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 sound system with 19 speakers.
Under the hood, the 2016 Volvo XC90 gets the company’s new 4-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 miles per hour 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 car careens off the road.
Those shopping for a seven-passenger premium-brand crossover have plenty of choices. The Acura MDX is a top competitor 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 and Mercedes-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.
We have to give credit to Volvo for audacity. Drop a 4-cylinder engine into a three-row luxury crossover SUV and then supercharge and turbocharge it? That’s crazy talk! But the reality is that the XC90 might just be a little too big for its new base engine. While the power specs are promising, actual acceleration is underwhelming. The XC90 isn’t slow, necessarily, but some other competitor crossovers feel notably snappier and more responsive when you’re accelerating up to freeway speeds or passing a slow-moving vehicle. The fuel-saving stop-start feature is also disappointingly unrefined. At stop lights, it’s overly quick to shut down the engine and tardy in turning it back on.
The XC90’s suspension tuning is another mixed bag. On smooth pavement, the XC90 feels calm and controlled on its available air suspension. But over ruts, bumps and broken pavement, the car delivers too many impacts and jitters to the occupants for a luxury SUV. We’ve only driven the XC90 with the big 21-inch wheels, but based on that experience, we recommend going with smaller wheels if possible to help smooth out the ride. Around turns, there’s better news, as the XC90 inspires confidence with its planted character, feeling smaller and lighter than it really is.
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 sound connectivity, smartphone app integration and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, an auxiliary sound 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 sound system.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 boasts a handsome cabin furnished with high-quality materials. A variety of cabin accents, including a few different kinds of genuine wood and even real carbon fiber, spiff things up while the controls are generally laid out in a logical and uncluttered manner. The 9-inch central touchscreen is oriented vertically rather than horizontally, which Volvo says allows for superior map viewing and menu structures. In usability testing, we found that the screen responded quickly to our inputs, but some features were difficult to access quickly, including the climate, radio and heated-seat controls.
Up front, the driver and passenger accommodations are roomy and comfortable, although tall drivers who slide the seat back may find their elbows hanging off the backs of the door and center armrests. Second-row seating is similarly comfy, thanks to an additional 2.4 inches of legroom compared with the previous XC90. The third row also has more room than before, but is still best left to smaller folks and children. The available child booster seat built into the center section of the 40/20/40-split second-row bench can be scooted forward to put its occupant within easy reach of parents. However, families with more than one little one should note that Volvo’s XC60 and XC70 models offer two of these integrated booster seats.
The XC90 boasts a generous amount of cargo capacity. With all the seats up, there are 15.8 cubic feet available behind the third row. Fold the second- and third-row seats down and maximum capacity stands at 85.7 cubic feet. Both configurations provide capacity that’s at the top of the segment. The standard power tailgate includes a "hands-free" feature that commences the opening process when you wave your foot under the rear bumper.
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 car goes off the road, the seatbelts automatically tighten up, and the seat cushions absorb impact forces in the event that the car come down hard on its suspension. The Volvo On Call service includes emergency assistance, remote door locking and unlocking, automatic collision notification and stolen car 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 SUVS testing, an XC90 T6 with the 21-inch wheels stopped from 60 miles per hour 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.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 comes with an innovative 2.0-liter, supercharged and turbocharged 4-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 SUVS’ test track, an XC90 accelerated from zero to 60 miles per hour 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 extraordinary 22 miles per gallon 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 miles per hour in under 6 seconds. No official EPA fuel economy numbers were available as of this writing.
Sharp new look and style; spacious second- and third-row seating; many standard safety technology features; confident handling; available hybrid model.
With new style, improved interior space and the latest in safety features, the three-row 2016 Volvo XC90 has been reborn into a pretty desirable luxury crossover SUV.