When Volvo first launched its sport utility vehicle (SUV), the XC90, more than ten years ago, I was there. Fast forward to 2015 and Santa Monica, California, and I’m back for the launch of the all-new 2016 XC90. Highly acclaimed when it was first introduced, the latest version takes the SUV to a new, more luxurious level.
Like its predecessor, the XC90 captures attention from its design. It bears the “new face” of Volvo that includes a new grille with a prominent iron mark and revamped headlamps with the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” design cue.
Competing in the premium SUV market, the XC90’s interior will be its ace in the hole. Scandinavian aesthetics, combining beauty and utility, abound, from the diamond cut metal around the control knobs, to the tablet-inspired nine-inch touch screen above the center stack where drivers can control the entertainment, climate, telephone, and navigation systems, or Sensus interface. Sensus can also access a wide selection of cloud-based applications.
On the plug-in hybrid version of the XC90, the gear lever is made of crystal from Orrefors, the Swedish glassmaker. It’s simply stunning.
Yet, with all this bling, there is one exception. Oddly, the tilting and telescopic steering wheel has a manual control rather than electronic.
The leather seats are configured to mimic the shape of the human spine to seat seven passengers comfortably and safely. The second row seats slide, as well as recline. Volvo’s innovative integrated child seat is optional as is a massage function.
Standard features like a panoramic sunroof, a 12.3-inch digital and configurable gauge cluster, and a separate climate control system for the rear seats further enhance the interior.
If the interior is the ace in the whole, then the XC90’s engine lineup is its royal flush.
True to Volvo’s commitment of utilizing four-cylinder engines exclusively, the XC90 offers two versions, one for its gasoline model, the T6, and the other for the world’s first seven-seat plug-in hybrid, the T8. Don’t let the numbers, six and eight, fool you. They only imply the kind of performance the T6 and T8 deliver, 316 and 400 horsepower, respectively from their supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder powertrains. Wow.
The EPA estimated fuel economy for the T6 is 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The plug-in hybrid should get an estimated fuel economy of 59 mpg equivalent (mpge) that includes a 17-mile range on electric power. Both are matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway and outlying areas, the XC90’s performance and handling was truly impressive, even more so with the Dynamic mode engaged. Drivers can also choose Comfort, Eco, and Off-road driving modes.
Known for advances in safety, e.g. the integrated child safety seat, Volvo equips the XC90 with the latest collision avoidance systems—run-off road protection and auto braking at an intersection—as well as all-wheel drive with instant traction control.
The blind spot information system, parking sensor, 360 surround view (back-up) camera, and lane keeping aid are available as part of optional packages. At least one of these systems should be standard, especially on a Volvo.
Still, the new XC90 won’t disappoint Volvo fans and more than likely, will win a few more.
Pricing for the XC90 T6 and T8 starts at $49,895 and $69,095, respectively.