The 2016 Volvo XC90 marks the SUV’s first comprehensive redesign since its debut in 2003. That made the outgoing version ancient by today’s standards — models typically visit the surgeon about every five years. Advanced safety and understated style have long been Volvo strengths, but the quick evolution and expansion of the large crossover SUV class meant that the old XC90 was no longer the hip, bulletproof icon it used to be.
The 2016 XC90, however, puts Volvo right back in the game. The more assertive styling, with its larger grille, aggressive lower air intakes and slimmer headlights, manages to be modern without losing its identity as a Volvo. A redesigned interior fuses leather, wood and even Swedish crystal glass for a cabin with a high-luxury feel, a theme further reinforced by an available Bowers & Wilkins audio system with 19 speakers.
Under the hood, the 2016 Volvo XC90 gets the company’s new four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. Making 316 horsepower in this application, it comes matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volvo is also introducing a plug-in hybrid version based on the same engine that will make an estimated 394 hp, accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds and be able to cover 17 miles on electric power alone. Although official numbers are not yet available, the fuel economy for the plug-in hybrid could be better than any other seven-passenger crossover — luxury or otherwise.
Of course, the XC90 showcases Volvo’s latest safety advances. Frontal collision detection with automatic braking comes standard and now includes a feature that applies brakes when the driver attempts to turn in front of an oncoming car, such as at an intersection. Another subsystem employs shock-absorbing seat cushions and self-tightening seatbelts to reduce potential spinal injuries if the vehicle careens off the road.
Those shopping for a seven-passenger premium-brand crossover have plenty of choices. The Acura MDX is a top rival with its strong performance, sharp handling and plentiful high-end features. The same can be said of the BMW X5, which also offers a frugal diesel engine option. For a crossover with more room, the Buick Enclave andMercedes-Benz GL-Class both boast exceptionally spacious interiors with adult-friendly third-row seats. But the 2016 Volvo XC90, reinvented and revitalized, is a worthy contender for the 2016 model year.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV that comes in three trim levels: base Momentum, sporty R-Design and plush Inscription. Regular XC90s are referred to as the T6, while the hybrid (late availability) is called the T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid. The following standard and optional equipment is nearly identical for the T6 and T8.
Standard equipment on the Momentum includes 19-inch alloy wheels, adjustable drive modes, foglights, heated mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, automatic wipers, a hands-free power tailgate, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, four-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar), driver memory settings, heated front seats, 40/20/40-split second-row seats (with individual slide and recline functions), a 50/50-split third-row seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Technology features include a configurable digital gauge cluster display, a 9-inch central touchscreen, a navigation system, voice controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone app integration and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and a USB port.
The R-Design additionally features 20-inch alloy wheels, LED adaptive headlights, automatic high-beam control, LED running lights, unique grille and exterior accents, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, upgraded leather sport seats (with power thigh support), a digital gauge cluster display, illuminated step plates, added interior illumination and aluminum mesh cabin accents.
The XC90 Inscription is similar to the R-Design, but features its own wheels and interior and exterior trim. It also has extended leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and rear side window shades.
Options are mainly grouped into packages. The Momentum Plus package includes the LED headlights (with automatic high beams), LED running lights, digital gauge cluster display, illuminated step plates and added interior illumination. The Vision package features power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, a surround-view parking camera system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Climate package includes heated windshield and washer nozzles, heated second-row seats and a heated steering wheel.
You can pick the Convenience package to add front parking sensors, automated parking assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, power-folding third-row seats and, in the cargo area, a grocery bag holder and a 12-volt power outlet.
Individual option highlights (depending on trim level) include 21- or 22-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension (with adaptive dampers), a head-up display, a built-in second-row child booster seat, power operation for the third-row seat and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 comes with an innovative 2.0-liter, supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 316 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is an eight-speed automatic, and all-wheel drive comes standard. At Edmunds’ test track, an XC90 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is below average for an all-wheel-drive three-row luxury crossover.
EPA-estimated fuel economy checks in at an impressive 22 mpg combined (20 city/25 highway). In our real-world testing, however, the XC90 struggled to match those estimates.
The XC90 T8 Plug-In Hybrid utilizes the same engine as the standard XC90 along with an 87-hp electric motor fed by a battery pack. Total output is an estimated 394 hp. Volvo says the XC90 plug-in hybrid will have an electric-only range of 17 miles and can, with both power sources in play, accelerate to 60 mph in under 6 seconds. No official EPA fuel economy numbers were available as of this writing.
The 2016 Volvo XC90’s standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and anti-whiplash front seats. Also standard are a rearview camera, frontal-collision warning (including pedestrian/cyclist protection) and automatic braking for frontal-crash mitigation. The new XC90 also debuts what Volvo calls Run-off Road Protection, whereby if the vehicle goes off the road, the seatbelts automatically tighten up, and the seat cushions absorb impact forces in the event that the vehicle come down hard on its suspension. The Volvo On Call service includes emergency assistance, remote door locking and unlocking, automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle locating.
Safety options include a surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-departure intervention, and a child booster seat built into the center position of the second row.
In Edmunds testing, an XC90 T6 with the 21-inch wheels stopped from 60 mph in 124 feet, which is a slightly longer-than-average distance for this class of crossover SUV.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the XC90 earned a top score of “Good” for its performance in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. It also earned a “Good” score in the side-impact, roof-strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests and a top “Superior” score for its forward collision mitigation system’s accident avoidance performance.