2016 Volvo XC90 Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Sharp new look and style
- spacious second- and third-row seating
- many standard safety technology features
- confident handling
- available hybrid model.
- Overly busy and firm ride quality
- base engine comes up short on performance and real-world fuel economy
- some touchscreen controls are hard to use.
With new style, improved interior space and the latest in safety features, the three-row 2016 Volvo XC90 has been reborn into a pretty desirable luxury crossover SUV.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 marks the SUV's first comprehensive redesign since its debut in 2003. That made the outgoing version ancient by today's standards -- models typically visit the surgeon about every five years. Advanced safety and understated style have long been Volvo strengths, but the quick evolution and expansion of the large crossover SUV class meant that the old XC90 was no longer the hip, bulletproof icon it used to be.
The 2016 XC90, however, puts Volvo right back in the game. The more assertive styling, with its larger grille, aggressive lower air intakes and slimmer headlights, manages to be modern without losing its identity as a Volvo. A redesigned interior fuses leather, wood and even Swedish crystal glass for a cabin with a high-luxury feel, a theme further reinforced by an available Bowers & Wilkins audio system with 19 speakers.
The 2016 Volvo XC90's stunning exterior design sets it apart from other three-row crossovers.
Under the hood, the 2016 Volvo XC90 gets the company's new four-cylinder engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged. Making 316 horsepower in this application, it comes matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volvo is also introducing a plug-in hybrid version based on the same engine that will make 400 hp, accelerate from zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds and be able to cover 14 miles on electric power alone.
Of course, the XC90 showcases Volvo's latest safety advances. Frontal collision detection with automatic braking comes standard and now includes a feature that applies brakes when the driver attempts to turn in front of an oncoming car, such as at an intersection. Another subsystem employs shock-absorbing seat cushions and self-tightening seatbelts to reduce potential spinal injuries if the vehicle careens off the road.
Those shopping for a seven-passenger premium-brand crossover have plenty of choices. The Acura MDX is a top rival with its strong performance, sharp handling and plentiful high-end features. The same can be said of the BMW X5, which also offers a frugal diesel engine option. For a crossover with more room, check out the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class, which boasts exceptionally spacious interiors with adult-friendly third-row seats. But the 2016 Volvo XC90, reinvented and revitalized, is a worthy contender for the 2016 model year.
2016 Volvo XC90 models
The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a five-passenger (T5) or seven-passenger (T6 and T8) luxury crossover SUV that comes in three trim levels: base Momentum, sporty R-Design and plush Inscription. Regular XC90s are referred to as the T5 and T6, while the hybrid is called the T8 Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid. The following standard and optional equipment is nearly identical for the T5, T6 and T8.
Standard equipment on the Momentum includes 18-inch alloy wheels, adjustable drive modes, LED foglights, heated mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, automatic wipers, a hands-free power tailgate, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a digital gauge cluster display, eight-way power front seats (with power lumbar), driver 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 include a configurable digital gauge cluster display, a 9-inch central touchscreen, a navigation system, voice controls, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, smartphone app integration and a 10-speaker sound system with satellite radio, an auxiliary audio input jack and a USB port.
T6 and T8 Momentum models get 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats, third-row seating and four-zone automatic climate control. T8 Momentum models also receive LED adaptive headlights, LED running lights, added interior illumination and power thigh support for the front seats.
The R-Design additionally features 20-inch alloy wheels, automatic high-beam control, unique grille and exterior accents, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, upgraded sport seats (with power thigh support), leather upholstery, illuminated step plates, aluminum mesh cabin accents and the lighting upgrades from the T8 Momentum.
The XC90 Inscription is similar to the R-Design, but features its own wheels and interior and exterior trim. It also has upgraded leather upholstery, heated front seats (T5), ventilated front seats with adjustable side bolsters and rear side window shades.
Options are mainly grouped into packages. The Momentum Plus package includes the LED headlights (with automatic high beams), LED running lights, illuminated step plates and added interior illumination. The Vision package features power-folding auto-dimming side mirrors, a surround-view parking camera system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Climate package includes a heated windshield and heated windshield washer nozzles and front- and second-row seats. It also adds a heated steering wheel for Momentum and Inscription models.
