2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Review

Unique luxury and design minus the snob factor


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Beautifully executed inside and out, powerful forced-induction four-cylinder engine, very safe, supremely lush front seats, interior materials and design that embarrass the Germans.
Negatives: Suspension can be a bit too firm, compromised third-row space, infotainment system still has frustrating lag.
Bottom Line: The XC90 is fresh, incredibly well-designed, and a pleasure to drive. It's a luxury SUV that doesn't make you look (or feel) like a complete prententious jerk, and it's plenty fast and comfortable. We're not sure why it's not more popular.
It's hard to believe the XC90 is on its fifth year of production because it still looks and feels fresh in a crowded segment of premium level SUVs with three rows. Of course, as with most vehicles at this stage, the well-crafted Swedish SUV (made in Torslanda, Sweden but soon to migrate to South Carolina) has received imporant upgrades.

The Sensus infotainment system has been updated, third-row seating is standard, as are heated washer nozzles, a 12-volt outlet in back, and a new four-zone climate control system. These are just a few of the changes to keep the XC90 soldiering on. We drove the near top-trim XC90 T6 Inscription with the more powerful motor, just shy of the top two T8 Hybrid and T8 Hybrid Excellence trims. Read on for our full review.
 

Driving Experience

8.2

 

Big SUVs aren't supposed to be good to drive, but the XC90 strikes the right balance in virtually all categories. Unless you're a complete performance nut, the XC90 strikes the right notes.

Ride Quality: The XC90 is in Comfort mode is cushy without being totally disconnected. Dial it up to Dynamic and things tighten up nicely with firmer suspension.

Acceleration: Who would've thought a four-cylinder would be the right engine for this big SUV? Well, the help of forced induction gives it 316 horsepower and a 0-60 time in about six seconds. Throttle response and shifting are good, as well. We occasionally had some minor lag but Dynamic mode seems to quell it nicely.

Braking: The brakes are strong and bring the XC90 to a halt well with no noticeable nose dive.

Steering: The steering is good, and feedback is decent for a vehicle of this size. It's precise and on-center.

Handling: There's some noticeable body roll, but it's a tall vehicle. Dynamic mode tightens things up, and the heavy XC90 manages its weight well in the turns, rarely feeling out of sorts.

Technology

7.9

 

Kudos to Volvo for taking their tech to the next level. It was a jump of several echelons from the old system to this one, and there have been software improvements since then. That being said, they still have some kinks to work out. The big 12.3" digital gauge cluster is one of the best looking and easiest to use in the industry.

Infotainment System: The big 9" touchscreen looks great but still has some lag, unfortunately. The more you play with it, the easier it is to use.

Controls: Most of the selections are operated through the touchscreen with only a “home” button, some audio contros below the screen and some very good steering wheel controls.

Styling

9

 

Even with the newer lineup of vehicles that came after the XC90 (all of them, really), the XC90 has remained fresh and refined. Volvo designers did a fine job of giving it the right look that's not derivative or trendy.

Front: The fascia is handsome, indeed, thanks to the vertical bar grille with the angled strip and Volvo badge. The Thor's Hammer headlights are simply beautiful and unique.

Rear: The rear view is a tall one, but its mitigated by the handsome D-shaped Volvo taillights and the horizontal lines in the lower fascia. We also love the classic Volvo lettering that remains.

Profile: It's nicely proportioned and even the tall glass doesn't make it look top heavy. Taillights are nicely visible from this angle, and there's judicious use of chrome thats not overdone. The 21" V-Spoke wheels are gorgeous.

Cabin: Nobody does interiors like Volvo. The beautiful (and real) matte wood trim, the soft perforated brown leather, and brushed aluminum are marvelous and very premium. The only thing we aren’t crazy about is the piano black plastic that seems to be everywhere. Otherwise, everything is beautiful.

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Comfort

9.2

 

We always love driving modern Volvos. The seats are sublime, and it just makes you feel good thanks to a brilliant cabin that's ergonomic and airy. Volvo does interiors like on one else at this level.

Front Seats: The 10-way power front seats with memory, heating, ventilation, massage, and some of the softest leather make for a cosseting experience. Cushioning and bolstering are superb.

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. Heated and ventilated seats are fast and efficient.

Safety

9

 

The XC90 nabs some great awards for safety, and the standard and optional safety technology is voluminous. You should feel at peace about driving the XC90 with your whole family.

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 received "acceptable", as well as the LATCH system.

NHTSA Rating: The feds gave the XC90 five full stars in crash tests, the top score.

Standard Tech: It has a bevy of standard features, of which a few are Blind Spot Information System w/ Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keeping Aid & Oncoming Mitigation by Braking, Run-Off Road Protection & Run-Off Mitigation, and the excellent Pilot Assist Semi-Autonomous Drive System with Adaptive Cruise Control.

Optional Tech: Our tester came with Visual Park Assist, a 360 Surround View Camera, Graphical Head-up Display, and automatic high beams.

Storage/Cargo

8.6

 

The Volvo XC90 has a solid amount of cargo space, but its small item storage for front seat occupants could be improved. It's not severely lacking, but in some cases design outranked utility.

Storage Space: The space under the armrest is just medium-sized, but it’s fine for small daily gear. To the right of the gear selector are two cupholders and a small storage bin. The small front compartment under the small sliding door is only good for keys or change.

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, in the middle of the Audi Q7's 71.6 cubes and the Mercedes GLS's cavernous 93.8 cubic feet.

Fuel Economy

8

 

The XC90 in Dynamic mode (the way we drove it), isn't thrifty, but it does well in Comfort mode with more conservative driving habits. EPA estimates are very good, and the XC90 should have no problem beating our numbers.

Observed: 19.4 mpg.

Distance Driven: 118 miles.

Audio

9.5

 

The Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system is a marvel of listening pleasure. The $3,200 asking price for the system alone is a high price to pay, but what you get is an immersive sound experience from the 19 speakers. Plus, the system looks gorgeous with its round center tweeter and huge mesh aluminum door speakers. Customizing sound via the touchscreen results in dramatic differences that are noticeable. It's one of our favorite systems.



Final Thoughts

We still adore the XC90, and it stands up very well to the competition with the right kind of unique style that manages to be sophisticated without coming across as pretentious. Couple that with a truly wonderful interior that looks and feels superb, and you have a car that will look great for years to come. The power is excellent, and the driving experience is very good, though not rewarding. It's the one premium SUV we'd consider for our family, and we can't wait to see what the 3rd generation brings... hopefully a better infotainment system.

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