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2019 Volvo XC90 Review

LIKES
  • Svelte Swedish looks
  • Less-is-more interior
  • Tablet-like infotainment
  • Wide variety of models and trims
  • Standard safety tech
DISLIKES
  • Not worth six figures at top end
  • Base powertrain lacks oomph
  • Rear seats could use more support
  • Questionable materials in places
The 2019 Volvo XC90 is a standout effort from the Swedish brand, offering style, luxury, and practicality in a way many other luxury SUVs don’t.

The 2019 Volvo XC90 revived the Swedish brand in the U.S. market with its combination of Scandinavian style, impressive technology, and versatile practicality. With luxury features on par with many more expensive competitors, we give it 7.3 out of 10 overall.


For 2019, the base all-wheel-drive XC90 get heated seats and four-zone climate control, while R-Design and Inscription models get a new Harman Kardon stereo. The Convenience and Momentum Plus packages are gone and replaced by two new packages as well.

Fortunately, the 2019 Volvo XC90 hasn’t changed in the looks department and is one of the best-looking SUVs on the road today. Suave Swedish style and thoughtful touches like the LED headlights, tall sculpted taillights, and handsome wheel designs make the XC90 look a lot more expensive than it actually is, providing an alternative even to SUVs wearing a Range Rover badge.

Inside, the XC90 is the epitome of understated style, choosing instead to assert its luxury prowess with fine materials and attention to detail. The iPad-like infotainment screen dominates the dashboard, and while it can be difficult to use while driving, offers similar functionality to many mobile tablets, not to mention Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

With trims ranging from sub-$50,000 to over $100,000 for the opulent Excellence model, there’s an XC90 for almost any luxury SUV buyer, but most are well-equipped as standard.

Base T5 models get a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that makes 250 horsepower and is available in front- or all-wheel drive. The T6 powertrain adds a supercharger to that engine in addition to the turbocharger, pushing power output to 316 hp through all four wheels only. Despite the significant boost in power, the T6 is quiet, fuel efficient, and better at moving this SUV’s considerable heft along. A plug-in hybrid T8 model is available, pushing total system horsepower to 400 hp and significantly improving fuel economy, though a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission helps things at every trim level.

With three rows of seats and ample cargo space, the XC90 manages to be both practical and comfortable. Every XC90 gets automatic emergency braking and other active safety features as standard, as well as a power tailgate, power adjustable front seats, an 8.0-inch digital gauge cluster, 18-inch wheels, and the Sensus infotainment system.

With five stars from the federal government, a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS, and automatic braking standard, the XC90 is one of the safest luxury SUVs, and manages up to 58 mpg combined on the T8 hybrid model, but as low as 22 mpg for the T6 all-wheel drive.

Styling
The 2019 Volvo XC90 blends style and simplicity in a way only the Swedes can manage.

The 2019 Volvo XC90 was the first to wear the Swedish brand’s new styling language, and by our eyes, it’s one of the best. With oodles of Scandinavian style and cool, we give it 8 out of 10 for style. 

Sharp sheet metal, impressive attention to detail, and the signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights make the XC90 one of the most head-turning luxury SUVs, and one that looks as at home at the country club as it does at a campsite. The glass-to-sheet metal ratio is impressive too, managing good outward visibility without cutting down on sleek looks.

Inside, the XC90 keeps it simple but with elegance, using high-quality materials (in most places) to frame the huge 9.0-inch Sensus touchscreen infotainment system and supportive front seats. Though there aren’t many flourishes in here, sometimes simple is best, and in this case, Volvo’s designers have a point.

Performance
Available in turbocharged, turbo- and supercharged, and hybrid form, the 2019 Volvo XC90 comes in many flavors.

The 2019 Volvo XC90 can be had with any engine you like, so long as it’s turbocharged. Its trio of engine options and super-efficient plug-in hybrid model warrant a 7 out of 10 for performance.

A boosted 2.0-liter inline-4 is the base T5 powertrain, available with front- or all-wheel drive and making 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. While not a weakling, the XC90’s 4,500-pound heft is a bit too much for this engine, so the T6 powertrain is a more fitting option. Adding a supercharger on top of the turbocharged 4-cylinder, the T6 engine makes 316 hp and 295 lb-ft as well as boasting standard all-wheel drive, a much more competent option.

At the top of the range, the T8 powertrain adds a plug-in hybrid system that pairs the twin-charged engine with a 10.4-kwh lithium-ion battery, good for 19 miles of electric-only range on its own and 400 total horsepower. It’s noticeably quicker than the gas-only models, but also costs five figures more.

Handling is impressive for a large and heavy SUV, and while steering feedback is light through the electric-assisted setup, it’s remarkably natural-feeling and direct. Body roll is limited, but this is still no sports SUV, and is geared more for comfort, a facet it achieves with both the base spring suspension and the optional air system.

The T8 model runs on electricity alone at low speeds to maximize efficiency, and kicks on the gas engine when additional power is needed or to help recharge the batteries when depleted.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Volvo XC90 is comfortable and quiet as any luxury SUV, but other competitors boast superior material quality overall.