You can pick the Convenience package to add front parking sensors, automated parking assist, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and, in the cargo area, a grocery bag holder and a 12-volt power outlet.
Individual option highlights (depending on trim level) include 21- or 22-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension (with adaptive dampers), a head-up display, a built-in second-row child booster seat, Apple CarPlay functionality and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Volvo XC90 T5 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that produces 250 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. It is available in front- or all-wheel-drive guise and, like all XC90s, is paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Volvo estimates that it will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds in FWD form and 7.9 seconds with AWD. Both times are below average for an all-wheel-drive three-row luxury crossover.
The Volvo XC90 T6 comes with a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that pumps out 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive comes standard. At the Edmunds test track, an XC90 T6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which is about what we'd expect for this class of vehicle.
EPA-estimated fuel economy is better than average, though, at 22 mpg combined (20 city/25 highway). We validated these estimates by achieving overall fuel economy of 22.3 mpg on our 115-mile evaluation loop.
The XC90 T8 Plug-In Hybrid utilizes the same engine as the standard XC90 T6 along with an 87-hp electric motor fed by a 9.2-kWh battery pack. Total output is 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, an XC90 T8, with both power sources in play, sprinted from zero to 60 in 5.5 seconds. With a 240-volt charging station, fully recharging the pack takes only about 2.5 hours. Charging from a standard 120-volt wall outlet extends that time to about seven hours. The EPA estimates pure-electric range at 14 miles and 25 mpg combined when operating in standard hybrid mode, though we were unable to match the EPA mpg numbers in real-world driving.
The 2016 XC90 is offered with several different powertrains, from a turbocharged four-cylinder engine to a high-octane hybrid.
The 2016 Volvo XC90's standard safety features include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and anti-whiplash front seats. Also standard are a rearview camera, frontal-collision warning (including pedestrian/cyclist protection) and automatic braking for frontal-crash mitigation. The new XC90 also debuts what Volvo calls Run-off Road Protection, whereby if the vehicle goes off the road, the seatbelts automatically tighten up, and the seat cushions absorb impact forces in the event that the vehicle come down hard on its suspension. The Volvo On Call service includes emergency assistance, remote door locking and unlocking, automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle locating.
Safety options include a surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-departure intervention, and a child booster seat built into the center position of the second row.
In Edmunds testing, an XC90 T6 with the 21-inch wheels stopped from 60 mph in 124 feet, while a T8 with the same wheels and tires stopped in 119 feet. Both distances are slightly longer than average for this class of crossover SUV. A T6 R-Design with summer tires and 22-inch wheels stopped in an astounding a short 107 feet.
In government crash testing, the all-wheel- drive XC90 received five out of five stars for overall crash protection, with five stars for frontal-impact crash protection and five stars for side-crash protection. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the XC90 earned a top score of Good" for its performance in the moderate-overlap and small-overlap front-impact tests. It also earned a Good score in the side-impact, roof strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests and a top Superior score for its forward collision mitigation system's accident avoidance performance.
We have to give credit to Volvo for audacity. Drop a four-cylinder engine into a three-row luxury crossover SUV and then supercharge and turbocharge it? That's crazy talk! But the reality is that the XC90 might just be a little too big for its new engine. While the power specs are promising, actual acceleration is underwhelming. The XC90 isn't slow, necessarily, but some other rival crossovers feel notably snappier and more responsive when you're accelerating up to freeway speeds or passing a slow-moving vehicle. The fuel-saving stop-start feature is also disappointingly unrefined. At stop lights, it's overly quick to shut down the engine and tardy in turning it back on. We haven't driven the XC90 with the base turbocharged engine, but we expect to similarly find its 250 hp a bit meager for a vehicle of this size. On the other end of the spectrum is the T8 Hybrid. It's quick for sure, but real-world fuel economy suffers in our experience.
The XC90's suspension tuning is another mixed bag. On smooth pavement, the XC90 feels calm and controlled on its available air suspension. But over ruts, bumps and broken pavement, the vehicle delivers too many impacts and jitters to the occupants for a luxury SUV. We've only driven the XC90 with the big 21-inch wheels, but based on that experience, we recommend going with smaller wheels if possible to help smooth out the ride. Around turns, there's better news, as the XC90 inspires confidence with its planted character, feeling smaller and lighter than it really is.
