2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription AWD
We spend some time in Volvo’s newest Luxo-SUV
It’s…beautiful. Is this the nicest looking SUV you can buy right now?
To our eyes, it just might be. It is easily the most striking vehicle in the Volvo portfolio. These days, high-end SUV’s are having a bit of an identity crisis; they’re trying to be too much like sports cars. Lowered suspensions, chopped rooflines and ridiculous horsepower outputs do not a family-centric SUV make. The XC90 has a bit of that upright, boxy 240 styling from Volvo’s of old but seamlessly combines it with the best of modern Scandinavian design. From any angle, it looks strong, purposeful and handsome. Those “Thor’s Hammer” headlights are as arresting as they are insanely bright.
So the theme of Swedish awesomeness continues in the interior?
We spent a week in the coddling confines of the XC90’s interior, and it wasn’t even close to enough time to appreciate all the detailing typically reserved Volvo has endowed this cockpit with. The way the bleached wood and flawless metal trim combine to tastefully adorn the console, dash and doors could pass as luxury décor in the most extravagant homes. Look at the drive mode selector on the console. It’s a delightfully solid metal cylinder with these little dimples that feel great to touch. It rotates with a well-oiled click, too- pleasing stuff. Don’t even get us started on the seats; they’re perfect. You can sum up the XC90’s interior thusly: it’s a textbook exercise in restrained ostentatiousness. The infotainment is also hugely intuitive and easy to use- if you’ve ever used an iPad, you’ll feel instantly at home.
It’s a Volvo, so it has to be seriously safe, right?
Correct. Volvo is touting this as the safest SUV you can buy, and we believe them. There are the usual gaggle of airbags, sensors and cameras all designed to keep you out of trouble, but there are two unique newsmakers at play here. One is the City Safely system which will allow for autonomous driving in traffic conditions while keeping a watchful eye on you and your passengers. There’s also some trick anti-roll technology that will keep the tires on the ground in even the gnarliest of collisions or unplanned off-road excursions. Even with all these technologies and a full suite of driver aids, the XC90 is built with bank vault solidity, and it all feels very reassuring.
So it looks good and it’s safe. What’s it like to drive?
The XC90 indulges drivers with an experience that builds on the already nice-to-flog previous generation. Our tester was equipped with the optional 4-corner air suspension, not the cheapest option at $2,350 but worth every penny. It lends a luxuriously plush ride and yet it never floats or wallows and will softly crouch down when you park to make your exit easier. The steering is a bit light for our tastes but what it lacks in effort it makes up for in precision. 10 years ago it would have been ludicrous to install a little 2.0 litre four cylinder under the hood of a full size luxury SUV, but Volvo’s Drive-E engine is actually up to the task. It makes 320 horsepower and 295lbs/ft. of torque, numbers that are impressive for an engine of that displacement and cylinder count. If there is a criticism, it’s that no matter the situation the XC90 conveys a sense of unblinking stoicism, even with the drive selector set to its most aggressive settings. We wouldn’t mind a little more fun.
But what if I want more power?
Horsepower junkies, fear not- your fix will arrive in the form of the T8 version, which promises its engine output will be augmented by some kind of electrified hybrid drive. Numbers haven’t been finalized yet, but expect around 400 horsepower. If Volvo wants to compete on the same level as their competitors who all offer sports oriented versions of their mega SUV’s they’ll need to speak with their colleagues across the hall from the Polestar division. The XC90 has such a competent chassis that it practically begs for more oomph.
Does it guzzle fuel like my neighbour’s V8 powered SUV?
In theory, no. Let’s put it this way: the XC90, when driven prudently, it returns a commendable 9.4L/100km on the highway. When you exploit the boost of both blowers under the hood, efficiency is sacrificed at the altar of performance. During our test, we subjected the XC90 to all kinds of conditions and the throttle openings that go along with them, and we were able to coax 14.2L/100km- nothing to get excited about, but that figure comes in lower than many other SUV’s of similar size and weight we’ve tested. In the quest to eke out as much as possible from each droplet of fuel, it’s also equipped with an engine stop/start function. Normally this would be cause for regret as other small displacement boosted four cylinder engines we have encountered stop and start with the subtlety of a broken washing machine. Without a doubt the system installed on our XC was by far one of the best permutations of the tech on the road.
So what’s the verdict?
If you are shopping high-end SUV’s, this has to be on your shopping list. Not only does it give its competitors a run for their money in the departments of styling, interior fit and finish and safety, but its price seriously undercuts the usual suspects in the class by a healthy margin. Some folks we spoke to had reservations about purchasing a Chinese owned, Swedish designed car in its first year of production (not to mention one based on an entirely new platform.) In our case, the heart wants what it wants, and we want an XC90.
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription AWD – Specifications
- Price as tested: $77,650
- Body Type: 4-door, 5-passenger SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged inline-4, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 320 @ 5,700 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 295 @ 2,200 rpm
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,154 kg (4,750 lbs)
- Observed fuel economy: 14.2L/100 km (17 mpg)