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When it was first introduced for 2003, the Volvo XC90 was one of the first carlike crossovers in the luxury realm. Now, many years and several design and powertrain changes later, the 2011 XC90 keeps with the same basic formula of top-notch interior comfort; safe, secure performance; and an upscale yet family-oriented feature set.
With the exception of one minor refresh, the 2011 Volvo XC90 carries through with that original look; while it still looks good from a distance, the design is starting to look dated, especially on the inside.
The 2011 Volvo XC90 is a family vehicle, not a sport sedan, but it performs as well as any busy mom or dad might expect, even allowing the opportunity to get on the gas a little more when the kids are at school. Power in the 2010 Volvo XC90 comes from a 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine or a 311-horsepower 4.4-liter V-8, with a six-speed automatic. But even with the V-8, the XC90 feels very quick, though it still doesn't feel overtly sporty. It's mostly a matter of the steering, which is responsive but not engaging; in either of the model, the body stays in check, even in quick maneuvers. On the practical (and green) side, fuel economy numbers for the XC90 are lackluster—as low as 14 mpg city, 21 highway for the V-8 model, and that's up from last year.
The XC90 is capable of carrying seven over three rows of seating and is, in some respects, a good alternative to either more trucklike SUVs or anonymous minivans. Front seats are, as in much of the Volvo lineup, supportive, comfortable, and worthy of all-day drives. Entry and exit is quite easy, too, as the seating position is more carlike than in other utility vehicles. Cabin materials feel impressive, and though in appearance they're quite stark there are plenty of pleasing soft-touch surfaces. Ride quality is another high point. Although V-8 models and those with the optional 18-inch alloys have a slightly harsher ride, overall ride quality is excellent, with less pitchiness and side-to-side motion than in many other crossovers.
In recent years, Volvo has worked to add more features to their vehicles without significantly raising prices. Such is the case with the XC90 as well; it's a better value compared to other models in its class, and for 2011 it gets a few more features. A Bluetooth hands-free interface, Sirius Satellite Radio, and new watch-dial instrumentation are newly standard.
Otherwise, there are plenty of opportunities to add impressive tech features to the XC90. In addition to a Luxury Package that can bring heated front and rear seats, massage and ventilated front seats, upgraded leather, and other appearance upgrades, there's a Multimedia Package that brings a premium audio system, DVD-driven navigation with real-time traffic, and a rear park-assist camera. Other standout features include Volvo's Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), bi-xenon headlamps with Active Bending Light, and a dual-screen DVD system.
- Nicely proportioned exterior
- Great seats
- Strong acceleration (V-8)
- Superior safety
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- Dated instrument-panel design
- Poor fuel economy
- Far from nimble-feeling
- Tight third-row seating