The 2016 Volvo XC90 boasts a handsome cabin furnished with high-quality materials. A variety of cabin accents, including a few different kinds of genuine wood and even real carbon fiber, spiff things up while the controls are generally laid out in a logical and uncluttered manner. The 9-inch central touchscreen is oriented vertically rather than horizontally, which Volvo says allows for superior map viewing and menu structures. In usability testing, we found that the screen responded quickly to our inputs, but some features were difficult to access quickly, including the climate, radio and heated-seat controls.
The 9-inch touchscreen works and looks like a tablet. It's quick to respond to inputs, but oft-used functions are buried in menus.
Up front, the driver and passenger accommodations are roomy and comfortable, although tall drivers who slide the seat back may find their elbows hanging off the backs of the door and center armrests. Second-row seating is similarly comfy, thanks to an additional 2.4 inches of legroom compared with the previous XC90. The third row also has more room than before, but is still best left to smaller folks and children. The available child booster seat built into the center section of the 40/20/40-split second-row bench can be scooted forward to put its occupant within easy reach of parents. However, families with more than one little one should note that Volvo's XC60 and XC70 models offer two of these integrated booster seats.
The XC90 boasts a generous amount of cargo capacity. With all the seats up, there are 15.8 cubic feet available behind the third row. Fold the second- and third-row seats down and maximum capacity stands at 85.7 cubic feet. Both configurations provide capacity that's at the top of the segment. The standard power tailgate includes a "hands-free" feature that commences the opening process when you wave your foot under the rear bumper.
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Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRolloverNot RatedDynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
More About This Model
After 12 years, the Volvo XC90 has finally gotten a full redesign. The three-row XC90 separates itself from the hugely competitive "I need a minivan but don't want a minivan" class with understated Scandinavian design inside and out, spacious second- and third-row seating, class-leading interior materials and an impressive array of safety features.
On the other side of the coin, the new XC90 suffers from a busy ride, and the new turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder isn't always up to the task of moving an SUV of its size.
What Is It?
The 2016 Volvo XC90 is a three-row, seven-passenger luxury SUV that is available exclusively with all-wheel drive. The only available engine at launch is a 2.0-liter, turbo- and supercharged four-cylinder that comes in the T6 model. A hybrid T8 model that joins the lineup later uses the gas engine to drive the front wheels and an electric motor to power the rear wheels. The only transmission on either model is an eight-speed automatic.
Prices start at $49,895 for the base model T6 Momentum. Stepping up to the more luxurious T6 Inscription will set you back $55,495, while the similarly equipped but sportier R-Design starts at $53,895.
Our test vehicle was a top-trim T6 Inscription with a slew of options that add to an as-tested price of $66,855. Some of these options include the $1,600 Vision package (blind spot monitor, 360-degree camera) and the $1,950 Climate pack (head-up display, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel), and a further $1,800 for the Convenience package (park assist, adaptive cruise).
How Does the Four-Cylinder Engine Perform?
It's almost unheard of for an SUV the size of the XC90 to only offer a four-cylinder engine. The trick up its sleeve, however, is that this Volvo's four-cylinder uses both supercharging and turbocharging to deliver up to 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
Volvo estimates that this powertrain will be good for a 0-60 run in 6.1 seconds, but from the minute we got behind the wheel we doubted the claim. There's a decent tug from a dead stop but then power seems to vanish quickly. Track testing confirmed this, as our test vehicle's best 0-60-mph time was 7.4 seconds. And that was done by shifting the automatic manually through the gears in the vehicle's Performance mode. Keeping it in standard Drive mode netted a 0-60 time of 7.9 seconds. For reference, the Acura MDX takes only 6.5 seconds, while the Land Rover Discovery Sport takes 7.7 seconds.
As always, track numbers never tell the full story. This time, however, the story doesn't get better away from our coned-off asphalt. On an open road, with constant cruising speeds and little elevation, the four-cylinder is a peach, humming along quietly just above idle. For most of us, though, our real world involves hills, stop-and-go traffic and speed changes.
