impressive for an SUV with such refined handling and carlike dynamics. The steering is responsive, and the ride is well controlled. Power in the 2010 Volvo XC90 comes from a 235-horsepower, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine or a 311-horsepower, 4.4-liter V-8. This latter is shared with the S80 sedan and is quiet and well refined, though a little uninspiring for rev heads. Both engines come mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission.

Kelley Blue Book points out that the "3.2-liter in-line six gives the base model a significant advantage over the discontinued turbocharged in-line five-cylinder engine" and that "more horsepower and torque help the big Volvo cruise up to speed a bit quicker." Cars.com finds the XC90's "3.2-liter six-cylinder engine produces 235 horsepower and 236 pounds-feet of torque” and “the available 4.4-liter V-8 generates 311 hp and 325 pounds-feet of torque." For those drivers who must have a V-8, Kelley Blue Book notes that the "the 4.4 trim level's hefty helping of torque and impressive horsepower vastly improves the performance figures" of the XC90. Car and Driver agrees and advises that "the base engine is best avoided as it struggles to move the heavy XC90 around." Furthermore, the "weakling base engine" is "less refined than some of its rivals." Edmunds reviewers, however, aren't huge fans of the V-8, either, observing that "the XC90 V-8 Sport model takes 7.4 seconds to hit 60 mph, about average for a V8-equipped luxury crossover."

Edmunds is among several sources disappointed by the fuel economy of the 2010 XC90, which they find to be “a bit below average for this class of vehicle.” Kelley Blue Book reports that the Volvo XC90 hits "13 mpg City / 19 mpg Hwy, according to EPA." Additionally, their reviewers observe that the XC90 suffers from "subpar fuel economy with either engine" and "both engines require premium unleaded gasoline.”

Kelley Blue Book gives the most positive reviews regarding handling, saying "the XC90 achieves impressive on-road performance via a combination of unique safety and stability devices." According to Edmunds, for "the 3.2 and regular V8 trims, ride quality is soft and comfortable"; they go on to explain that "although it lacks the silky ride quality of the Lexus RX 350 or the sport-sedan demeanor of an Acura MDX, this Volvo offers an appealing blend of comfort and handling that will satisfy most drivers."
Last year Volvo improved the dynamics of the XC90 with the use of its Nivomat rear suspension. According to J.D. Power, this can “drop the rear of the vehicle, changing handling dynamics, bumper heights and headlight illumination." Car and Driver, however, isn’t so happy, claiming, "Sport models have a stiffer and often jittery ride.” Despite this, Kelley Blue Book maintains that "the combination of a wide stance and Volvo's Roll Stability Control (RSC) system is a big part of the reason the XC90 can perform emergency maneuvers almost like a low-slung sedan." Their reviewers also claim that "you'll hardly feel it as you round corners and zip through twisting turns."

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2010 Volvo XC90

Comfort & Quality

Passengers are pampered, thanks to the use of high-quality materials and a surprisingly silent and pleasurable ride for an SUV.

The 2010 Volvo XC90 has amazingly comfortable front- and second-row seats; however, the third-row is best suited to young children.

Capable of carrying up to seven, the 2010 Volvo XC90 is the ideal alternative to trucklike SUVs and boring minivans. Its second-row seats can be adjusted to maximize cargo space or passenger room; along with the front row, it's spacious and comfortable. Unfortunately, the third row, which has been made standard for 2010, is cramped and should be used as a final alternative.

Kelley Blue Book remarks that "the driver and passenger relax in a comfortable pair of bucket seats featuring built-in whiplash protection." For all but the back-row passengers, it's easy to get in and out of the XC90. Kelley Blue Book claims "the tall ride height does not translate into a tall step-up height...making entry and exit similar to getting in and out of a car." According to Cars.com, there are "rear 40-20-40 split-bench seats.” Edmunds notes that "cargo capacity is 43.3 cubic feet with the third seat folded and it expands to a generous 85 cubic feet with both rows folded."

