Change doesn’t come around very often at Volvo. Boxy cars dominated the design language for decades and the company’s first SUV, the XC90, lasted 12 years (2003-2014) without any major changes. Both trends came to an end with the introduction of the second-gen XC90 for the 2016 model year.
Since its launch, Volvo’s three-row, mid-size SUV has earned plenty of awards and acclaim including Motor Trend SUV of the Year and North American Truck/Utility of the Year in 2016. To see how this luxurious, high-tech SUV stacks up against its rivals, we spent a week in a fully loaded 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription.
2018 Volvo XC90 Exterior
After 12 years of looking at the same XC90, the 2018 Volvo XC90 is a far more modern take on this SUV, but it still has the familiar sensibly elegant design that we’ve come to expect from Volvo in recent years. The bold front end features narrow LED headlights with striking “Thor’s Hammer” LED daytime running lights, which flank the waterfall grille that showcases Volvo’s iconic logo. Despite its new face, the new XC90 has almost the same profile as its predecessor, and while the LED taillights are more shapely, they still stretch up into the D-pillars. This tester was finished with the deep Onyx Black Metallic (a $595 option) and the $800 21-inch eight spoke alloy wheels.
2018 Volvo XC90 Interior
Unless you’re interested in a limousine-like experience from the XC90 Excellence, the 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription is probably all you need from a luxury SUV. The interior of this is fitted with amber perforated nappa leather and walnut inlays accenting dark charcoal trim. The overall cabin design is clean with limited switchgear, and it is highlighted by the large, vertically oriented screen for the Sensus infotainment system. This screen is perfectly positioned with a slight tilt and inset to prevent excessive glare, but with limited hard buttons and small fonts, it took some time to really get used to; not unlike any new smartphone or tablet.
As nice as the Inscription is, this tester showed that Volvo is serious about luxury with a handful of option packages. These included the $3,150 Luxury Package (heated second-row outboard seats, suede-like nubuck leather headliner with leather-wrapped sun visors and back massaging front seats), $1,950 Convenience Package (360-degree backup camera, Park Assist Pilot, heated windshield washer and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area) and $1,000 for the tailored leather atop the instrument panel and door panels. For tech and entertainment, this tester added a $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound System with 19 speakers and 1400 watts and $900 for the head-up display.
Volvo definitely stepped up its game with the interior of the 2018 Volvo XC90 with a cabin design that is roomy and functional with three rows of seating to accommodate seven passengers. The tall roof affords plenty of space for all three rows, and the third row is no penalty box with decent padding, sufficient legroom and comfortable headrests. The second row of this test vehicle had the optional $250 integrated second-row booster seat, which comes in handy when hauling your kids’ friends unexpectedly. There is lots of room for cargo, too, with xx cubic feet with the third row folded and xx cubic feet with rear rows folded – almost as much as a full-size SUV.
2018 Volvo XC90 Powertrain
The 2018 Volvo XC90 is available with three powertrains from the base T5 up to the T8 plug-in hybrid. This tester was the XC90 T6, which features a 2.0-liter direct-injected, twincharged (supercharged and turbocharged) inline-four mated an eight-speed automatic transmission. It might be a four-cylinder, but its 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque helps it feel just as strong as Volvo’s old straight-six with much better efficiency; the T6 comes standard with all-wheel drive and EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway** compared to 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway for the previous six-cylinder XC90 AWD.
This XC90 tester was also equipped with the optional $1,800 air suspension, which uses different driver-selectable modes to alter the ride height in order to maximize aerodynamics, performance and comfort; there’s even a button in the cargo area that lowers the rear suspension for loading cargo. On the road, this system allows the XC90 to exhibit different driving dynamics based on the selected mode, and the rest of the SUV is setup for a smooth, comfortable and quiet ride. That doesn’t mean the 2018 Volvo XC90 isn’t fun to drive, though. Acceleration from 0-60 takes just 6.6 seconds, and the steering and chassis setup feel more like a BMW X5.
2018 Volvo XC90 Safety
The all-new XC90 might have helped spark a revolution at Volvo, but it stays true to one of Swedish brand’s biggest core values: safety. Just some of the safety features that come standard on the 2018 Volvo XC90 include Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert, City Safety collision avoidance and automatic braking after collision, Rear Collision Warning, Lane Keeping Aid and Pilot Assist “semi-autonomous” drive mode. The 208 XC90 earned a five-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
2018 Volvo XC90 Overall
Volvo has received endless praise since the launch of the second-gen XC90, and after a week with the 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription, it’s not hard to see why. No, it’s not a perfect SUV but it definitely moves Volvo more upmarket in the SUV class to compete against the rare breed of fun-to-drive three-row family vehicles like the Audi Q7; the Infiniti QX60 and Lexus’ new three-row RX are also solid competitors.
This kind of luxury doesn’t come cheap, though. Sure you can get an entry-level XC90 starting at $46,900*, but if you want to ride in style, then the Inscription is the way to go starting at $59,450*. While this is still a decent price for a mid-size luxury SUV, this tester was outfitted with $10,450 worth of options bumping the as-tested price to $74,090.
Make sure to visit your local AutoNation-affiliated Volvo dealership and test drive the 2018 Volvo XC90 today!
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2018 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.