The gridlock of Los Angeles proved to be the Volvo's biggest hurdle. In normal Drive mode, the throttle is sluggish, and the Sport mode (which must be engaged manually every time you start the car) isn't much better. The fuel-saving stop-start feature is one of the roughest we've encountered, as it shuts off earlier than you expect and restarts later than you want. We're all for saving fuel, but this calibration needs a tune-up.
Hills are the next biggest challenge for the big Volvo and its small engine. Even with eight gears to pick from, the Volvo can never pick just one when confronted with a grade. It constantly switches between winding out lower gears and barely hanging on to higher gears. It's frustrating and not remedied by Manual mode, which times itself out. Using the Volvo's adaptive cruise on a highway grade resulted in a loss of up to 10 mph.
Lest you think it's all bad news, in steady-state cruising, the XC90 performs well. It'll accelerate from 30 to 55 mph like a champ and its engine noise is well concealed.
How Is the Ride Quality?
As with the powertrain, the XC90's ride quality varies considerably depending on the conditions. On smooth, sweeping roads, the XC90 is planted and confident. Throw a frost heave, pothole, patch of concrete or other road imperfection in there and the confidence disappears.
Equipped with optional 21-inch wheels, our XC90 test vehicle crashed over significant bumps and got jittery over the small ruts. Despite how cool they look, we just can't recommend 21-inch wheels and tires on this SUV.
No matter where you drive, one thing stays the same: This new Volvo drives smaller than it is. Unlike the Acura MDX, Audi Q7 or Mercedes GL, the XC90 feels tight and tidy on the road. It's only when you peek in the rearview and see all those headrests that you're reminded of how many rows this SUV has.
How Luxurious Is the Interior?
As good as it looks from the outside, the XC90's interior is even more impressive. The cabin is spacious on its own, but the impression of spaciousness is striking. Outward visibility is excellent, and the cabin feels open and airy. Materials quality is definitely up to luxury car standards, as attractive to the eye as it is to the touch.
The Inscription model's interior trim isn't just class-leading, it's class redefining. The matte finish wood trim is so elegantly assembled and richly textured that it reminds us of the wood paneling that's optional in the Rolls-Royce Wraith. The rest of the interior displays a similar level of construction and quality.
Dominating the dashboard is the new portrait-oriented 9-inch Sensus touchscreen. Volvo bundles most of the XC90's features into this tablet-like interface to support a clean, nearly button-free design. Operation of the Sensus screen is very similar to that of any tablet or smartphone, and just as with those devices, primary commands are intuitive, but it does require quite a bit of time to learn the ins and outs.
Once you've put in the time it takes to learn the ropes, the system is remarkably fast. It's not quite as fast as Google Maps on an iPad, but it's close. If we had our choice, we'd muddle some of this clean design with physical knobs/buttons for climate control and seat heating/ventilation.
Like the rest of the XC90, the front seats are all new and are a highlight of the vehicle. They feature a ton of adjustments including thigh support and lumbar, and should fit virtually any frame. The sliding-and-reclining second-row seats are wide, with plenty of legroom, and are suitable for actual adults for long periods of time. The second row also has an optional integrated child seat that leaves more room for additional passengers than a typical aftermarket seat.
The XC90's third-row seats are intended for occasional use. The average adult will be confined by a lack of headroom and legroom, but smaller passengers will fare just fine. Vents keep air circulating but there are no dedicated third-row climate controls. The second and third rows of seats are incrementally raised to create a theatre-like view outward, giving the impression of greater space.
How Much Cargo Space Is Available?
Up to 15.8 cubic feet of space are available behind the third row, including a handy under-floor storage bin. Fold those seats flat and that space expands to 41.8 cubes. With the second row stowed, the maximum capacity grows to 85.7 cubic feet. Among direct competitors, these figures are the most generous in the class.
In addition to raw space, the XC90 features an optional flip-up panel to secure shopping bags with a combination of an elastic strap and hooks for handles. The act of loading cargo is also simplified with a hands-free tailgate that senses a swipe of a foot under the rear bumper, opening the large hatch.
Furthermore, if equipped with the optional air-ride suspension, the liftover height can be lowered via buttons located just inside the tailgate.
