In the best Swedish invasion since ABBA, Volvo’s flagship SUV has been turning heads and opening pocketbooks since it arrived on our shores for 2016. The 2018 XC90 offers a bold, elegant design, a spacious interior so gorgeous that it deserves a place of honor in Stockholm’s Moderna Museet, and a trio of four-cylinder engines (one with an assist from a battery pack and two electric motors) that rival their six-cylinder competitors for performance. There’s even the ultra-luxurious Excellence model—perhaps better dubbed Opulence—that comes standard with a set of crystal champagne flutes. Our starry-eyed devotion to the XC90 isn’t complete, though. Its forced-induction powertrains are a little rougher than the silky V-6s we’re accustomed to in this segment, and harsh impacts occasionally jostle the cabin despite the suspension’s best efforts. Still, it’s a dynamically sound, luxurious, and slightly outré approach to family-size luxury, and the package is nearly perfect.
What’s New for 2018?
Changes to the XC90 are mostly limited to minute tweaks to optional packages and equipment. Some important features have been made standard across the XC90 family this year, including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. Three new colors replace three outgoing ones, and the T8 plug-in powertrain is now available even in the entry-level Momentum trim level. The plug-in powertrain has a new battery pack that earns it five extra miles of EPA range compared with previous models, and all three powertrains have seen bumps to their EPA ratings.
- T5 Momentum: $47,895
- T5 R-Design: $52,895
- T6 Momentum: $55,345
- T6 R-Design: $58,945
- T6 Inscription: $60,445
- T8 Momentum: $65,945
- T8 R-Design: $69,545
- T8 Inscription: $71,045
- T8 Excellence: $105,895
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
Volvo’s decision to nix six-cylinder engines from its lineup mostly pays off, and the XC90’s double-boosted four-cylinder T6 engine can hold its own. An occasional hesitation in response to the throttle and some moaning from under the hood at high rpm temper our esteem for the XC90’s powertrains. The XC90 can be had in three flavors, all of them riffs on the theme of Volvo’s 2.0-liter turbo four. The base model, features the 250-hp turbocharged T5 engine paired with front-wheel drive. The more powerful T6 version adds supercharging to the turbocharging system to result in 316 horsepower. It’s optional in the base Momentum trim and standard in Inscription models; the engine only pairs with all-wheel drive. The 400-hp plug-in hybrid XC90 T8 starts with the T6 powertrain and adds two electric motors and a charging port. All XC90 engine variants are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. In addition to delivering rapid acceleration, the plug-in XC90 is rated by the EPA to provide 14 miles of EV-only range. It requires three hours to charge from empty using a 240-volt outlet. The XC90 is not quite perfect on the road. As with many vehicles in the class, the Volvo leans noticeably around curves, but its steering responses are accurate, and the wheel has a pleasing heft that splits the difference between feather-light and heavyweight.
EPA fuel-economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest numbers on current and older vehicles, visit the EPA’s website and select Find & Compare Cars.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The XC90’s interior is a masterpiece of the medium. From the attractive shapes to the quality of the materials. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are now available as a stand-alone option in T5 Momentum models, and the heating steering wheel can be ordered as an individual option in upper trim levels, heated rear seats are now part of the Luxury package available to buyers of the Inscription trim. It may have an impressive available features list, but buyers who choose an unadorned version of the XC90 won’t have access to most of them. The XC90’s wide, boxy silhouette helps in the storage department, where it offers more overall cargo volume than anything else tested here. Interior compartments, while beautifully designed, aren’t as cavernous as in some competitors.
Infotainment and Connectivity
A handsome, tabletlike 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard in all XC90s, and its operation is mostly intuitive. The system could be improved by adding more hard buttons and expediting response times. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two of our favorite features, are now standard across the XC90’s lineup. Audiophiles may mourn the loss of the XC90’s available CD player, but the rest of us moved on to digital long ago. Volvo’s Sensus Connect system is attractive, and basic functions are easily viewed on the home screen.
Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings
Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer’s Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer’s CPO program.