Hybrid Review: 2021 Volvo XC90 and XC60

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Nov 302021
Volvo Cars XC90 Recharge
Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 AWD.

By Andy Stonehouse

After an exciting time in the sizeable Volvo V90 Wagon last fall, I had expected the real, actual SUV version of Volvo’s full-size automobile category to seem impossibly huge, ponderous, and disconnected—kind of like a Swedish Chevy Tahoe. This was not the case with the XC90, except it also was. It’s smaller sibling, the XC60, was more fun to drive.

Volvo’s Flagship SUV, the XC90

XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid

XC90 Plug-In Hybrid Inscription T8 – Seat Configuration

The XC90 is indeed a long and impressively styled and sculpted vehicle, with marvelous details and a very striking set of optional 21-inch glossy wheels to tie it all together. From the outside, it’s a little more obvious that it contains three comfortable rows of six or seven seats where the passengers at the very back get leg room, cargo bins and full amenities.

The newer XC90 T8 Recharge, the 400-horsepower plug-in electric hybrid version of the SUV, belies its moderately grand scale when planted in the driver’s seat. The ride height is more equivalent to a small SUV from other brands, while the cabin does feel broader and more open thanks to the extra head space.

As for that ultra-fancy Recharge hybrid system—my Inscription-level T8 started at $69,750 but was rounded up to a slightly gasp-inducing $81,690 with a gigantic list of options including a $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system—well, you get what you pay for, for the most part, though impressive mileage you do not and will not get.

Volvo has emphasized pure power here and the 400 horsepower and 472 lb.–ft. of torque are more Porsche-like, at least on paper, especially with just a 2.0-liter as the main gasoline power source—turbocharged and supercharged to make 313 horses on its own, before the electric boost kicks in.

What I did notice more than anything, besides a pretty mediocre 24.2 overall MPG (it’s rated at 27 combined highway and city MPG by the EPA), was a lot of odd noises, gurgles, inconsistent power delivery and an operating experience that clearly was going to take some getting used to. Even the Orefors crystal gear shifter knob required multiple taps forward or backward to officially get into gear; the learning curve there was a little steep.

Cruising along in the XC90 was no problem, though the gas/electric power handoffs were a little jagged. Properly charged, in warm weather, with the wind blowing the right direction, you are said to have a full … 18 miles of all-electric range?

That’s disappointing, to say the least, especially since it’s such a classy and dignified vehicle, with razor-sharp suspension. It’s stunningly outfitted in leather seating, a fantastic stereo and hand-stitched console, and dash and door inserts that are even more beautiful than in the V90.

The vertically-oriented Sensus navigation/touchscreen system used to seem enormous before Ram started putting full flatscreen TVs aboard their trucks. Volvo’s is easy to use, with a purist simplicity embodied by one knob.

The XC90’s Spritely Sibling, the XC60

Volvo XC60 Recharge

If you’d like a hybrid experience that actually delivers, the one-size smaller XC60 Recharge, base priced at $61,000 and tested at $71,340, channels that very same powertrain into a more sprightly, responsive and semi-decent mileage kind of situation.

Volvo XC60 Recharge T8 IP display.

Besides the slightly hovercraft-styled reality of the vehicle’s four-corner air suspension system, which set itself down on top of curbs when I parked a couple of times, the 60 seems like a more practical use of the electrified platform. That air system is also helpful if you do want to go lightly off-roading, as it will give you significant lift when you want it.

It’s still 400 horsepower, it’s still got just about 19 miles of full-electric range, but I found it easier to push the mileage into the 30-MPG range, depending on how hard you drive it.

All that electric boost shows up more tangibly here and adds extra oomph to what I believe is one of the most pleasant crossovers of its size category— like the 90, it’s super stylish, comfortable and still utilitarian, with a little less of the pure mass.

It’s also more devoid of the shudder, the ambiguity and the disconnected feeling as the hybrid shifts and blends between electric kick and regular gas-engine wallop.

Design is fantastic, from its ultra-anatomical, perforated leather seats and the cream-colored cabin. The dash is low and flat and the A-pillars thin, though the boxy, oversized side mirrors can get in the way of some visibility, and rear headrests can be automatically dropped to provide clearer rear vision.

Rear seating will still accommodate most passengers, though the cabin is a bit more plain back there, with B-pillar mounted air conditioning and heating vents. You’ll also find reasonable storage space (63.3 cubic feet, total), though the under-deck space is largely used up by batteries and the air bottles for the optional lift system.    

Sí: One of the classiest, most attractive and least gawd-awful-gigantic full-size SUVs around, loaded with technology, and simply wonderful to just sit aboard. The kind of car you wish you would get when you grow up.