What Safety Features Are Available?
All 2016 XC90 models feature autonomous braking with day or night pedestrian and cyclist detection, seatbelt pre-tensioners, collapsible seat mounts to reduce vertical impacts, lane departure warnings and emergency and convenience telematics.
Optional features further increase the safety quotient with rear collision alerts that flash the brake lights, blind spot warnings, cross-traffic alerts, a surround-view camera system, lane keeping assist and automated parallel and perpendicular parking. As of this writing, the 2016 Volvo XC90 has not been crash tested.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Can You Expect?
The Volvo XC90 T6 has an EPA estimated fuel economy rating of 22 mpg in combined driving (20 city/25 highway), making it one of the most fuel-efficient gasoline-powered vehicles in the class.
In our testing, we averaged 17.6 mpg. Our best tank came during our standardized 116-mile test loop that typically returns numbers close to a vehicle's highway rating. In this case, the XC90 only managed 22.3 mpg.
What Are Its Closest Competitors?
Acura MDX: The MDX undercuts the Volvo's base price, but when equally equipped, comes within a few grand of the Volvo. It comes up short in terms of cargo capacity, materials and design, and uses an easy-to-use, but outdated infotainment interface. On the plus side, it benefits from strong all-around performance, plenty of standard features and excellent safety scores.
Audi Q7: Even though a redesigned Q7 is on the horizon, the current model is still notable for its engaging handling, premium look and feel and efficient diesel engine. But its limited cargo capacity and mediocre fuel economy from the standard gasoline engine can't compete with the Volvo.
Land Rover Discovery Sport: Like the Volvo, the new Discovery Sport is powered by a four-cylinder motor and includes a bucket of active safety features and a self-parking system. The Land Rover's interior is less special, but easier to use.
Mercedes-Benz GL-Class: With a base price about $10,000 higher than the XC90's, the bigger Benz is only a fringe competitor to the Volvo, but it offers more space, a better ride and more competent engines, and it has better ergonomics.
Why Should You Consider It?
It's elegant on the outside, luxurious on the inside and features all the latest safety features you could ever want. It also has one of the most sophisticated touchscreen displays you'll find in any SUV.
Why Should You Think Twice?
Though competent for light duty, serious hills and abrupt merging can strain its small engine, and the suspension doesn't cope well with rough pavement. That touchscreen looks great, but it can take time to figure out.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Used 2016 Volvo XC90 Overview
The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 is offered in the following submodels: XC90 SUV, XC90 Hybrid. Available styles include T6 Momentum 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger 8A), T6 Inscription 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger 8A), T6 R-Design 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger 8A), T5 R-Design 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A), T8 Momentum Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger gas/electric hybrid 8A), T8 Inscription Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger gas/electric hybrid 8A), T5 Inscription 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A), T6 First Edition 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger 8A), T8 R-Design Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Twincharger gas/electric hybrid 8A), T5 R-Design 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A), T5 Momentum 4dr SUV (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A), T5 Momentum 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A), and T5 Inscription 4dr SUV AWD (2.0L 4cyl Turbo 8A). Pre-owned Volvo XC90 models are available with a 2.0 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 316 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 8-speed automatic. The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 comes with a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. basic warranty, a 4 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 4 yr./ 50000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2016 Volvo XC90?
Price comparisons for Used 2016 Volvo XC90 trim styles:
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Momentum is priced between $27,499 and$38,590 with odometer readings between 16040 and91757 miles.
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design is priced between $33,495 and$38,273 with odometer readings between 39899 and75267 miles.
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T5 Momentum is priced between $30,750 and$37,998 with odometer readings between 32786 and50027 miles.
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription is priced between $33,649 and$37,990 with odometer readings between 58967 and71224 miles.
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 Momentum Twin Engine Plug-In Hybrid is priced between $30,961 and$39,000 with odometer readings between 47086 and88209 miles.
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T5 R-Design is priced between $43,990 and$43,990 with odometer readings between 17033 and17033 miles.
- The Used 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 First Edition is priced between $31,000 and$31,000 with odometer readings between 85537 and85537 miles.
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Should I lease or buy a 2016 Volvo XC90?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.