Used 2016 Volvo XC90 Review

Edmunds expert review

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.




What's new for 2016

The 2016 Volvo XC90 is fully redesigned with a new look, a new body structure and more efficient powertrains.

Vehicle overview

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.




Trim levels & features

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.

EPA-estimated fuel economy stands at 24 mpg combined (22 city/26 highway), while AWD models ring in slightly lower at 23 mpg combined (22/25).

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.

Safety

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.

Driving

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.

Interior

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.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.