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The 2012 Volvo XC90 is a luxury crossover that puts the priority on passenger space, safety, and comfort, over off-road ability. The XC90 is feature-packed and can seat up to seven, but with lackluster fuel economy and a dated interior look, it's not class-leading in all respects.
Volvo's XC90 was one of the first carlike luxury crossover when it arrived for 2003, but its appearance hasn't changed all that much since then. With the exception of one minor refresh, the XC90 carries through with its smooth, broad-shouldered exterior design, which still looks good from a distance. However, inside, the XC90 is now looking quite dated, as it represents the design direction of Volvo before it went to more minimalist layouts and thin-panel controls (as you'll find in the S60 and XC60, among others).
The XC90 performs as well as you might expect from a family-oriented crossover; there's plenty of power from the 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic (the V-8 has been discontinued), and both passing response and power off the line are impressive. Yet the XC90 just isn't much fun to drive; it's mostly a matter of the detached feel of the steering, even though quick maneuvers are safe and sound.
With three rows of seating, the 2012 XC90 can carry up to seven and is a good alternative to either the more trucklike SUVs or a well-optioned minivan. Volvo has a reputation for excellent seats, and the XC90 is no exception; they're supportive, comfortable, and worthy of all-day drives. The third row can be hard to get to for all but the smallest kids, but the second row feels comfortable and shaped for adults. For everyone, the seating position feels a little more relaxed and carlike compared to that of other crossovers. Keep the third row down and you'll generally have lots of space for larger grocery runs. Ride quality is excellent, with less pitchiness and side-to-side motion than in many other crossovers. Cabin materials are hit-and-miss, a mix of some very pleasant soft-touch surfaces, paired with trim pieces that are starting to look dated.
Keeping the family safe and sound--as well as comfortable--is one of the XC90's top priorities, and it shows; it's an IIHS Top Safety Pick again for 2012, and in addition to the expected roster of airbags and stability control, there's rear park assist, and an available Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), which warns of vehicles in the blind spot vie indicator lights.
Volvo vehicle have, it seems, been becoming stronger values in recent years, with the automaker adding more standard features and combining options into more affordable packages. For 2012, the XC90's sound system supports Pandora playlists and gets Bluetooth audio streaming, adding to its existing Bluetooth hands-free interface, and there are new Premier Plus and Platinum trims that add a few more features. The Premier Plus gets active dual xenon headlights, a garage-door opener, and other upgrades, while the Platinum adds rear park assist and premium sound. The R-Design model adds big 20-inch Cratus wheels. Other major options include a Climate Package, walnut-wood trim, and a rear entertainment system, and the available nav system has real-time traffic.
- Great seats
- Responsive, pleasant powertrain
- Superior safety
- Nicely proportioned exterior
- Secure roadholding
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- Dated instrument-panel design
- Not at all nimble
- Tight third-row seating
- Lackluster gas mileage