What Is It?
The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a seven-passenger large luxury crossover. It represents bold steps forward for both the Volvo brand and this vehicle segment itself, with innovative powertrains (including a plug-in hybrid), distinctive styling, an ultra-modern and high-tech cabin, and numerous safety advancements.
What's New About This Model?
The current XC90 dates all the way back to 2003, making it a dinosaur among competitors that have undergone one or two redesigns in that time period (let alone numerous new models introduced to the market in the last 10-plus years). As such, just about everything that can possibly be new about the 2016 Volvo XC90 is new. It retains the name, the same general shape and is still a seven-passenger luxury crossover with a safety-first emphasis, but that's about it. Even the Volvo emblem and the easily recognizable corporate grille have been tweaked.
How Big Is It?
The 2016 XC90 is wider and longer than before, but also lower, creating a more planted stance. It is bigger than a BMW X5, but smaller than an Audi Q7. Five seats will be standard, but three rows with space for seven passengers will be a popular option. According to Volvo, the rearmost row can comfortably accommodate those who are 5-foot-7 or shorter. This is quite generous among competitors like the X5 and Acura MDX, but less roomy than most non-luxury large crossovers.
What Kind of Engines and Transmissions Does It Have?
Every 2016 Volvo XC90 will initially come with all-wheel drive. The base T6 AWD model will be powered by the same 2.0-liter turbo- and supercharged inline-4 engine coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain greatly impressed us in the smaller Volvo XC60 crossover, although it will be a bit more powerful in the XC90 at 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Volvo has not yet released fuel economy data, but given the XC60's impressive mpg figures, expect excellent efficiency for the segment.
Excellent, but likely not the best, because there's a good chance that distinction could rest with the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid. The same turbo- and supercharged inline-4 powers the front wheels, while an 80-hp (60 kW) electric motor drives the rear wheels. Combined output is 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque, which isn't too far off from the V8-powered BMW X5. Don't expect the same sort of thrust from the battery-filled and therefore heavier Hybrid model, but a 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds is still mighty quick considering you can cover 25 miles on electricity alone. Again, fuel economy estimates have not been released, but should be better than any other seven-passenger crossovers -- luxury or otherwise.
What Is the Interior Like?
While the exterior styling is very much an evolution of the previous car, the interior might as well be a different species. Apart from the familiar steering wheel badge, there are no visual similarities between old and new XC90.
The new 2016 XC90 is the epitome of modern, uncluttered Swedish design. The two-tone color schemes accented in rich wood trim, metal accents and even crystal glass on the shifter pair with an abundance of leather to significantly elevate the interior ambiance to a level Volvo has never previously approached. In a way, the XC90 is now more of a luxury SUV with family pretentions, whereas it was arguably the reverse before.
That uncluttered look is largely achieved by the large, vertically oriented touchscreen interface that will control virtually everything a button, knob or multi-purpose controller would in another car. This includes a standard navigation system, the sound and climate systems, a range of Internet-based apps, and perhaps most notably, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration technologies that allow you to more completely control your mobile device using the car's touchscreen and voice commands.
Of course, such all-encompassing infotainment interfaces can be either very good or incredibly frustrating, so we'll have to wait until we get a chance to experience it on the road to render a verdict.
What Safety Features Does It Offer?
This is a Volvo, so it should come as no surprise that the XC90 puts an emphasis on keeping its occupants safe. Volvo's City Safety auto-braking is standard and expanded to detect and react to vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. A new run-off road protection system detects when the XC90 has unintentionally left the road and pre-tightens seatbelts. The seats are also designed to absorb spinal loads to reduce injuries during a hard landing.
Besides these rather advanced systems, the usual array of airbags is standard, with the exception of rear side airbags, which Volvo says were not needed due to the exceptionally stout protection provided by the XC90's body structure.
How Much Does It Cost?
Volvo has not released complete pricing on the 2016 Volvo XC90, but the T6 AWD's base price will be $48,900. Although there is likely to be a cheaper, less-powerful T5 version available later, this represents nearly a $10,000 increase over the outgoing XC90. It does come with a far more powerful and advanced engine, plus a generous features list (items like navigation and a panoramic sunroof are typically optional in this segment) and an interior in keeping with a push upmarket.
To provide an idea of what a generously equipped XC90 will cost, the XC90 T6 AWD First Edition will have a price tag of $65,900 and include 21-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension, heated and ventilated seats, heated second-row seats, a power-operated third row, and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system.
When Does It Go on Sale?
Orders have already been taken for the 500 XC90 First Edition models bound to arrive at U.S. dealerships in April 2015. Mass-production models will show up shortly thereafter.
What Models Will It Compete Against?
Acura MDX: This popular three-row crossover is a well-rounded choice that boasts strong value, ample high-tech features, sharp handling and robust crash scores. It lacks the Volvo's high-tech powertrains and likely doesn't offer the same luxurious interior ambiance.
BMW X5: The BMW X5 should lineup well with the XC90 in terms of luxury and performance. It should trail the big Volvo in regards to its third-row space and cargo volume, but if history is any indication, will be more engaging to drive.
Infiniti QX60: This is one of the scant few luxury-branded crossovers in the XC90's price range that may boast more third-row space. The QX60 is indeed known for its generous passenger space, along with user-friendly technology features and decent fuel economy. However, it's also less involving to drive than most competitors.
Should You Wait for It?
If you're looking for a large, family-oriented luxury crossover, then waiting for the 2016 Volvo XC90 may be prudent. Nothing presently on the market is quite like it in terms of its size, available powertrains and unique design. It has the potential to be a game changer.