No: Volvo’s ambitious and aggressive move to an all-electric fleet might start with hybrids, but an almost $82,000 hybrid that gets 24 MPG isn’t impressing anyone.

Andy Stonehouse is a guest contributor to Latino Traffic Report and a freelance automotive journalist based in Golden, Colorado. All photos are stock, not as-tested.

Luxury Sedan Review: 2018 Volvo S90

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Dec 282018

Competing in the premium segment, Volvo offers what no other manufacturer can, Scandinavian design that combines luxury with function. Latino Traffic Report recently took the 2018 S90 T6 Inscription on a road trip from Austin to Burnet, Texas. The redesigned 2018 S90 full-size sedan showcased the manufacturer’s best assets—design, technology, and safety.

Curb appeal for Volvo’s flagship sedan begins with distinctive design cues, specifically, all new taillights and the t-shape in the headlamps referred to as “Thor’s Hammer.” The luxury sedan also comes with leather seating, a power sunroof, a thirteen-inch digital instrument panel, and chunky real wood accents. In this segment, roominess has its advantages, particularly in the back. Rear legroom in the S90 reaches 35.9 inches.

Innovative technology on the inside includes the tablet-shaped nine-inch touchscreen that interfaces with the Sensus infotainment and navigation systems. To select a function, the driver can slide a finger to the left, right, up, and down. A cleaning cloth to remove fingerprints is included.

Despite its size, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder super and turbocharged engine produces a whopping 316 horsepower and 295 lb.–ft. of torque; it doesn’t sound like a four-cylinder either. Also equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the S90 T6 Inscription test model had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. On the test-drive, it averaged 26.9 mpg.

Volvo has committed to zero fatalities or serious injuries occurring in one of its vehicles by 2020. To do this requires new benchmarks for safety technology. With the S90, Volvo focused on avoiding large animal collisions, a serious driving concern in the Texas Hill Country. Included on the S90, Volvo’s latest technology, the Large Animal Detection system, uses radar to spot animals and trigger automatic braking.

Standard semi-autonomous technology on the S90 includes Pilot Assist. Akin to adaptive cruise control, it allows the vehicle to accelerate, decelerate, and come to a complete stop to maintain a safe distance from the car in front at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour.

Pricing for the 2018 Volvo S90 starts at $47,945. The as-tested pricing for the S90 T6 Inscription came to $69,140.

Sí: Beautiful inside and out, the S90 leaves no doubt of its flagship status.

No: Despite its innovation and beauty there are a couple anomalies, like the telescopic steering wheel that requires manual rather than automatic function to adjust.

Reviews: 2016 Volvo XC90 R-Design

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Jun 072016

2016-05-17 19.40.19

To call the second-generation 2016 Volvo XC90 an award winner doesn’t really capture this Sport Utility Vehicle’s (SUV’s) success. With more than 110 global awards so far, including the 2016 North American Truck of the Year, the XC90 is quite simply, a hit.

Latino Traffic Report was first introduced to the new 2016 XC90 at the launch in 2015. I recently test-drove the 2016 XC90 T6 R-Design and after a week in the vehicle, I can report that my first impressions from the launch were spot on.

2016-05-17 19.39.56The appeal of the R-Design begins on the outside with the XC90’s streamlined silhouette and distinctive design cues, like the T-shape in the LED headlamps, referred to as “Thor’s hammer,” a lower front spoiler, a distinct front grille, and metal mirror side covers.

It’s on the inside, however, that the XC90 pushes Scandinavian design, combining luxury with utility, to its full effect. Catching immediate attention is the nine-inch tablet-sized center display where most of the vehicle’s control functions, e.g. music, climate control, navigation, are stored. A known proponent of preserving knobs for better utility, I can say that this application is the exception to my rule. Using the same sliding motion for a phone or a tablet, I found most of the functions I needed. I did have trouble with radio presets but that was because I was looking for the wrong word. Presets are found under the “library” tab and once selected it reveals every station, terrestrial or satellite, and I scrolled through them quickly and easily to select presets. One low-tech feature I was happy to find was the CD player in the center console.

2016-05-17 19.41.36The next innovation worth noticing is the 12.3-inch instrument cluster, which is completely digital on the R-Design. There is no hardware surrounding the speedometer or tachometer, and while you can scroll through to find information like tire pressure and average fuel economy, a center screen displays a digital navigation map—all XC90 T60s come with a six-month subscription to Volvo’s Sensus Connect navigation system. Other features specific to the R-Design include perforated Nappa leather on the seats and key fob, and perforated leather on the steering wheel and shift knob, and illuminated tread plates, to name a few.

Another cause for applause is the XC90’s powertrain, namely the 2.0-liter four-cylinder super and turbocharged engine that produces 316 horsepower and 295 lb–ft of torque. Offering plenty of oomph the engine is matched to an eight-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the XC90 R-Design is 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. I averaged 20.7 mpg.