As a fresh effort, the 2019 Volvo XC90 is impressive at a glance, offering fine luxury materials and impressive attention to detail. Other competitors still have an edge in overall quality, as some places in the XC90’s interior are suspect upon closer examination, warranting an 8 out of 10 rating. 

At first glance, the XC90’s interior impresses, blending minimalist Scandinavian style with stitched leather, real natural-finish wood trim, and metal accents on most trims.

The front chairs make it easy to find a good driving position, no matter your body type. They’re comfortable enough for long driving stints, which isn’t always the case for the second row, which has flatter cushions but lots of elbow and leg room.
The second and third row seats are slightly elevated for “stadium style” seating and the second row can be slid fore and aft for more legroom for either second of third row passengers. The third row thankfully includes two separate seats that are variations on the front two rows, but adults won’t be comfortable back there for long journeys and no comforts like USB ports are available.

Though the leather, wood, and many plastics are impressive, the XC90 has several spots with questionably-thin material quality and awkward fit and finish, including the lower door panels, carpets in some areas, and details like the sliding cupholder cover.

The second and third row seats fold flat into the floor offering up to 85.7 cubic feet of cargo space, dropping to 41.8 cubes behind the second row and 15.8 with the third row in place. That’s more than many competitors, but those looking for even more cargo room would be wise to consider a full-size American SUV like the Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator.

Safety
The 2019 Volvo XC90 is as all Volvos are: among the safest vehicles in its class, but its optional near-autonomous features leave something to be desired.

Volvo’s reputation for safety precedes it, and the 2019 XC90 is no exception. With standard active safety tech and great crash test scores, we give it 9 out of 10 in this category.

The federal government gives the 2019 XC90 5 stars overall for the all-wheel-drive models, though no full ratings for the front-wheel-drive T5. The XC90 only loses one star in the rollover category, typical of almost every single SUV on the market and even many sedans.

The IIHS saw fit to award the XC90 a Top Safety Pick designation for 2019, with “Good” scores all around minus the headlights and child seat anchor ease of use, both of which are rated “Acceptable.”

The XC90 also gets praise for its “Superior” front crash prevention technology, part of a suite of active safety features that come standard on every model, including automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, blind-spot monitors, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, road sign recognition, and rear collision mitigation. Volvo also offers a near-autonomous system called Pilot Assist, but several tests have revealed that there’s still much work to be done on this program. The system can take over most steering on highway trips but requires some force on the steering wheel, and while other systems are good at following a line, the Volvo system seems to bounce back and forth between lane markers.

Features
At any price level the 2019 Volvo XC90 is well-equipped, usually at a discount over competitors.

The 2019 Volvo XC90 offers many trim levels and powertrains, but all are well-equipped and often offer a discount over more established competitors. With its excellent standard equipment, options, and infotainment, we give it 8 out of 10 for features.

The base XC90 Momentum comes with a power tailgate, four-zone automatic climate control, power adjustable front seats, synthetic leather, advanced safety features, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a fully-digital gauge cluster, and the 9.0-inch Sensus infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Stepping up to the R-Design or Inscription trim adds sport- or luxury-oriented features such as leather seats with contrasting stitching, wood or aluminum trim on the dashboard, larger wheels, and other visual cues like aluminum or black accents across the body. Optional packages include everything from the Pilot Assist driver assistance system, an excellent Bowers & Wilkins stereo, heated and cooled front seats, a head-up display, massage functionality, air suspension, and a panoramic moonroof among other features.

The six-figure Excellence model goes even further to include a crystal gearshift (also standard on the hybrid T8), climate controlled second row seating with power recline and footrests, and even crystal glasses for the champagne you’ll inevitably be consuming in the rear seat.

The Sensus infotainment system is tablet-like in its operation, and while this can be cumbersome while driving, we find it generally intuitive to use. Unfortunately, every function is controlled through this screen minus volume control and a few others, so if it fails to operate, climate, audio, navigation, and even some safety features are disabled.

Fuel Economy
A plug-in hybrid helps things substantially, but the 2019 Volvo XC90 is relatively efficient for such a large crossover.

Naturally, the plug-in hybrid is the most efficient, but the 2019 Volvo XC90 manages better-than-average fuel economy from its miserly four-cylinder options. We give it 4 out of 10 in this category.

Most XC90s on the road come equipped with all-wheel drive, but the base model uses only the front wheels to push itself around and saves an mpg or two as such. Base T5 FWD models manage 21 city, 29 highway, and 24 combined mpg, while adding all-wheel drive drops those figures to 20/27/23 mpg. The super- and turbocharged T6 model comes only with all-wheel drive and just a 1 mpg penalty over the T5 despite a serious boost in power for 19/26/22 mpg.

Naturally, the T8 plug-in hybrid is the most efficient, managing 58 combined mpg and 19 miles of electric-only driving on a full charge.

All versions of the 2019 XC90 require premium fuel at the pump.



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