2016 Volvo XC90 Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2016 Volvo XC90

Ron Sessions
© 2016 NewCarTestDrive.com

The 2016 Volvo XC90 is all new, its first redesign since the previous version was launched for the 2003 model year, and the transformation is dramatic.

The 2016 XC90 carries seven passengers and has more cargo space than ever. Yet it trades the minivan look of the former iteration for that of a sleek, expensive-looking wagon with a long hood, bold grille and striking LED headlamps. The new XC90 is a refreshing alternative to the macho look of some other crossovers and SUVs.

Likewise, the interior is a breath of fresh air with generous amounts of leather, aluminum and wood trim punctuated with high-tech digital instrumentation and a large tablet-like infotainment touchscreen in the center stack. Contour seats inspired by Wegner lounge chairs and an Orrefors-like crystal shifter celebrate Swedish design.

All-wheel drive is standard.

Volvo XC90 T6 uses a 2.0-liter four-cylinder supercharged and turbocharged to elevate power to that of a V6. The resulting 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque, working through a well-mannered eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, moves the 4627-pound SUV smartly and with no fuss. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20/25 mpg City/Highway.

Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid can travel 24 miles on electric power alone. Two electric motors are added to the T6 engine to deliver 400 horsepower and 472 pound-feet of torque. The T8 accelerates more briskly and more smoothly than the T6.

Volvo is targeting an EPA rating of 59 MPGe for the XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid, a figure that takes into account the first 24 miles of fossil-free driving. (Official EPA data were not available when this was published.)

The chassis is all-new, with double-wishbone front and integral-link rear suspensions. Optional is an electronically controlled air suspension.

Model Lineup

Walk Around

For 2016, Volvo XC90 gets a whole new look. Although stretching a few inches longer and gaining passenger and cargo space, the new XC90 looks smaller, more wagon-like and less akin to a hulking SUV. It’s an elegant shape in profile with a classic luxury sedan’s long wheelbase and short overhangs. A broad grille recalls the 1960s-vintage Volvo P1800 sports car.

R-Design adds excitement with a monochromatic exterior color scheme, black grille, matte-gray five-spoke 20-inch or matte-black 22-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust outlets.

Interior

The 2016 XC90 is roomier than ever and very comfortable inside. Unlike some other SUVs that require drivers to climb up to a tall driving position, the new XC90, while taller than the average sedan, is more wagon-like with easy ingress and egress.

Once inside, occupants are treated to luxurious surroundings, with leather upholstery and supportive, comfortable seats.

Cargo space is 85.7 cubic feet, way more than that offered in the BMW X5, Audi Q7, or Mercedes-Benz M-Class. Cargo room behind the third-row seat doubles this year, to 15.8 cubic feet. However, the front passenger seat no longer folds flat for ladders and surfboards.

The Sensus Connect user interface and infotainment system display in the center stack uses a large, 9-inch vertically oriented touchscreen that allows pinch, tap and swipe commands. Volvo included a volume knob and a few other hard buttons but the screen does most everything else.

Driving Impressions

The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a roomy seven-passenger SUV, but it doesn’t drive like a big vehicle.

The XC90 T6 comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, which sounds small for a big SUV, except this one is both turbocharged and supercharged to deliver the kind of smoothness and performance of a V6. The resulting 316 horsepower whisks the XC90 along in whisper-quiet confidence around town and on the highway. Throttle response is crisp and linear; there are no flat spots, surges or hesitations at any engine speed and tractability around town is excellent.

The T8 plug-in hybrid version of the XC90 offers even higher levels of performance than the gas-only T6 version, blending the power of the same 316-hp 2.0-liter gas-powered four-cylinder with that of two electric motors: a 46-hp electric motor that boosts the gas-engine’s power sent to the front wheels and an 80-hp motor that powers the rears. Under light acceleration, the car starts out under electric power, then fairly seamlessly blends in the power of the gas engine as acceleration continues. T8 can operate up to 24 miles solely on electric power, an important factor as some municipalities look to ban the operation of internal-combustion powered autos under some circumstances. As with the gas-engine T6 version, the XC90 T8 is very quiet in operation. Passing power is ample.

Both the T6 and T8 use the same 8-speed automatic transmission which shifts quickly and seamlessly with authority. All-wheel drive is standard.

We wouldn’t characterize the XC90’s handling as sporty compared to that of a BMW X5 or Audi Q7, but its blend of quiet confidence and control feels appropriate. Body roll (lean) around bends is well controlled and the electrically boosted steering is naturally weighted and precise. Big brakes get the job done without drama, though the T8 plug-in hybrid’s brake pedal sometimes has a two-step feel as the system works to blend the hydraulic portion of the brakes with that of the regenerative system for the battery.

The 2016 XC90 is raising the design bar in the premium three-row large crossover segment. And with a long roster of standard equipment that includes leather seating, navigation, a panoramic sunroof, a smartphone-like infotainment system and state-of-the-art safety gear, the XC90 provides an intriguing alternative to the German-branded competition.

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