2016 Volvo xc90 overview cars.com electricity grid uk


One of the first true luxury three-row SUVs on the market, the XC90 has been a huge success, but it took years for Volvo to give such an important car a significant update. Unlike the previous generation, last sold as a 2014 model, the redone XC90 doesn’t offer front-wheel drive. It comes only with all-wheel drive, but still seats seven occupants in three rows. See the 2014 and 2016 compared side by side here.

The whole look is solidified by what Volvo is calling Thor’s Hammer LED headlights. Sadly, these lights are not standard on the base trim, called Momentum; they come on the R-Design and Inscription trim levels. The standard lights look fine, but I can’t remember a headlight I was more enamored with than this. That said, though, I’m not one to be overly enamored with headlights.

The rest of the exterior is what one would expect, and the horizontal rear taillights are a nice adaptation of what’s been used on Volvos for most of the past decade. Nineteen-inch wheels are standard, and they look good. Twenty-, 21- and 22-inch wheels are available as well.

Of all the XC90’s terrific attributes, the driving experience is somewhat lackluster. It’s not bad, just forgettable. In this space, though, among those likely to drive the XC90 to work, school, soccer practice and the regular road trip, that experience is likely what’s actually desired.

The only available engine is a new four-cylinder that’s both turbocharged and supercharged, good for 316 horsepower and 295 pounds-feet of torque. The XC90’s standard transmission is now an eight-speed automatic, replacing the earlier generation’s six-speed.

The XC90 has more power than the V-6 engines in the Acura MDX and Buick Enclave, but less than the Land Rover LR4’s 340 horses. However, the Volvo’s EPA-estimated gas mileage of 20/25/22 mpg city/highway/combined is better than the Buick’s and Land Rover‘s, and the combined rating bests the all-wheel-drive Acura.

This sweet spot of power and fuel economy translates to acceleration that’s acceptable but won’t excite. The Buick and Land Rover don’t excite either, but I was recently impressed with how fun the latest MDX’s engine is with its new transmission. You can compare them here.

There are various driving modes, including one aimed at performance and one at fuel-efficient driving. I preferred the Normal setting to both Dynamic and Eco. In Dynamic the accelerator didn’t respond in a natural manner, and the adaptive suspension was too rough for the minimally improved handling response. In Eco mode, the right pedal barely reacted at all to pressure. I’d use it only in heavy traffic.

Inscription models get a walnut inlay that looks fantastic along the door panels, dash and especially the center console, where a wood cover slides over the cupholders. It’s so pretty you might not want to open it to stow your coffee or bottled water.

The front seats are very comfortable, and overall visibility is good. The second row of seats is comfortable for outboard passengers, and our test car had an optional built-in booster seat in the middle seat. My 6-year-old daughter loved sitting in the booster, which is a rather affordable $250 option. (Though she may have just been ecstatic to sit in a real leather seat instead of the less-posh materials she’s gotten used to in her lifelong use of child-safety seats.) Still, for a parent, this will come in handy.

The third row is less comfortable in terms of seat materials, which are noticeably thinner than the second row’s. Headroom is tough for full-grown adults. Shorter teens and tweens will find it acceptable, if a bit hard to reach, mainly due to a very narrow doorsill they’ll have to pivot over to get there.

If you shuttle a lot of people often, the standard four-zone climate control is a nice feature, allowing all three rows to control their airflow and temperature (the two front occupants get their own zones). I’ve also always been a fan of Volvo placing the second-row air vents high in the door pillars, so the air actually reaches rear passengers’ faces. The XC90 also features vents for the second row in the center console, like you find in most cars. Fellow parents of carsick kids will appreciate the added airflow.

Today’s cars are more computer on wheels than ever, and Volvo is making a bold move by placing a single, large touch-screen in the middle of the dashboard to control nearly all in-car features, from air conditioning and navigation to safety features like lane departure warning. Only the Tesla Model S sedan compares in its use of an interface like this.

It’s essentially a 9-inch tablet seamlessly integrated into the dashboard, with a single physical home button at the bottom. Having tested nearly every touch-screen on the market, I imagined this execution would have problems. Most systems incorporate fewer functions, with a few more physical buttons to fall back on.

The home screen shows the status of navigation, media, phone and system updates. Along the bottom of the screen are the climate control icons. Being able to access the standard heated and available cooled seats, fan speed, temperature and fan directly impressed me most.

All the controls react to touch quickly and, more important, predictably. The system isn’t flawless, though. While the everyday controls are done well, accessing the safety systems is a bit cumbersome, as is adjusting stereo settings, which are separated from the media menus where they belong.

At 15.8 cubic feet behind the third row, the XC90 is slightly larger than the MDX’s 15 cubic feet but smaller than the Enclave’s 23.3 cubic feet. I found it plenty large enough for a modest grocery trip, with more than acceptable space when the third row is folded flat.

Volvo’s safety reputation is not going to be besmirched by the new XC90, which has earned a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That represents the highest possible score in all tests, including Superior for its front-crash prevention system. The XC90 had not been crash-tested by the federal government as of publication.

Other features can be added in option packages, like a lane keeping aid I and some other editors felt was too aggressive. This was evident when driving on an under-construction highway with a semi-truck on one side and a concrete barrier on the other. As lane markings shifted, the system pushed the vehicle toward the barrier significantly enough to startle me. This is the exact scenario another editor experienced and expressed concern about.

The base price of $50,795, including destination, might make your eyes pop, but when you take into account the standard all-wheel drive, power liftgate, navigation, heated front seats and panoramic moonroof, it’s not considerably more than competitors.