2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription Review

I grew up on Volvos, and I’m sure a lot of you did too.

The Volvos we remember were boxy and kind of dorky, but our parents loved them because they knew their idiot teenaged drivers would be safe in them. With this new XC90, it takes everything we love about Volvos and puts it all together in a package that is entirely modern and a lot less dorky.

Handsome Style

This XC90 is a huge leap forward for Volvo and is the first car in the revamp of its entire lineup. This new style really makes the SUV stand out and it’s actually such a great design because it’s simple and it’s elegant. There’s no excess here, and everything looks like it has a purpose, yet you can still tell it’s a Volvo from a mile away. I also love the upright grille and new headlights with the sideways T LED bar and I can’t wait to see these on the rest of the lineup.

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Swanky Interior

And all that style carries over to the inside, too.

The infotainment system is the definitely highlight of the cabin, and it’s one of the coolest systems you can buy. If you’ve ever used an iPad or any smartphone, it will be super easy to use. The menus are easy to navigate and it’s super responsive and has a clean layout. The only issue with this big screen is that your greasy fingerprints will get all over it, but this can actually be fixed by getting a screen protector that shields the screen from your greasy hands.

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And although it looks slick, it’s not perfect to use and the navigation system especially could use some improvements. Its POI database just doesn’t seem that complete, its GPS isn’t very well calibrated (it thought I was in a field once), and it seems impossible to do something simple like cancel a route.

The second issue is that the system doesn’t always remember your settings. With the stop/start function, for example, you have to de-activate it every time you get into the car.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Volvo S90 Loaded With Tech and Style

But the rest of the interior is smart and has a lot of thoughtful little touches. It’s a tidy interior and because of that big screen, the dashboard is clear of clutter and buttons. This is a great interior because besides being luxurious and comfortable, it is just so easy to use and everything is exactly where you expect it to be. It’s really obvious that Volvo didn’t cheap out on anything in here. A few little details I love are the crank ignition switch and the drive mode selector, which just look so pretty and like something you’d find in a Rolls Royce. There’s also a lovely head up display, a giant sunroof, a crisp digital gauge cluster and this beautiful wood trim.

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Sophisticated Powertrain

And as much as I love the swanky interior, the drive is even more fantastic. Volvo has a really innovative setup: It has bolted both a supercharger and turbocharger onto a 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The result is that the four-cylinder feels like a V6 and no matter where you are on the rev range, you will never feel like you need more power, and power delivery is smooth and immediate.

For a car this heavy, it feels freakishly fast, even in comfort mode, and the acceleration is very surprising with 316 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This has become one of my favourite engines simply because it has so much pulling power and it works seamlessly with the eight-speed automatic. Power is sent to the front wheels under typical driving, but up to 60 percent can be directed to the rear wheels when needed.

ALSO SEE: 2017 Audi Q7 Review

And the drive is so smooth and quiet. Zero noise or harshness makes it into the cabin, shifts are smooth and quick and the steering has a nice heavy weight to it.

I keep forgetting that this is such a big three-row SUV because it feels so much smaller when you drive it, which is a good thing. But it does feel big in the right ways, meaning it feels luxurious and sure-footed like nothing can upset it.  The setup makes it very easy to drive around and even in the city, I have no problems getting around my condo parking garage or weaving in and out of traffic. 

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And when you’re out on the highway or stuck in traffic, the Volvo takes the stress out with its adaptive cruise control. It is so easy to use and the system works seamlessly. It can slow down, speed up and even come to a complete stop and get going again all on its own. The car can also park itself, and the parallel park function works really well and it’s actually kind of spooky. I just couldn’t get the perpendicular park function to work.

The Verdict: 2016 Volvo XC90 Review

The Volvo XC90 is really impressive, and one of the best things about it is that it’s the unconventional pick for someone shopping this segment. This car looks great, it’s practical, it drives amazingly, it has one of the best engines in the industry, and it has a ton of safety features and lot of great technology. The Volvo XC90 stands out because it is so innovative and so radically different from any other SUV on the market.

This XC90 is one of the best cars I’ve driven all year, and possibly the best luxury SUV out there.

Discuss this story on our Volvo Forum

  • Outstanding marketing, this could be the onset of a real comeback for what was a GREAT brand.

  • Lajos Tresser

    This tester must certainly be a Volvo fun since he or she prefers the Volvo XC 90 with a 2 liter I 4 engine and so-so interior to the new Audi Q7 with a smooth running 3 liter V 6 engine and recognized industry best interior, just to mention a few things. A luxury SUV with a 4 cylinder engine?!

  • gman

    I think quite a few reviewers have come to the same conclusion. The new Volvo xc90 interior is amazing, and it’s very fun to drive. You really won’t notice its not a V6 engine. The touch screen is huge and the sound system is fantastic, even with bluetooth. I’m waiting for my R-Series T8, coming in March hopefully. Audi is a bit boring, and once you add all the extras ends up being a good 5000$ more than a similarly equipped Volvo in Canada.

  • Jeff T

    The problem with the Audi is you have to look at it to get into it.

  • craigcole

    Looks like a winner, both inside and out.

  • Pscr

    Have you not read ANY reviews of the Volvo that praise the interior as best in its class? Audi—sorry, kinda boring. This Volvo SUV from all accounts is the best in the market right now. And before you comment on 4 cylinders, maybe read about how much the 4 cylinder engine is being praised for its performance. There are many reasons that pretty much all the reviewers are naming the Volvo as the SUV of the year.

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    Agreed. What a nice ride, and that engine is really impressive. Seems like the transmission is too. Hey, Mazda fyi: that’s how you do a heads up display.

  • Jonny_Vancouver

    Yeah man it’s the future! Lets face it, oil is running out and any company that can make an engine produce more power from less oil is a winner. I think the main thing us North Americans have to get over is the idea of needing a big engine to make big power. 316 hp 295 lb ft torque from a 2.0 L, and by all accounts not lacking in power, I’ll take it. Besides, dealing with German automakers when it comes to repairs gives new meaning to the word headache.

  • Christopher Schaffer

    Gee, thanks for not saying a fucking word about the OTHER TWO ROWS. Sheesh.