What's New for 2010
The 2010 Volvo XC90 gets a standard third-row seat and sees its model lineup trimmed to three, as the R-Design trim is no longer available with the V8. Additionally, the chassis has been tweaked for claimed improvements to ride and handling, rear park assist is now standard, and some other standard and optional features have been shuffled.
The 2010 Volvo XC90 traces its roots back to 2003, when the crossover craze was just getting underway. Back then, people with traditional body-on-frame SUVs were starting to realize that they no longer had to put up with trucklike handling and ride qualities -- the car-based crossover SUV was here to save the day. Today, the automotive marketplace is brimming with capable luxury crossovers, yet the XC90 is still fundamentally the same as it was in '03. Fortunately for Volvo, the XC90 was a pretty good vehicle in the first place, and it continues to be a competitive but not class-leading crossover.
With the arrival of its excellent XC60 compact crossover for 2010, Volvo is doing its best to maintain interest in the aging XC90. In particular, the company is emphasizing the XC90's exclusive third-row seat, which enlarges passenger capacity to seven versus the XC60's five. We can't argue with that, but it's important to note that the XC90's third row compromises second-row legroom, so it's not all roses. The XC90 also offers an optional V8, though its smaller stablemate is actually quicker with its standard twin-turbocharged inline-6.
If you're sensing that we're not exactly convinced by Volvo's pro-XC90 campaign, you're on to something. Another trouble spot is the base 3.2-liter inline-6, which lacks turbocharging and frankly doesn't have enough oats to feed this draft horse. We're not even fans of this engine in Volvo's V70 station wagon, and the XC90 is significantly heavier. That weight also contributes to the XC90's unimpressive fuel economy, which ranges from 18 combined mpg in front-wheel-drive inline-6 trim to 15 mpg for the all-wheel-drive V8.
The XC90 does have a first-rate interior, decent driving dynamics and perfect safety scores, but some of its competitors have all of that and then some. In addition to Volvo's own XC60, we'd recommend checking out the Lexus RX, Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Volkswagen Touareg. And if you need a third row in a still somewhat tidy package, take a look at the Acura MDX, BMW X5 and Toyota Highlander. Don't get us wrong: The 2010 Volvo XC90 is certainly a nice luxury crossover. It's just that the competition has moved forward over the past eight years, and the XC90 has more or less stood pat.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The seven-passenger 2010 Volvo XC90 is a premium midsize crossover SUV that comes in three trim levels: 3.2, 3.2 R-Design and V8. The 3.2 comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, rear park assist, leather upholstery, power front seats with driver memory settings, a power passenger seat, wood interior trim, tri-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and an eight-speaker stereo with a CD/MP3 player and auxiliary/USB jacks. The 3.2 R-Design adds 19-inch alloys, a sport-tuned suspension and steering system, and a variety of R-Design upgrades, including sporty exterior styling cues, a sport steering wheel, special leather upholstery and watch-dial instrumentation. The XC90 V8 loses the R-Design accoutrements but gains exclusive 18-inch wheels, the V8 engine, all-wheel drive, color-keyed fenders and body-side moldings, heated front seats, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers, a special air filtration system and unique interior wood inlays.
All XC90s are eligible for the Multimedia package, which includes satellite radio, a Dynaudio surround-sound audio system, a navigation system with real-time traffic and -- on V8 models only -- bi-xenon headlamps. The Climate package is available on six-cylinder models, and adds the heated front seats, headlamp washers, rain-sensing wipers and air filtration system. The V8-only Executive package ramps up the luxury with 19-inch aluminum wheels, upgraded leather upholstery, massage and ventilation functions for the front seats, heated rear seats, leather door panels and center console cover and a wood-trimmed steering wheel, as well as an optional refrigerator. Stand-alone options include adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, a blind-spot warning system and a dual-screen rear entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Volvo XC90 3.2 and 3.2 R-Design come with a 3.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine rated for 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The XC90 V8 gets a 4.4-liter V8 good for 311 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control. XC90 3.2 models come standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive (AWD) is available as an option. The AWD system is standard on the XC90 V8.
In performance testing, we recorded a 7.4-second sprint from zero to 60 mph in an XC90 V8 Sport. That's merely adequate by current standards, and the 3.2 models are considerably less sprightly. Fuel economy ratings are mediocre at best, ranging from 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined for the 3.2 FWD to 13/19/15 mpg for the V8.
Standard safety features on the 2010 Volvo XC90 include antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and anti-whiplash front seats. The optional blind spot warning system monitors vehicles entering the XC90's blind spots, alerting the driver via indicator lights.
In government frontal and side-impact crash tests, the XC90 earned a perfect five stars for all occupants. Likewise, the XC90 earned ratings of "Good," the highest possible, in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's frontal-offset and side-impact crash testing.
Interior Design and Special Features
The XC90's cabin was penned as Volvo was transitioning to its current sleek design aesthetic, and it has stood the test of time remarkably well. Materials are of almost uniformly high quality, and controls are stylish yet intuitive, though the XC90 lacks Volvo's trademark "waterfall" center stack that's available on the brand's newer vehicles. The center position in the second row has an integrated child booster cushion that slides forward, allowing easier access to children in the back. Legroom in the rearmost quarters is better than in many competitors, although at the expense of second-row legroom. Cargo capacity is just 8.8 cubic feet behind the third row, but it expands to an ample 93 cubic feet with the third and second rows folded.
The 2010 Volvo XC90's base 3.2-liter inline-6 struggles noisily to get the vehicle up to speed. It's just not up to the task of propelling this nearly 5,000-pound SUV. The V8 model's performance and refinement are much improved with a minimal fuel economy penalty, but it'll cost you. Both XC90 models ride quietly and smoothly on the highway, but they're hardly sporty, claimed improvements for 2010 notwithstanding. The 3.2 R-Design model feels somewhat more buttoned-down thanks to its sport-tuned suspension and steering, but it's saddled with the inferior engine.