2017 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription Review

A refined and elegant Swedish SUV for the whole family

Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer

Positives: Truly artful interior, excellent exterior design, superb and highly original infotainment system, high-quality materials throughout most of the cabin, powerful four-cylinder engine, ridiculously good seats.
Negatives: Piano black plastic looks cheap next to other higher-quality interior materials, third-row seats don't offer much leg or headroom, infotainment has a high initial learning curve.
Bottom Line: If you're interested in a premium three-row SUV, the Volvo XC90 is a smart choice. It's more affordable than the competition, luxurious and attractive, and a real pleasure to drive. The third-row seats are tight, but so are the rearmost seats in many of its competitors. The Volvo XC90 is the perfect SUV for the well-to-do family interested in a non-pretentious high-class European SUV.
 View Our 2017 Volvo XC90 Overview
Volvo’s XC90 was redesigned in 2016 in a big way. The long-awaited 2nd-generation vehicle looks nothing like its predecessor, and Volvo has taken some pretty big risks by introducing an SUV that's so radically different from anything it's ever done. It's the first truly original vehicle under Chinese Geely ownership, and it represents something truly significant for the once purely Swedish brand. The first-gen XC90 was on the market for a very long 13 years, so it seemed like the right time for Volvo to do something big.

Last year we drove the plug-in hybrid version of the new XC90 and came away very pleased. Recently, we got the chance to get behind the wheel of the gas-only version of the vehicle for a week to see how different it is from its more environmental sibling. Read on for our full review.

Driving Experience



Volvo’s supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine produces quite a lot of power despite its small size. It’s plenty powerful enough to move the three-row SUV with authority. Power delivery differs dramatically depending on the drive mode you select, as do the steering and handling. In comfort mode, the vehicle is a soft and smooth vehicle anyone can love. In dynamic mode, the SUV comes alive, and it feels ready for a more aggressive driving approach.

Ride Quality: The XC90 is smooth over rough pavement in any driving mode. While dynamic mode does firm up the suspension, it doesn’t make it unpleasant. If you’re interested in a silky smooth ride, the XC90 delivers.

Acceleration: The supercharged and turbocharged engine moves the vehicle along faster than you might think. There are faster three-row SUVs out there, but don’t think this vehicle is slow just because it has four-cylinders. The car's throttle lags in Comfort mode but responds quickly in Dynamic. Recorded 0-60 times are about six seconds, pretty quick for a vehicle this large.

Braking: The brakes are strong and offer good pedal feel. They bring the SUV to a halt without issue.

Steering: The steering is smooth and light, but not so light that it’s difficult to place the vehicle on the road. You’ll feel in control, whether you’re tooling around a parking lot, cruising on the highway, or moving quickly down a curvy road.

Handling: In dynamic mode, the vehicle doesn't have much body roll and is happy to attack a curvy road. In comfort mode, there’s more body roll, and the SUV is happiest when it's cruising along at a comfortable pace. No matter the drive mode, the XC90 feels well-planted and instills confidence.




The large 9-inch tablet-like touchscreen is the command center for just about everything in the XC90. It runs the Sensus system, which is one of the best out there. The system includes Sensus connect with Wi-Fi hotspot, Volvo On-Call, navigation, Bluetooth, and a wide variety of other apps. It’s also the place to control all settings for the car, from how the vehicle drives to seating adjustment. There’s a lot of tech in this vehicle, and the more you use it, the more you’ll love it.

Infotainment System: The touchscreen is quick and responsive. The graphics are some of the best we’ve seen. It’s a sleek and modern system but can feel a bit labyrinthine at the beginning. Once you get used to it, you’ll want nothing else.

Controls: Other than the “home” button, a handful of audio control buttons on the center stack, and the steering wheel controls, the touchscreen controls just about everything. This takes a little getting used to, but once you do, it’s easy to use.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing an Android phone was intuitive and easy. Re-pairing was automatic upon re-entry.

Voice Call Quality: We experienced no issues. Calls were clear on both ends.




The XC90 is one of the most elegant-looking cars on the road. Nothing about it is over the top or over-styled. There are enough eye-catching elements to make it interesting but not so many that it's obnoxious. There’s a soft, natural, and emotional appeal to the cabin and a similar aesthetic on the outside.

Front: The front features a large Volvo corporate grille with vertical bars and the logo. To each side of that are the Thor’s Hammer headlights. These two elements work well together, making one of the best front ends on the market today.

Rear: The rear features the now famous long Volvo d-shaped taillights, big rear glass and a low and wide rear end. Volvo did a good job making the back of the vehicle look wide instead of tall.

Profile: The XC90 is a tall car, but Volvo does a fine job of keeping things beautiful, losing the somewhat awkward proportions of the previous generation. The front glass is slightly raked, and the rear glass and pillar are nicely angled. Sheetmetal work is kept crisp and not overly dramatic, but the stunning spoked wheels and the tasteful chrome bar on the rocker panel up the appeal.