Most reviewers consulted by TheCarConnection.com, however, say the now standard third-row seating is suitable for small children only. Kelley Blue Book predicts you won't like the 2010 Volvo XC90 if "you're all about maximum interior space," because the "third-row seat is not well-suited for adults." Cars.com agrees, citing "difficult access to third-row seat" and "a tight squeeze in back."

Reviewers generally agree on the high quality of the cabin’s materials. Edmunds says that "materials are first-rate, ergonomics straightforward and the overall design consistent with the hip, minimalist look Volvo has utilized with great success for a decade." They predict "the addition of standard sapele wood trim in the V-8 model should please those who have found past XC90s a bit austere." Autoblog agrees, explaining that inside the 2010 Volvo XC90 "a blue-lit instrument cluster joins some additional badging, a leather wrapped steering wheel and an aluminum center stack to boost the premium feel." Kelley Blue Book isn't as enamored, pointing out that "there is a lot of gray plastic and leather inside the XC90 Volvo, although a smattering of wood trim helps warm things up a bit."

Car and Driver reports that driving a 2010 Volvo XC90 is "a relatively quiet experience.” However, Cars.com doesn't like the "droning V-8 exhaust on the highway."

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2010 Volvo XC90

Safety

The 2010 Volvo XC90 provides a safe journey, with exceptional crash-test scores and some innovative features.

The 2010 Volvo XC90 is one of the safest vehicles in its class, aided by a wide selection of modern safety features and Volvo’s bulletproof reputation.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the XC90 is a Top Safety Pick, even with this year's tighter requirements, and it earns five-star crash ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Standard safety gear includes front side and side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, stability and traction control, roll-stability control, a rollover protection system, and finally, rear park assist. Edmunds lists the safety options on the Volvo XC90 as including "power child safety locks, adaptive headlights and Volvo's Blind Spot Information System."

Edmunds also praises "the center position in the second row [which] has an integrated child booster cushion that slides forward, allowing easier access to children in the back," and notes the Blind Spot Information System. Known as BLIS, "this bit of technology monitors vehicles entering the XC90's blind spots and warns the driver via indicator lights."

Finally, Kelley Blue Book points out that "Volvo takes particular pride in the XC90's reinforced roof design, which can provide an added measure of security in the event of a rollover accident."

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2010 Volvo XC90

Features

The 2010 Volvo XC90 comes with plenty of standard features and enough options to keep the family happy on those long journeys.

Another change for the 2010 Volvo XC90 lineup is that the R-Design trim is no longer available with the V-8, which means only six-cylinder XC90 buyers can pick this option. R-Design XC90s are distinguished by a host of exterior and interior styling cues, including 19-inch Vulcanis diamond-cut alloy wheels, an R-Design grille, leather seating surfaces with embossed R-Design logos, a sports steering wheel, watch dial instruments, and custom floor mats.

The list of standard items includes 17-inch wheels, wood trim, a power driver seat, and an auxiliary audio jack, says Edmunds. J.D. Power also points out that the standard features on every version include power windows, locks, and mirrors; dual-zone electronic climate control; a flat-folding 40/20/40-split second-row seat; and a high-performance 160-watt, eight-speaker stereo with MP3 playback. For 2010 Volvo has made third-row seating standard, and the R-Design trim is no longer offered on V-8 models.

Other features available on the 2010 Volvo XC90 include rear park assist as standard and the recently launched Convenience Package. This features Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), power retractable rearview mirrors, Interior Air Quality System (IAQS), and the enhanced Volvo Navigation System II with remote control and Real Time Traffic.

All XC90s are eligible for the Multimedia package, which includes satellite radio, a Dynaudio surround-sound audio system, a navigation system with real-time traffic, and—on V-8 models only—bi-xenon headlamps. The Climate package is available on six-cylinder models and adds the heated front seats, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers, and air filtration system. The V-8-only Executive package adds more luxury, including 19-inch aluminum wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, massage and ventilation functions for the front seats, heated rear seats, leather door panels and center console cover, and a wood-trimmed steering wheel, as well as an optional refrigerator.

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