Volvo XC90 brings luxury and style to SUVs

2020 Volvo XC90 - Banff

When we looked at the Volvo V60 Cross Country a couple of weeks back, a main point was that the five-passenger all-wheel-drive station wagon matches the luxury level of cars that people more commonly choose as status symbols – such as the BMW 3 Series, which you see frequently here in the Merrimack Valley, especially with BMW’s xDrive four-wheel-drive option.

But a big disadvantage for Volvo’s V60 Cross Country is that, for all the model’s assets, station wagons just don’t have much standing with American drivers.

That disadvantage vanishes when you step up to the Volvo XC90, a three-row, seven-passenger crossover sport-utility vehicle. SUVs today enjoy the highest standing among American drivers.

The XC90 is unabashedly upper-crust, with elegant style, cushioning comfort, solid and assuring road manners, and abundant advanced technology. As a large, premium-quality, high-capacity cruiser, it rides in the upper price tier of the family sport-utility market. The Volvo XC90 starts at $49,345, but you can ignore that price because it gives you only front-wheel drive. With conditions like we experienced during Tuesday’s snow, drivers around here universally opt for all-wheel drive, which adds $2,500 and brings the model’s opening list price to $51,845.

The XC90 can run as high as $68,495 when you select a top-level model with captain chairs in row two, and a four-wheel-drive hybrid power option that combines electric and gasoline propulsion to reduce gasoline consumption.

And of course, there are options. The middle-level, model-year 2020 Volvo XC90 is recently evaluated topped out at $74,735. Its add-ons included LED (light-emitting diode) headlights with curve-turning movement. Its highbeams illuminated the nighttime mountain roads in our White Mountains almost with the clarity I’d expect in daylight.

The optional heated steering wheel consistently was the warmest and most comforting I’ve experienced. (A lot of heated steering wheels cool with extended use, which is disappointing; the Volvo XC90’s stayed toasty.)

The Bowers and Wilkens top-level audio system – which added $3,200 to my test-model’s sticker price – was a pain. But that’s only because six-year-old Casey and eight-year-old Allie, grandchildren, insisted that I play at high volume satellite radio’s channel 73, which currently is devoted to “holiday classics.” Still, when Christmas numbers by Frank Sinatra or Nat Cole aired, I appreciated the sound system’s stirring performance.

Beneath those added-on luxuries, the XC90 excelled at the fundamental tasks that make large crossover sport-utilities valuable to families. During a shopping excursion, the crossover wagon comfortably accommodated two adults up front, and that six- and eight-year old with their blaring holiday music on child booster seats in the second row. The Volvo still had ample hauling capacity for some very seasonal merchandise. That included a big bag filled with boxes of Van Otis truffles, purchased as gifts at the celebrated candy maker’s North Andover shop. It also included a Christmas tree, loaded diagonally across the back after the third-row seats were folded flat to expand the cargo floor.

True, the tree was a smallish size. But it wasn’t tiny. And the Volvo could have readily handled a large tree with a couple of straps to fasten it to cross bars on the roof rails.

As a full-size, seven-seat sport-utility, the XC90 travels at a commanding height above the pavement. But it’s not as upright and boxy as many other models in the class. Therefore hoisting and fastening an eight-foot Christmas tree would have been less challenging for me in the Volvo than for drivers of, say, a hulking Cadillac Escalade SUV. Derived from the Chevy Silverado pickup truck, an Escalade stands nearly 75 inches tall. The height of the Volvo XC90 is a shade under 70 inches.

The XC90 has a more elegantly elongated and streamlined appearance owing to its lower roofline, and to body creases that emphasize length over height. The car’s rounded and smoothly shaped nose helps it avoid the bluntly boxy aspect of so many other large sport-utilities.

Inside, the cabin is laid out to be smoothly functional. The big, tablet-sized touchscreen for controlling entertainment, communication, cabin environment, and more, is integrated with air vents, so that the recessed unit cleanly occupies the center of the dashboard. That leaves room for an expanse of richly covered and artfully shaped volumes facing the passenger seat. Artful shapes predominate inside the XC90, from sculpted headrests and console top to door handles, speaker covers, and pretty much every other feature your eye finds.

Volvo offers three power options in the XC90. Front-wheel-drive models, called T5 versions, use a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 250 horsepower with the help of a turbocharger. All-wheel-drive versions, dubbed T6 models, add a supercharger to the engine, boosting output to 316 horsepower. The gasoline/electric hybrid-drive model, the T8, adds to electric motors to assist the T6 engine. Total output comes to 410 horsepower.

The hybrid-powered XC90 features a plug-in port so that its batteries can take charges from the electrical grid – rather than rely entirely on its on-board generator that’s turned by the gasoline engine. Volvo advertises that a fully-charged XC90 T8 can travel about 24 miles on electric power alone, with no aid from the gas engine.

In line with Volvo’s traditional emphasis on safety, the XC90 comes with forward obstacle monitoring and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot and rear-cross-traffic monitoring, and lane-keeping aid.

The Volvo XC90 possesses qualities and characteristics that make it stand out as a luxurious transporter. As a family sized crossover sport-utility vehicle, it has the added advantage of being a vehicle type that Americans favor right now.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at



2020 Volvo XC90

Vehicle type: 4-door, 7-passenger, front- and all-wheel-drive crossover sport-utility vehicle

List price: $49,345 to $68,495 (plus options)

Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles basic warranty; 12 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 3 years/36,000 miles free schedule maintenance

Base engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged I4

Power: 250 horsepower at 5,500 rpm; 258 lb-ft. torque at 1,500 rpm

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 117 inches

Length: 195 inches

Width: 76 inches

Height: 70 inches

Weight: 4,375 pounds

Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons

Turning circle: 38.7 ft.

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