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Volvo XC90: The Ultimate Buyer's Guide

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The 2016 Volvo XC90 is supposed to be the SUV that gets Volvo back in the garages of the moderately wealthy and abundantly sensible. What do you need to know before you buy an XC90? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.

The original Volvo XC90 was a mainstay of Volvo’s lineup for years. Specifically, it was in the lineup for 12 years. That’s too many years. But the 2016 model is the first all-new car we’ve seen from Volvo since it was taken over by Chinese automaker Geely, and it has the potential to make or break the company.


Someone who’s never even seen one in the flesh yet might be quick to dismiss it as some Chinese-knockoff of what a Swedish car should be, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s one of the few cars that feels like it’s from this year, instead of just filled with goodies from the tail end of the President Obama’s first term. It oozes clean and classy Swedish design from every crease and corner, and the staggering level of technology inside helps this slightly-large SUV easily punch above its price point – though that isn’t exactly small, either.

What It’s Like To Drive

If you just looked at the Volvo XC90 on paper, you might think it’s some very strange joke, or one of the slowest cars of all time. Weighing in at a little under 5,000 pounds, it’s all powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine. That sounds like a lot of car to haul for an itty-bitty engine, but the truth of the matter is that that 2.0-liter engine is one of the few on the market that’s actually twincharged – both turbo- and super-charged. The supercharger is spun up by the engine itself, helping out with low-end grunt. The turbocharger is fed by the exhaust gases, giving a big push when it comes to the high-end stuff.


The end result is that it’s got a suprrising amount of get-up-and-go for what it is. Don’t worry, it definitely won’t be setting a searing sub-seven-minute lap time at the Nurburgring any time soon, but you’ll never find yourself slowly questioning your own existence in the slow lane, and you won’t find yourself totally wanting at the onramp.

But this is a family hauler, not a sports car, so it’s more about what it’s like sitting on the inside than it is about tearing up a back road. It’s absolutely cavernous inside, with available seating for seven, and the interior really is a triumph of modern design. It really is nigh-impossible, if you asked some other automakers that shall go unnamed, to include elements of contemporary style without sucking all the warmth and life out of an interior. But somehow, Volvo’s done it. Natural-finished wood, an available Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and natural-toned leather swaddling almost every surface make you feel like King Carl Gustav V himself. There are even little Swedish flags on the seats.

The XC90 is loaded for bear when it comes to the tech inside as well, and it’s not even always so obvious as to be in-your-face. The seats took seven years to develop, longer than the rest of the car itself, and they really are the next best thing to just straight-up floating in a womb. The Bowers & Wilkins stereo system has three settings – studio, individual stage, and Gothenburg Concert Hall – and that last one is where the speakers really shine. Knock it as a gimmick all you want, but Volvo decided to replicate the exact acoustics of the home of the National Orchestra of Sweden, and next time you listen to Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing, you most definitely won’t miss a thing. You might even discover a few things about yourself, depending on how loud you go. I may or may not have.

Other techno-wizardry bounties apply, like a heads-up display, an infotainment system which really just functions like Apple’s iPad (along with Apple’s CarPlay system), and a pseudo-autonomous driving mode called Pilot Assist. Pilot Assist only works below 30 miles per hour, so it’s mostly designed for stop-and-go traffic. Up until we tried Tesla’s Autopilot, we actually really liked Volvo’s Pilot Assist. It’s a great way to just hate yourself that little bit less on your janky, jerky morning commute. Pilot Assist doesn’t work quite as well as Autopilot, however, and it tends to stop a little short, leave gaps in front of you that are a little too big, and it tends to lose sight of the lane markers.


It’s a neat party trick.

What’s New About The 2016 Volvo XC90


The XC90 is very all-new. No, not just an “evolution.” This thing sit on a new platform, gets new efficient powertrains, a fresh eight-speed automatic transmission, fancy suspension and all-wheel drive systems, a new nine-inch touchscreen infotainment display, dramatic new styling inside and out and tons of driver-assist features.

Volvo went all-out on this XC90 because this really is Sweden’s most important car in years. The body is over 200 pounds lighter than the outgoing model, there’s an available hybrid powertrain, available air suspension, and, of course, numerous safety features that only the Swedes can pull off.


Powertrain Breakdown

There are two powertrain options for the 2016 XC90. There’s the 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged inline four, which cranks out a healthy 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. And then there’s the turbo and supercharged plug-in hybrid engine, which produces 400 ponies and 472 torques. Both engines are mated to a “GEARTRONIC” eight-speed automatic transmission.


The 2.0-liter non-hybrid is enough to get the 4,400 pound luxury SUV to 60 MPH in 6.1 seconds and the plug-in model’s 400 horses accelerate its 5,000 pound girth to 60 in an even faster 5.7 seconds. Both models are pretty quick.

2016 Volvo XC90 Engine Options

EngineMax Horsepower (hp)Max Torque (lb-ft)
2.0L Turbo I4

316 @ 5700 rpm

295 @ 2200 rpm

2.0L Hybrid I4

400 @ 6000 rpm

472 @ 2200 rpm

Fuel Economy Breakdown

That baby 2.0-liter under the hood works with the eight cogs in the transmission and the sleek new sheetmetal to score 25 MPG highway and 22 MPG combined. Those are very competitive numbers for the segment.


