Now in its second model year since being totally redesigned, the uncommonly elegant 2017 Volvo XC90 is the company’s flagship. It certainly looks the part of a premium crossover, with quietly assertive styling that promises to stand the test of time. It is Scandinavian design writ large inside and out; modern yet devoid of gimmickry; luxurious in its simplicity. Its cabin marries textures including matte-finish wood, metal, leather and even crystal. If there’s any doubt as to its luxury aspirations, the available 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system will put them to rest.
The XC90 takes a modern approach to its propulsion with a 316-horsepower four-cylinder engine that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. There’s also a plug-in hybrid variant that generates 400 horsepower and can travel up to 14 miles on battery power alone.
Its good looks are not only skin deep — the XC90 boasts a long list of safety and driver assistance features in its meticulously trimmed cabin. Frontal collision detection with automatic braking is standard, and it also applies the brakes when the driver attempts to turn in front of an oncoming car. Energy-absorbing seat cushions and self-tightening seat belts reduce potential spinal injuries if the vehicle careens off the road. For 2017, auto-steering has been been added to prevent a road departure in the first place. There’s also Pilot Assist II, new for 2017, which provides a semi-autonomous driving mode at speeds up to 80 mph.
Choices are plentiful in the premium crossover segment. The Acura MDX delivers a compelling combination of features, willing performance and precise handling. For those willing to go a bit more upmarket, the BMW X5 is a perennial front-runner that is additionally available with a frugal diesel engine. The Mercedes-Benz GLS-Class offers surprisingly ample cabin room and a third row that’s suitable for adults.
The 2017 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 front-crash mitigation. The new XC90 also debuts what Volvo calls Run-off Road Protection, whereby if the vehicle goes off the road, the seat belts automatically tighten up and the seat cushions absorb impact energy if the vehicle comes down hard on its suspension. The Volvo On Call service includes emergency assistance, remote door locking and unlocking, automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle location.
Safety options include a surround-view camera, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and 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, which is a slightly longer-than-average distance for this class of crossover SUV. An XC90 T8 we tested did the same deed in 119 feet.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety testing, the 2016 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 head restraint (whiplash protection) tests and a top Superior score for its forward collision mitigation system's accident avoidance performance. Although the 2017 XC90 hasn’t been tested, we expect the same results because the vehicle is nearly identical to last year’s model.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Volvo XC90 is a four-passenger (T8 Excellence only), five-passenger (T5) or seven-passenger (T6 and T8) luxury crossover SUV that comes in four levels: base Momentum, sporty R-Design, plush Inscription and ultra-luxe Excellence. 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 largely common across T5, T6 and T8 variants.
Standard equipment on the Momentum includes 18-inch alloy wheels, adjustable drive modes, LED head- and foglights, automatic high beams, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, a hands-free power tailgate, a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, keyless entry and ignition, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, 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 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, added interior illumination and power thigh support for the front seats.
The R-Design trim level features 20-inch alloy wheels, unique grille and exterior accents, a sport steering wheel with shift paddles, upgraded sport seats (with power thigh support), Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, leather upholstery, illuminated step plates, aluminum mesh cabin accents and the lighting upgrades from the T8 Momentum.
The XC90 Inscription (available on T6 and T8) 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, ventilated front seats with adjustable side bolsters, and rear side window shades.
Available only on the T8, the Excellence trim level turns the XC90 into a four-seat luxury limousine. In place of the rear bench seat, the Excellence adds two captain’s chairs with footrests, a rear center console with folding trays, a touchscreen controller, heated and cooled cupholders and two crystal glasses. All four seats in the Excellence come standard with ventilation, heat and massage functions. Additional upgrades include bright exterior trim, 21-inch wheels, extended leather upholstery, additional sound deadening and a refrigerator.
Options for the XC90 are mainly grouped into packages. The Momentum Plus package includes the adaptive headlights, illuminated step plates, added interior illumination and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. The Vision package features power-folding and 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, Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving mode, automated parking assist, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist and, in the cargo area, a grocery bag holder and a 12-volt power outlet.
The Luxury package (Inscription only) adds a suede headliner, leather grab handles and sun visors, and a massaging function to the fronts seats.
Individual option highlights (depending on trim level) include 20-, 21- or 22-inch wheels, an adaptive air suspension (with adaptive dampers), a head-up display, a built-in second-row child booster seat, and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system.
The 2017 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 with front- or all-wheel drive 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 an innovative 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine that pumps out 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel drive comes standard. Although Volvo claims the T6 will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, its performance at Edmunds’ test track was a significantly more sluggish 7.4 seconds.
EPA-estimated fuel economy checks in at an impressive 22 mpg combined (20 city/25 highway). In our real-world testing, however, the XC90 struggled to match those estimates.
The XC90 T8 Plug-In Hybrid utilizes the same engine as the standard XC90 T6 along with an 87-hp electric motor. Total output is 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. Volvo says the XC90 plug-in hybrid, with both power sources in play, will accelerate to 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. (We measured 5.5 seconds in our testing.) 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.
Although Volvo's latest four-cylinder engine has considerable power, the heavy weight of the XC90 makes it feel unimpressive. Its numbers are promising, but in real-world, day-to-day use, acceleration and refinement are lacking. Other rival crossovers feel notably snappier and more responsive when accelerating up to freeway speeds or passing a slow-moving vehicle. We haven't driven the XC90 with the base turbocharged engine, but we expect to find its 250 hp a bit meager for a vehicle of this size.
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 and nimble responses, feeling lighter than it really is.
With its spare design aesthetic and high-quality materials, the 2017 Volvo XC90’s cabin is undeniably handsome. Its matte-finish wood, genuine metal and even real carbon-fiber accents are pleasing to the eye and the touch, and its 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 the climate, radio and heated-seat controls can be inherently cumbersome to access quickly.
Front seat accommodations are comfortable and spacious, although tall drivers who slide the seat back might find their elbows hanging off the backs of the door and center armrests. The front seats provide exceptional long-haul comfort. Second-row passengers are treated similarly well and enjoy a healthy amount of legroom, although the third-row seats are best left to short trips or 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 youngster should note that Volvo's XC60 offers two of these integrated booster seats.
The XC90’s cargo capacity is ample. With all the seats up, there's 15.8 cubic feet of space available behind the third row. Fold the second- and third-row seats down and maximum capacity rises to 85.7 cubic feet. By either measure, these figures are at the top of the segment. The standard power tailgate includes a hands-free feature that opens the door 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.