Volvo’s most futuristic SUV in years has arrived.
2016 Volvo XC90 T6
EPA Ratings: 20/25 mpg; 22 mpg combined
The first all-new Volvo in more than 14 years is also the most futuristic SUV I have yet experienced. It seems tailor-made for 21st Century urban use, both in its design ethos and the way it goes about its duties.
This starts with its appearance. The honing of recent Volvo design trends into a superbly classy and well-proportioned package means the XC90 makes most upscale SUVs look like they’re trying too hard. Packaging is excellent; the first two rows are supremely comfortable, and even the fold-flat third row will work for adults on a short trip.
The XC90 accomplishes this within exterior dimensions that make a mockery of the “space efficiency” of a BMW X5 or Mercedes GLE. The use of beveled real wood, beautiful leather for the dash and seating, fresh detailing for the controls, a stunning B&O sound system and one of the slickest, fastest, most intuitive infotainment interfaces yet put into a car make it a lovely place to spend time.
Dynamically the Volvo seems built for such mundane drudgery; the ride is very supple despite the bling 21-inch footwear, and it runs very quietly, with accurate steering and smooth handling in its sportier settings.
If the XC90 has a weakness, however, it’s the powertrain. Two liters of four-cylinder turbo- and supercharged motor simply aren’t enough to provide competitive thrust and good economy. Driven very sedately it will indeed hit its EPA ratings, but piloted with any élan and the numbers plunge to those most often associated with big V8s. That’s a real shame, as so much hoopla has been expended on this Drive-E engine and partner 8-speed auto partner. Simply put, BMW’s rated 300 ponies must be much better fed than the 316 horses that Volvo has mustered.
Despite this, the Volvo is easy to fall for. These are certainly the best seats my surgery-ravaged backside has sat upon. The interior architecture imparts an incredible sense of wellbeing. You just know the XC90 will save you from an untimely demise on the roads. It has every conceivable form of safety assist, driver aid and self-parking, and most work superbly. The only one that goes a step too far is the seatbelt interlock, which wont let you maneuver about (in your driveway, say) without clicking in.
But you’ll forgive this nit as you stroke surfaces that are unmatched at the price or as you stop to admire the XC90’s cohesive and discreet handsomeness. With Colorado’s roads more congested than ever, this Volvo is one of the nicer places in which to find yourself stuck.