The plug-in hybrid XC90 hasn’t yet been tested by the EPA, so mileage figures are unknown for now. Volvo estimates a 25 mile fully-electric range, but we’ll have to see if EPA testing confirms that number.

2016 Volvo XC90 Fuel Economy Ratings (City/Highway/Combined)

-2.0L Turbo I42.0L Hybrid I4

Not Yet Tested

Trim Level Breakdown


The Volvo XC90 T6 and XC90 T8 Plug-in Hybrid each come in three trim levels: Momentum, Inscription and R-Design, all of which come standard with all-wheel drive.

Steering for all XC90s is electric and suspension is a double wishbone design up front and a multi-link setup with a transverse composite leaf spring in the rear. Brakes are vented discs all the way around with 13.4-incher in the front and 12.6-inch pies in the rear.

  • Momentum: Starts at $49,800. Notable standard features: 2.0-liter supercharged and Turbocharged I4, all-wheel drive, 8-speed automatic transmission, adjustable drive-modes, Collision Avoidance with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection, 19” alloy wheels, Panoramic sunroof, LED fog lamps, hands-free power tailgate, 12.3-inch instrument panel display, nine-inch Volvo Se infotainment touchscreen, 330-watt 10-speaker audio system, navigation system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, satellite radio, leather seats, Lane Departure Warning, Road Sign Information, Park Assist Camera, hill descent control, Rain-sensing wipers, four-zone climate control, third row seats, 10-way power driver and passenger seat with lumbar and memory, heated front seats, power folding rear headrests. Notable options: Air suspension with active damping ($1,800+Convenience Package); Head-up display ($900); Momentum Plus Package: adaptive LED headlights with active high-beams, headlight cleaning ($1,900); Bowers and WIlkins Premium Sound System ($2,650); Climate Package: heated washer nozzles, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, heated windshield ($1,050); Convenience Package: Park Assist Pilot, Homelink Remote Garage Door opener, Adaptive Cruise Control with Pilot Assist, Compass, Lane Keeping Aid ($1,800); Vision Package: Blind Spot Information System and Cross Traffic Alert, 360 degree Surround View Camera, retractable dimming mirrors ($1,800);
  • R-Design: Starts at $53,800. Notable standard features over Momentum: 20” alloy wheels, LED headlights with Active Bending Lights and headlight cleaning, auto highbeam and Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights, R-design Newbuck and Nappa leather seating surfaces, power cushion extension for front seats, unique interior trim, unique R-design grille and other exterior trim. Similar options as Momentum minus Momentum Plus Package and no heated steering wheel available on climate package.
  • Inscription: Starts at $55,400. Notable standard features over R-Design: unique 20” alloy wheels, Nappa leather seats, dashboard and upper door panels, walnut wood inlays, ventilated front seats. Notable options:
  • Plug-in Hybrid Momentum: Starts at $68,100. Notable standard features over Momentum: 87 horsepower electric motor for total of 400 hp, power cushion extension for front seats, unique all-wheel drive system with electric rear axle drive, unique 19” wheels, LED headlights with Active Bending Lights and headlight cleaning, auto high beam and Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights
  • Plug-in Hybrid R-Design: Starts at $70,000. Notable standard features over R-Design: 87 horsepower electric motor for total of 400 hp, unique all-wheel drive system with electric rear axle drive. Otherwise similar to R-Design.
  • Plug-in Hybrid Inscription: Starts at $71,600. Notable standard features over Inscription: 87 horsepower electric motor for total of 400 hp, unique all-wheel drive system with electric rear axle drive. Otherwise similar to Inscription.

Which One We’d Buy

We tested the T6 Inscription, and though we haven’t tested the plug-in hybrid yet, we found it to be just peachy. It’s still got that twincharged wizardry, but it’s also got the supreme comfort, supreme elegance, and supreme tech that this car deserves. With the T6 base model you already get all-wheel-drive, and the Inscription package adds another $5,600.


Throw in the Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($2,650), the climate package for a heated steering wheel and rear seats ($1,050), the convenience package for the Pilot Assist feature ($1,800), and the vision package for that sweet, sweet 360º camera (another $1,800), and you’re cooking with a pricey, albeit completely worth it, little recipe.

All in all, it’ll set you back $63,695.

[Build Your Own Volvo XC90]

Important Facts At A Glance:

MSRP: $49,800-$71,600 Top Speed: 130 MPH

Acceleration: 5.7s to 60 [Plug-in hybrid]

MPG: 20 city / 25 hwy / 22 combined [Non-hybrid (hybrid not yet EPA tested)]

Engines: 2.0-liter turbo & s/c I4, 2.0-liter turbo & s/c hybrid I4

Max Horsepower/Torque: 400 hp/572 lb-ft [Plug-in Hybrid]

Max Advertised Towing Capacity: 5000 pounds

Curb Weight: 4,627-5,059 pounds IIHS Safety Rating: Top Safety Pick +

Transmissions: 8-Speed Automatic

Drivetrain Layout: Front Engine, 4WD

Photo credit: Volvo