Nothing defines a Volvo better than safety. Standard safety features on the XC90 2016-05-17 19.39.11include the City Safety collision avoidance system, Volvo On Call with remote lock/unlock and vehicle tracking, lane departure warning, and rear park assist and camera. The test model included the Vision Package ($1,800) with the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Cross Traffic Alert.

Additional creature comforts include heated front seats, Sirius satellite radio, a hands-free tailgate, four-zone climate control, and keyless entry and drive.

For its part, the R-Design enhances the SUV’s sporty nature with bolstered leather seats that hug the driver and front passenger in place, but tend to grab hold when climbing out.

Finally, the fit and finish truly sets this SUV apart from the competition. Diamond-cut effects on knobs like the Adjustable Drive Mode (the R-Design included Sport, Comfort, Eco, Individual and Dynamic modes) and Start/Stop added elegance as well as a little sparkle.

2016-05-17 XC90.licPricing for the 2016 Volvo XC90 starts at $49,895. The as-tested pricing for the 2016 R-Design came to $67,155.


: The all-new XC90 is as intelligent as it is beautiful with a groundbreaking powertrain, tablet-inspired infotainment screen, and excellent fit and finish.


No: Essential safety features like BLIS and Cross Traffic Alert should be standard on a Volvo.


Reviews: 2014 Volvo XC60

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May 192014


While not the sexiest of topics, car safety technology can save your life. Volvo leads the field by example with innovations like the three-point safety belt that has saved an estimated one million lives. Most recently, Volvo committed to achieving zero deaths or serious injuries in a Volvo vehicle by 2020. That kind of boldness is hot.

Hoping to jazz up its exterior appeal, Volvo introduced the R-Design package in the 1990s, transforming regular models by adding sportiness initially with design cues, and now, improved performance.

On a recent test drive of the 2014 XC60 T6 R-Design for Latino Traffic Report, the small premium utility vehicle proved to be a bit of a turn on.

Among European brands, Volvo appeals immediately with its Scandinavian aesthetic. The XC60 R-Design standard sport seats combine black nubuck textile, perforated leather, and contrasting stitching, and a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) center display in the gauge cluster allows drivers to select among three different themes: Elegance, Eco, and Performance.

2012-volvo-xc60-t6-r-design-interior-photo-455898-s-1280x782On the inside, aluminum inlays, ergonomically placed controls and storage, add refinement. Even the tapered leather sport steering wheel  feels just right.

On the outside, the XC60 R-Design features a frameless Tech Matte Black grille with high-gloss black stripes, plus a silk metal diagonal and a refined R-Design emblem. At the rear, the unique diffuser with aero fins is flanked by the round, high-tech R-Design tailpipes.

On the performance side, the XC60 R-Design’s stiffer chassis has more dynamic driving properties. Tuned to be firmer and more balanced, the shock absorber springs and anti-roll bars improve control and produce a sportier, road-hugging drive.

Advanced Quick Shift is another new standard performance feature for T6 R-Design models that adjust gear changes when Sport Mode is selected or when using paddle shifters.

l-volvo-s60-city-safety-system-blis-2014No discussion of a Volvo product would be complete without talking about safety. The XC60 was the first vehicle equipped with City Safety, a driver support system aimed at preventing or mitigating collisions by stopping automatically at speeds of 31 mph or less.

I’m a big fan of the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), another Volvo innovation, but while manufacturers most place the warning light in the side mirrors, Volvo puts theirs in the A-pillar, which I prefer. It comes as a package, not as standard equipment, however, even on the R-Design model, and includes other technology like Cross Traffic Alert and Lane Change Merge Aid.

The 2014 XC60 offers a choice of two engines. A 3.0-liter, six-cylinder turbo matched to a six-speed automatic transmission powered the test model. A 2.0-liter or 2.5-liter four cylinder engine will be available for 2015, as well as an eight-speed transmission.120157_Volvo_XC60_R_Design

The 3.0-liter had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 17 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. I averaged 20.8 mpg on the weeklong test drive.

Standard luxury features like a laminated panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade and sporty 20-inch alloy wheels set the CUV apart. Features like a navigation system and rear park assist were extras.

Pricing for the 2014 XC60 starts at $35,765. The as-tested price for the XC60 R-Design, with the Platinum ($4,000) and Blind Spot Information System ($900) packages came to $52,665.

For Latino car buyers, safety matters. Rather than downplay it, Volvo’s proud of its safety heritage, and I say, bravo!

Sí: Innovative safety technology and Scandinavian design, especially on the inside, offers elegant utility.

No: Safety features like a rearview camera should be standard, especially on a Volvo, not to mention, the R-Design.