The Volvo XC90 is a large, family-size SUV that was first launched in 2003. It's a solid, sturdy crossover that competes with cars like the BMW X5, Audi Q7, Land Rover lineup and Mercedes-Benz M Class.
The XC90 is now a classic shape--which is another way of saying it's the oldest vehicle in the Volvo lineup. But it retains its historic pricing position, slightly less expensive than its German counterparts. Perhaps more so than the latest, swoopier Volvo styles, the XC90 continues the tradition of safe and sensible Swedish design. It was voted the North American Truck of the Year in its first year of sale, and its sedan-like handling makes it an easy-to-use and practical family hauler for the upscale suburbs where it's normally seen.
The basic shape of the XC90 has worn well over its more than a decade of life. A mild facelift was introduced for 2007, and another one for 2013. The latter includes new body-color bumpers and trim, more brightwork on those bumpers, and LED running lamps and taillamps. All of these changes contribute to its carlike personality, though the interior remains quite dated--and shows its age particularly in the lack of the thin "floating" central console and more minimalist look now found in all other Volvos.
Handling is one of the XC90’s key strengths, in fact. And it makes the XC90 an ideal alternative to larger, more ponderous sport-utility vehicles and boring, uber-practical minivans. The second-row seats adjust, varying the mix of passenger room and cargo volume, and a third-row seat was made standard in 2010. That one, unfortunately, is so cramped that it's strictly for children--and probably agile ones at that.
For 2012, the Volvo XC90 got new Premier Plus and Platinum trims that added a few new features, and tech options were repackaged. The XC90's sound system gained both Bluetooth audio streaming and Pandora playlists the same year. Those updates followed a 2011 instrument panel revision that upped the XC90's standard equipment, adding Bluetooth, Sirius satellite radio, and new watch-dial instrumentation.
Previously, for 2009, Volvo had added the R-Design option on the XC90, which gave the SUV some sportier touches such as 19-inch alloy wheels, a new grille and split dual exhaust pipes. For 2010, however, the R-Design trim was limited to the six-cylinder model.
These days, there's only a single engine for the U.S. It's a 235 horsepower 3.2-liter six-cylinder, mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The XC90 is a front-wheel drive model in its base trim, but all-wheel drive is optional. In previous years, Volvo also offered an optional 4.4-liter V-8 that produced 311 hp, but its dismal gas mileage doomed it for the new decade--it was discontinued after 2011. The six-cylinder is now rated at 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway.