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- Quietly elegant, luxurious interior
- Restrained exterior design
- Sensus interface intuitive, pad-like
- Top safety ratings and features
- Plug-in hybrid powertrain option
- Design may not say luxury
- Certain safety systems optional
- One USB port for seven seats?
- Plug-in hybrid efficiency lacking
- It's not German
The 2017 Volvo XC90 is comfortable, capable, and only whispers its virtues—reinterpreting the Volvo brand as quiet sophistication in comfort, style, and efficiency.
New last year, the 2017 Volvo XC90 large luxury SUV appears to be succeeding in its mission of redefining where Volvo sits in the growing global luxury market. Its an understated and modest exterior design hides is a quietly elegant, supremely ergonomic, and easy-to-use family utility vehicle with many virtues. The XC90 comes in four trim levels, though not all are offered with every powertrain: the base Momentum (T5 and T6), the upper-level Inscription (T5, T6, and T8), the sporty R-Design (T6 and T8), and the T8 Excellence.
The result is far from the typically severe, tech-heavy Teutonic interpretation of luxury offered by Audi, BMW, and Mercedes. The XC90 is a thoroughly modern premium SUV with its luxury inside, using high-quality materials and a thoughtfully designed infotainment system that's one of the more intuitive and easy to use of any high-end vehicle. And of course it has the latest in new and updated safety features, both active and passive, and gets unsurpassed safety ratings.
Overall, the Volvo XC90 gets a rating of 7.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars this year.) It's a quietly competent and surprisingly comfortable SUV that should win over not only existing buyers, but those tired of proliferating high-end Asian and German utility vehicles of every shape, size, and segment. It scores 7 out of 10 or higher on design, performance, quality, safety, and features, and gets a green rating of 6. Overall, it's above the 6.8 of the the competing BMW X5, but below the new Audi Q7's 8.0.
Volvo XC90 styling and performance
The XC90 is clearly a Volvo, but it offers a new take on Volvo's traditional values of conscientious design and solid durability. It's more fluid and crisper than its predecessor, which launched way back in 2002. Its design also disguises its bulk; it simply doesn't look as large as other seven-seat SUVs, although its interior is at least as capacious as the average (and seven-seaters vary a lot in size and usability). It also refuses to underscore its premium positioning. Instead, it's a car for people who “do not look for a brand that defines them," in the words of one Volvo executive.
It's the widely lauded interior design that distinguishes the XC90 from German and Japanese competitors, blending sensible design and luxurious details in a way no other brand has managed. It blends remarkably comfortable seats and a prevalent scent of leather with interior shapes layered to suggest Scandinavian furniture, combining stitched leather, textured metal, and matte wood. And the central 9.0-inch touchscreen is relatively intuitive compared to competing systems based on knobs and cursors, responding quickly to tablet-style commands—not just tap, but also swipe, pinch, and stretch.
This year there are three powertrains, all using the same 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard on all but a new base model, where it's optional. The base T5 is turbocharged, for an output of 250 horsepower, while the T6 is both turbocharged and supercharged, at 316 hp. Fuel economy ratings are 23 and 22 mpg combined, respectively.
The T8 "Twin Engine" plug-in hybrid model uses the T6 engine with added boost from a rear-mounted 60-kilowatt (82-hp) electric motor that replaces the mechanically driven rear axle of the other two. This lets the car run on its gasoline engine, on the electric motor alone, or on both when needed. It's the priciest XC90, but also the quickest, with an output of roughly 400 hp, and Volvo notes it's also the sole seven-seat plug-in hybrid on the market. The EPA rates its all-electric range at 13 miles, and its fuel economy running in hybrid mode (after its battery is depleted) at 25 mpg combined.
Comfort, utility, safety
On the road, the XC90 handles like a car, with good steering feedback, predictable roadholding, and relatively sprightly performance despite its small engine. Perhaps its sole drawback is the noise level, which under full power and on certain road surfaces is simply higher than that of many competitors.
The XC90 has room for up to seven people and their goods. Stepping inside, the front seats adjust in multiple axes, and we found them supremely comfortable. The second-row seats slide backward and forward, and the third row is capable of holding two adults if second-row riders will give up a bit of legroom. Each row is slightly higher than the one in front, providing good outward vision for all—aided by large windows and the standard panoramic sunroof.
The NHTSA gives the XC90 five stars overall, and the IIHS has designated the XC90 a Top Safety Pick, with its highest score of "Good" on every crash test it performed. The IIHS designation indicates that the big Volvo has all the latest electronic active-safety equipment the institute recommends, including both traditional safety systems and a pair of world firsts: Run Off Road Design, which works to keep occupants safe if the car goes off the edge of the road, and automatic braking in intersections if a car drives into the path of travel from another angle.
All models of the XC90, starting with the base T5 Momentum at less than $50,000, include all-wheel drive and the panoramic sunroof. Leather upholstery and heated front seats are optional on the T5, standard on the T6 and T8. Third-row seating is standard on the T6 and T8, but not available on the T5. The more luxurious Inscription and the sportier R-Design version plus a series of option packages can bring the total for a well-equipped T6 model to about $60,000. The high-end XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid model adds $10,000 more, and its R-Design version is pricier yet.
The Car Connection Consumer Review
- T5 FWD 5-Passenger Momentum $45,750
- T5 AWD 5-Passenger Momentum $47,950
- T5 FWD 5-Passenger R-Design $51,150
- T6 AWD 7-Passenger Momentum $52,250
- T5 AWD 5-Passenger R-Design $53,350
- T6 AWD 7-Passenger R-Design $56,250
- T6 AWD 7-Passenger Inscription $57,350
- T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid 7-Passenger R-Design $67,800
- T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid 7-Passenger Inscription $68,900
- T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid Excellence $104,900