If there is just one virtue that the 2018 Volvo XC90 possesses in spades, it’s elegance. Beginning from the extra classy exterior styling to the impressively well-appointed interior, the XC90 exudes panache. It’s a luxury crossover with all the fancy vibes you could ever think of.
More than a good-looking vehicle, though, the 2018 XC90 drives well and has precise handling and a sense of stability on the road. It has plenty of room inside and an abundance of high-tech safety features, both on the standard equipment sheet and available as options.
All of this includes up to a respectable and desirable crossover, but there are a few drawbacks. The main problem: the XC90’s powertrains. While Volvo’s turbocharged (T5) and turbo-and-supercharged (T6) four-cylinder engines work fine in the brand’s smaller cars, they seem less ideally suited for the big XC90. Performance and fuel economy suffer as a result. The T8 hybrid fares better, but it’s pricey. And we’ve found all XC90s can have a rather rough ride over bumpy roads when fitted with the bigger optional wheels. That’s not something you expect, or want, in an SUV of this caliber. The XC90’s flaws aren’t fatal, though. There is a lot to like about this upscale crossover, and if it ends up on your short list, we recommend a test drive.
READ ALSO:2016 Volvo XC60 Review
For 2018, the Volvo XC90 has some additional equipment as standard such as adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (previously optional) are now standard as well.
If you’re interested in a good balance of luxury feature content, performance and price point, the XC90 T6 Momentum is our choice. It stays with the smaller 19-inch wheels, which will help with the XC90’s ride-quality issues, but it also gets plenty of the top-trim level equipment such as four-zone automatic climate control, adaptive headlights and heated front seats. And if that isn’t great enough for you, there’s always the R-Design and Inscription trim levels that up the ante quite a bit without the need to switch over to the T8’s hybrid powertrain.
READ ALSO:COMPLETE 2016 LEXUS RX350 REVIEW
trim levels & features
The 2018 Volvo XC90 is a luxury crossover SUV with three seating configurations and four different trim levels: Momentum, R-Design, Inscription and Excellence. Regular XC90s are referred to as the T5 and T6, while the hybrid is also called the T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid. The Momentum trim level comes with plenty of standard equipment such as a rearview camera, lane departure warning and an impressive 9-inch touchscreen. The R-Design is the sporty version of the XC90, while the Inscription and Excellence are more luxury-focused with equipment such as ventilated front seats and an adaptive air suspension.
For standard equipment, the T5 Momentum is given a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine (250 hp, 258 lb-ft), an eight-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, keyless entry and ignition, faux leather (premium vinyl) upholstery, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar adjustment), driver-seat memory settings, 40/20/40-split second-row seats (with individual slide and recline functions), a 50/50-split third-row seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Technology features for the T5 Momentum include Pilot Assist semiautonomous driving mode, adaptive cruise control, a 9-inch central touchscreen, a navigation system, voice controls, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio and a USB port.
The T6 upgrades to a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine (316 hp, 295 lb-ft). The T8 Plug-In Hybrid makes use the same turbocharged and supercharged engine as the XC90 T6, but it adds an 87-hp electric motor. Total output is 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. With a 240-volt charging station, fully recharging the pack takes only about 2.5 hours. The EPA estimates pure-electric range at 14 miles. Both the T6 and T8 Momentum models get 19-inch wheels, a larger digital driver information display, leather upholstery, heated front seats, third-row seating and four-zone automatic climate control. T8 Momentum models also gets LED adaptive headlights and an additional interior illumination.
READ ALSO:COMPLETE 2018 HYUNDAI SONATA REVIEW
The R-Design trim level includes 20-inch alloy wheels, unique grille and exterior accents, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, upgraded sport seats (with power thigh support), leather upholstery, illuminated step plates and aluminum mesh cabin accents.
The XC90 Inscription (available on T6 and T8) is similar to the R-Design but has its own wheels and interior and exterior trim. It also has upgraded leather upholstery, heated front seats, ventilated front seats with adjustable side bolsters, and rear side window shades.
