- Superb seating (front two rows)
- Smooth, responsive powertrain
- Top-notch safety
- Dated instrument-panel design
- Secure, but not nimble
- Tight third-row
The 2013 Volvo XC90 isn't cutting-edge in any way, but it's a smart, upscale pick for families who want to be comfortable and safe.
The 2013 Volvo XC90 is the most dated design in the current Volvo lineup. But you'd probably never know it in seeing this model from the outside; in looking at its equipment list; or in driving it versus recently updated competitors. In fact, the XC90 is more feature-packed than ever and is a great family pick, seating up to seven.
While Volvo has updated the exterior look of the XC90 yet again for 2013--with a new body-color bumper-and-trim look, new bumper brightwork, and LED running lamps and taillamps, all of which make this model look more carlike once again--the XC90 does show its age inside, where it still shows 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, but there's no reward here for driving enthusiasts. You'll find plenty of power from the 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic (the V-8 was discontinued last year and is a fading memory), and it's an exceptionally smooth combination with the six-speed automatic. 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. For 2013, synthetic motor oil is standard on all XC90 models; it extends oil-change intervals to 10,000 miles.
Thanks to three rows of seating, the 2013 XC90 can accommodate up to seven and is a good alternative to either the more trucklike SUVs or a well-optioned minivan. This model still lives up to Volvo's reputation for excellent seats--especially in the first two rows--and they're 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. The interior is as reconfigurable as any large family might hope for; keep the third row down and you'll generally have lots of space for larger grocery runs. Additionally, the ride quality is smooth and stable, with less pitchiness and side-to-side motion than in many other crossovers. For 2013, Volvo has made the softer Sovereign leather standard equipment on Premier Plus and Platinum models.
Safety is of course a top priority in the XC90, and this model hasn't let us down in any way. It's been a repeat IIHS Top Safety Pick, and in addition to the usual roster of features, there's rear park assist, and an available Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) to warn you of nearby vehicles.
This year the XC90 gets standard LED running lamps and taillights, rain-sensor wipers, headlight washers, and new trims and finishes added to the standard-equipment list. Even in its standard trim the 2013 XC90 includes a Bluetooth hands-free interface, Sirius Satellite Radio, and new watch-dial instrumentation. Other standard goodies include leather upholstery, keyless entry, cruise control, and dual-zone climate control. 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. Other major options include a Climate Package, walnut-wood trim, and a rear entertainment system, and the available nav system has real-time traffic. There's also a sporty R-Design package that nets you a number of cool items such as sports seats, brushed aluminum trim, and a fresh "Ixion" wheel design.