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."