Available only on the T8, the Excellence trim level practically turns the XC90 into a four-seat luxury limousine. In the place of the rear bench seat, the Excellence adds two captain’s chairs with footrests, a rear center console with folding trays, a touchscreen controller, heated and cooled cupholders and two crystal glasses. All four seats in the Excellence come standard with ventilation, heat and massage functions. Additional upgrades include bright exterior trim, 21-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension, extended leather upholstery, additional sound deadening, a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system, included rear seat USB ports and a refrigerator.
Options for the XC90 are mainly grouped into packages. The Momentum Plus package includes the adaptive headlights, headlight washers, the larger driver display, illuminated step plates and added interior illumination. You can pick the Convenience package to add front parking sensors, automated parking assist, a surround-view camera, heated windshield washer nozzles and, in the cargo area, a grocery bag holder and a 12-volt power outlet. The Luxury package (Inscription only) adds heated rear seats, a simulated suede headliner, leather grab handles and sun visors, and a massaging function for the fronts seats.
Individual option highlights (depending on trim level) include 20-, 21- or 22-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension (with adaptive dampers), a heated steering wheel, a head-up display, a built-in second-row child booster seat and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system.
Each car typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription (turbocharged and supercharged 2.0L inline-4| 8-speed automatic | AWD).
|Overall||3.5 / 5.0|
|Driving||3.5 / 5.0|
|Comfort||4.0 / 5.0|
|Interior||4.0 / 5.0|
This T6 is a big, three-row SUV with a 316-horsepower four-cylinder engine. The best word for this combination is “adequate.” Drivers with hilly commutes, serious grades or tough highway merges might want to look for something with more power. Handling is competent and controlled.
From the first time you sit down, it’s obvious Volvo spent a lot of time on the XC90’s seats. They’re great. What’s not so great is the ride. Our tester suffered from impact harshness over any bump that sent a physical and audible shock through the cabin. The cabin is extremely quiet otherwise.
Exceptional front seats. As with other Volvos, the XC90’s headrests don’t adjust, but everything else does. Tons of thigh adjustment, great lateral support and lots of available lumbar adjustments. The second-row seats slide and recline.
READ ALSO:2018 FORD EXPEDITION VIDEO REVIEW
When funished with the optional 21-inch wheels, the XC90’s ride can only be described as unsophisticated. The SUV bangs over small bumps and bounces over the big ones. The ride is well controlled after the initial bump harshness.
Noise & vibration
With the exception of the wheel-tire-suspension smack, the XC90 is very exceptionally quiet. No wind or tire noise. It’s the kind of quiet that makes you speed on the highway. Some engine wheezing during hard acceleration.
A bit of a mixed bag from Volvo. Materials, design and workmanship are very good, class-leading in some areas. Ergonomics and functionality are behind the leaders. The centerpiece of the XC90 is a big 9-inch touchscreen that is very quick to respond, but it controls more functions than it should.
Ease of use
Even after you’ve mastered the big touchscreen’s menus and controls, there are features that are hard to use and unnecessarily packaged into the screen, such as climate control, radio tuning and seat heating. Trip computer and gauge controls, too, are inscrutable.
Getting in/getting out
Apart from the optional air suspension, the XC90 has a neat trick: It automatically lowers itself once parked, making getting in or out a snap. The doors aren’t particularly long, which makes access in tight parking situations easy, too.
The cabin of the XC90 feels open and spacious. There’s plenty of room for driver and passenger, who won’t feel cramped. The second row offers good legroom, headroom and width for two adults. The kids-only third-row seat is typical for the segment.
Sightlines are very great with a clear view of where the hood ends. Side and rear visibility are on par for an SUV this size. Volvo’s 360-degree camera tends to skew your surroundings, making it hard to identify poles, walls and curbs.
While it isn’t necessarily a class leader, the XC90 does well in the utility category. A large cargo storage area, decent tow rating and helpful features make it relatively utilitarian.
READ ALSO:ACURA TLX 2018 EXPERT REVIEW
With all of the seats folded, there’s a generous 85.7 cubic feet of space. There’s also a handy (optional) button in the cargo area that lowers the rear suspension, lowering the load floor.
The XC90 can tow up to 5,000 pounds, keeping it about the middle of the pack among luxury hybrid SUVs.
While the Volvo’s infotainment system is attractive, it can be significantly harder to learn than rival systems, especially with the abundance of buttons on the dashboard. Also, certain controls are buried deep in the system where they’re hard to find even if you know where to look.