Cabin: Nobody does interiors like Volvo. The beautiful matte wood trim, the buttery leather, brushed aluminum, and soft touch material all work well together and look high-class. The only thing we aren’t crazy about is the piano black plastic. Compared with the other materials in the cabin, the plastic doesn’t stack up, and we wish Volvo would have gone with something a little more opulent. That being said, there’s little of the plastic in the cabin.




While the technology and driving experience are great in the XC90, the best thing about the vehicle is how comfortable it is. Ergonomically, the XC90 is excellent, and the high-quality materials on the seats and throughout the cabin improve things even more. Pair that with some of the best seats in the business and you have levels of comfort that border on awe-inspiring.

Front Seats: The 10-way power front seats with memory, heating, ventilation, massage, and some of the softest leather out there are possibly the best seats around. They offer plenty of support and bolstering, and the massaging function makes them more comfortable than most of the furniture in your house.

Rear Seats: The second row seats offer similar levels of support, but less bolstering. There’s plenty of room and the seats in our tester were heated. The third-row seats were supportive but cramped. Most adults won’t be comfortable in them for long periods of time.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The XC90 is quiet at any speed. The engine makes a little noise when you get on the gas, but it’s not so loud as to ruin the experience. We noticed no rattling or needless vibrations, either.

Visibility: Front, rear, and side visibility in the XC90 is very good. You might think seeing out the rear would be difficult, but the rear seats’ headrests fold down, making it very easy to see out the back window. The cameras and sensors pick up anything you might otherwise miss.

Climate: The four-zone electronic climate control system keeps the cabin of the XC90 at the optimal temperature. The heated and ventilated seats help as well. They’re powerful and worked quickly.




The XC90 lives up to Volvo’s reputation for being a safe vehicle. It scores high in IIHS safety ratings. However, if you look at the competition’s ratings, you’ll find that Volvo doesn’t blow them away.

IIHS Rating: The Volvo XC90 is a Top Safety Pick. It received “good” ratings in all crashworthiness testing and a “superior” rating in crash avoidance and mitigation testing. The headlights were only rated “marginal” and the child seat anchors “acceptable.”

Standard Tech: The XC90 comes with a lot of safety equipment standard, including a low-speed collision avoidance system with pedestrian alert, run-off road protection and mitigation, roll stability control, road sign information, lane departure warning with driver alert control, child safety locking rear doors, and LED headlights and fog lamps with corner illumination.

Optional Tech: Our tester was equipped with the following optional equipment: 360-degree surround view camera, auto dimming rear view and side mirrors, blind spot information system, and cross traffic alert.




The Volvo XC90 offers plenty of places inside the cabin to stow items and a large cargo area that is on par with both Audi and Mercedes-Benz. The elegant interior doesn’t provide massive storage bins, but there’s plenty of spaces to put small items while driving.

Storage Space: The space under the armrest isn’t very large, but it’s suitable for small items you keep in your pockets. To the right of the gear selector are two cupholders and a small storage bin. In front of that, there’s an additional small storage bin that’s good for spare change or keys.

Cargo Room: The cargo area features just under 15 cubic feet of space with all seats in place. That's more than enough for a couple of suitcases. With the second and third row folded flat, the XC90 holds 85.7 cubic feet of gear, which sits midpack between the Q7's 71.6, and the GLS's 93.8 cubic feet

Fuel Economy



In a big three-row SUV like the XC90, you can’t expect too much in terms of fuel economy. Still, Volvo's SUV manges to do well, thanks to its supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine. It matches the most fuel thrifty version of the Audi Q7 and beats the Mercedes-Benz GLS outright, according to EPA estimates.

Observed: 20.8 mpg.

Distance Driven: 251 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove a mixture of city and highway miles, covering more ground in the city. We were probably heavier than we needed to be on the throttle at times. Conservative drivers would have a better chance at hitting the EPA estimates.




The Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system with 19 speakers includes a tweeter center speaker on top of the dash and a subwoofer for rich, full-bodied sound. This is one of the best sound systems out there and warrants its steep $3,200 price tag.

Final Thoughts

The XC90 is easily our favorite 7-passenger premium SUV. The Q7 drives better, and the GLS has more room, but the XC90 looks and feels like a million bucks. Volvo really pushed the envelope with the XC90, and the payoff was huge, helping revive the once stale brand. It’s luxurious, elegant, practical, and enjoyable to drive. While it does have a high price tag, compare it with the competition, and you’ll find it’s very reasonable. Volvo spent its money in all the right places and delivered a redesigned top-of-the-line SUV that is appealing to a wide audience. If you’re looking for an upscale seven-passenger SUV, you can’t do much better than this.

Check out our Buy or Bail Video Review:

Shopping for a used
Volvo XC90?