FIRST IMPRESSION: Clean, classic, and sophisticated, Volvo’s flagship SUV is a satisfying blend of luxury and sleek simplicity with a comfortable ride that any client will love.
It’s clear that Volvo has found a winning recipe with the second-generation XC90, its top-of-the-line SUV that happens to be its biggest. With a classy and streamlined exterior (seriously, that front end is stunning) and a seemingly unfussy interior, you can’t help but think that everything has its place in this midsize, 7-seater, all-wheel-drive beauty.
When it comes to shopping for luxury vehicles today, the sky is the limit. Some vehicles look more like a disco lightshow on wheels while others are stuffed with more useless gadgets and apps than the bloatware on your new smartphone. Those elements can be cool and even helpful when purchased as a personal car, but they aren’t always practical when being driven by a new chauffeur every day.
The XC90 feels like it bridges that gap between purposeful and elegant. You’ll find a lack of buttons and dials as almost everything is controlled by the touchscreen or steering wheel for a clutter-free dash. You’ll find luxurious and special touches throughout, like the wood-grain panels in the floor and hidden storage compartments, but the distractions are kept to a minumum. Once we got used to Volvo’s infotainment tech, we blew through the controls. Hidden behind that slick display and console are all the features you need in a chauffeured transportation vehicle: Adaptive Cruise, Lane Keeping Assist, Pilot Assist, 360-degree cameras, head-up display (speed and directional), and Google-based software (real-time navigation system via Google Maps as well as hands-free assistance with Google Assistant). Throw in charcoal leather seats (the Livery Edition even includes heated rear seats), 20" alloy wheels, a panoramic moonroof, power and foot-activated trunk lid, heated telescopic steering wheel, and—surprise—a third row, and you have one heck of a competitive SUV.
Although it is a three-row seater, don’t confuse it for a large SUV—at 195 inches long, it’s squarely in the midsize range. Its size also means it drives more like a sedan or crossover, so handling is a dream, especially in tight spaces. We particularly enjoyed the 360-degree camera, which, based on its bevy of smartly appointed lenses, gives you a clear picture of your surroundings, including from overhead.
TRIMS: B5, B6 (Livery Edition), Recharge (electric option)
MPG: 20/26/23 (city/highway/combined B6)
HEADROOM (rear second/third row): 38.5"/36.3"
LEGROOM (rear second/third row): 37"/31.9"
CARGO (behind third row/second row, loaded to headliner): 12.6 cu. ft./35.6 cu. ft.
PRICE (fleet): $54,495, destination fee included
Additional information: Livery Edition includes a 36-month/100,000-mile factory warranty as well as a 36-month/150,000-mile powertrain warranty. Factory Scheduled Maintenance is also included for the first three service intervals.
Separately, we all noted that it had a whisper-quiet start, which we learned is thanks to its “mild hybrid” technology. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Volvo explains it this way: “The mild hybrid powertrain, also known as MHEV, utilizes both a combustion engine and an electric motor. The MHEV is used to start the engine and brake or slow the car, thereby recovering brake energy that is stored in the 48V battery. This energy is then used to help boost the combustion engine when accelerating.” In other words, it’s so quiet AND fuel efficient that you’ll wish you had this vehicle when sneaking out of your house as a broke teenager. (Note that it has an EPA estimated MPG of 20 city/26 highway/23 combined for the B6 trim. Volvo also offers the fully electric XC90 Recharge, which we did not test.)
We also noticed that the low-noise environment applied to the road too, while bumps were cushioned no matter where you sat in the vehicle. The pickup was phenomenal as the B6 trim (in which the Livery Edition is available) we tested has a 2.0L Turbo I-4 with 295 HP and reached highway cruising speeds effortlessly. It was a relaxing ride all the way around.
While the XC90 can seat up to six passengers (plus the driver), we can reasonably see this accommodating up to four adults if you include the front seat. When not being used for a passenger, the middle seat in the second row can fold down into an armrest with cup holders. Those seats are also heated (as part of the Livery Edition) and passengers can control their own climate with surprisingly powerful output from vents in the console and doors. With headroom of more than 38 inches and legroom of 37 inches, all our testers were comfortable with room to spare. The seats can also recline for even more adjustability and comfort.
The third row has a max legroom of just under 32 inches with a head clearance of 36.3 inches, which might be a bit cramped for some but could be useful in a pinch. That row is nothing to sneeze at, but many will find that it’s easier to keep it folded for the additional cargo space that it will provide.
Bottom line: It’s obvious that Volvo knows how to put together one heck of a luxury vehicle with the perfect amount of technology and style that makes any trip a pleasant one. If you’re looking for practical and affordable luxury, this should be on your short list. [CD1223]