What is it: The Volvo XC90 is the company’s seven-seat flagship SUV. It was the first car to be launched on the new SPA platform that now underpins all of its 60 and 90 Series cars. It was also the first to get Volvo’s new tablet-like infotainment system that I love, and old guys like editor Wes Raynal hate.
Key Competitors: Audi Q7, Buick Enclave Avenir, Cadillac XT6
Base Price: $56,695 As-Tested Price: $70,940
Full review: 2019 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription review
Highlights: There aren’t many SUVs — and maybe only one seven-seater — than can get by with a four-cylinder engine and this is it. The XC90 is turbocharged and supercharged, so output hovers above 300 hp and just below 300 lb-ft. There is one engine package that’s more powerful, the four-seat T8 Twin Engine Hybrid with 410 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. The car we’re driving today features the Inscription Package, which checks almost all of the boxes. The Excellence package is still above it, but that bumps the base price from $60K-ish to an eye-watering $100K-ish. But, the question to answer here is “is the Inscription worth it?” Let’s find out.
Our Opinion: I drove the Volvo XC90 when it was new a few years ago and I loved it. The new interior is like one step below Mercedes-Benz and the semi-autonomous setup is one of the best. Full disclosure, I haven’t driven a Tesla. But in the intervening two years, I may have cooled on the XC90 just a bit.
First, that Inscription Package. It costs seven grand and adds a bunch of aesthetic stuff that I now realize I don’t really need. I love the unfinished walnut inlays, but not that much. The leather on the key is cool, as is the illumination stuff, but again, not seven grand good. I’d also toss the premium sound setup for another three grand, so that’s $10,000 I’d whack off the top, making this a really good $60,000 SUV.
The XC90’s infotainment consists of the central screen with three main menus that slide back and forth like a phone screen. The main one is separated into four sections, which means every one is accesible, all of the time. Most importantly, when you hook up Apple CarPlay, it only takes up half the screen, that means you can access the in-car navigation without burning your data using your phone. With most cars it’s hard to toggle back and forth.
Power is great from the turbo/supercharged four. It’s strong low in the range, with aggressive throttle tip-in, and stays that way to almost redline. It obviously doesn’t sound that good, but who really cares? It’s an SUV and a Volvo. It’s meant to be comfortable, not a hot rod. I didn’t notice a ton of changes through the drive modes though.
The handling is OK, nothing spectacular but nothing terrible. The XC90 goes where you point it and it sucks up most of the potholes in and around the city. The steering is medium effort, which is probably a little more than I would have guessed in this car. I would have no problem if this had super easy steering like a big luxury car.
There’s plenty of space in the back for two car seats and space in the back back for a big double stroller, basically the only cargo I carry these days.
They (sales numbers) call this Volvo a “large premium CUV” along with the Audi Q7. But I think it will also compete with the rest of the smaller three-row cars too like the VW Atlas, Subaru Ascent and Buick Enclave Avenir. The Lincoln Navigators, Cadillac Escalades and Mercedes-Benz GLS SUVs of the world are a step bigger. The Q7 is great, if a little soulless, same with the Atlas. I haven’t driven the Subaru yet. This Volvo is high on my list in that group, it’s about six grand cheaper than the Q7 but still a good bit more pricey than Enclave, Ascent and Atlas.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor
Options: Inscription Features with bright chrome bars in front grille, trim with Inscription logo, dual integrated tailpipes with body color insert, linear walnut wood inlay, high level interior illumination, nappa leather key fob, illuminated door handles, Inscription badge ($6,050); premium audio ($3,200); Advanced Package with Park Assist Pilot and front and rear park assist, active bendling lights, headlight cleaning system, visual park assist with 360-degree camera, graphical head up display ($2,500); 21-inch wheels ($800); heated rear seats and steering wheel ($750); metallic paint ($645); integrated center booster seat ($300)
ON SALE: Now
BASE PRICE: $56,695
AS TESTED PRICE: $70,940
POWERTRAIN: 2.0-liter turbo and supercharged I4, eight-speed automatic, AWD
OUTPUT: 316 hp @ 5,700 rpm; 295 lb-ft @ 5,700 rpm
CURB WEIGHT: 4,738 lb
FUEL ECONOMY: 19/26/22 mpg
PROS: Beautiful outside, lovely inside, strong powertrain
CONS: Too tech-y for old folks, very expensive when optioned up
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