by Karl Furlong
The arrival of the new Volvo EX90 SUV feels as pivotal as when the Swedish automaker introduced its first SUV, the XC90, two decades ago. While the XC90 eventually spawned smaller and hugely popular siblings like the XC60 and XC40, the EX90 previews Volvo's electrified future and the innovative, ever-changing software ecosystem that will likely spill over to other Volvos.
Despite nearly 500 horsepower and an elegant design, it's the scope of the EX90's technology that stands out most. A so-called 'shield of safety' consists of multiple sensors, including LiDAR, and lightning-fast computing power is derived from the Epic Games 3D tool known as Unreal Engine. Among many Volvo firsts, the electric SUV introduces bi-directional charging. If it can achieve what the XC90 did for Volvo, the EX90 is on course for a triumphant run as the brand's new flagship SUV.
See trim levels and configurations:
The release date for the Volvo EX90 EV is set for early 2024, when deliveries begin in the USA. However, the SUV is already available for pre-order now. EX90 models that will be coming out for Americans will be built at the brand's plant in Charleston, South Carolina. Production begins in the USA first before expanding to China.
The price for the entire 2024 Volvo EX90 lineup isn't known at this stage, but the automaker did say that a well-equipped version of the EX90 will be available at under $80,000. Unsurprisingly, that will represent an increase over the existing XC90 Recharge, starting at $71,900. However, we expect a fully loaded EX90 to cost close to $100,000.
As far as rivals go, another seven-seater electric SUV is the Tesla Model X which starts at $120,990. A fully loaded EX90 could also get close to the Mercedes EQS SUV, which starts at an MSRP of $104,400.
If you don't need seven seats, the BMW iX is another formidable rival that isn't far off the size of the EX90. It begins at $84,100, so is a bit more expensive than the Volvo.
The exterior design of the Volvo EX90 electric SUV isn't as mind-blowing as the technology that lies within, but the restrained approach is very much in line with Volvo tradition. This is, after all, a vehicle that Volvo expects to keep fresh for many years to come due to its evolving software, so an overly complex design that risks aging prematurely was probably not considered.
In front, the EX90's unique lighting with defined pixel-like blocks gives it a distinctive edge. This lighting signature runs vertically but is separated by a section of bodywork, and they flank the traditional Volvo emblem. Unlike the smaller XC40 Recharge, the area where a traditional grille would be is now borderless and blends seamlessly into the rest of the body.
The clean look extends to the side view, with flush-fitting door handles and strong horizontal lines. When the configurator goes live, we expect various wheel designs and sizes, but the ones pictured here do have a modern design.
The rear view is perhaps the fussiest. Lower down are wraparound taillights, but a row of lights are repeated higher up on either side of the rear window. Subtly incorporated around the exterior are various cameras and sensors, including a roof-mounted LiDAR sensor. These work together to keep track of the SUV's surroundings while the driver-assistance technologies operate.
The colors for the Volvo EX90 include Denim Blue, Sand Dune, Crystal White, Onyx Black, Platinum Grey, Silver Dawn, and Vapour Grey.
Straddling the mid- and full-size SUV segments, the dimensions of the Volvo EX90 reflect an SUV that is larger than a BMW X5 but smaller than an X7 - at least, that applies to its body length.
At 198.3 inches in length, the EX90 is 3.3 inches longer than the XC90 while sharing an identical wheelbase length of 117.5 inches. At its curb weight, the EX90 is 68.8 inches tall, around an inch lower than the XC90. Without the mirrors, the EX90 is 77.3 inches in width.
The environmentally-friendly approach of the EX90 extends to its construction, with 15% recycled steel, 25% recycled aluminum, and over 105 pounds of recycled plastics and bio-based materials used for its construction. If you thought that will lead to a low weight, think again. While the curb weight will change depending on how it is specified, Volvo quotes a figure of 6,213 pounds. That's heavy but also no surprise for an electric SUV of this size.
The EX90 has dual permanent magnet electric motors, one at each end. As standard, the motors produce 402 horsepower and 568 lb-ft of torque, but a high-performance derivative that will arrive in the US makes 496 hp and 671 lb-ft.
All-wheel drive is standard, and with its traction and power, the EX90 is as quick as any seven-seater needs to be. The 0-60 mph sprint takes 4.7 seconds in the standard model or a second less with the Performance option. The top speed is limited to 112 mph, as per Volvo's commitment to reduce the chances of fatal high-speed crashes.
Both the Tesla Model X and BMW iX are easily quicker, but few people will be purchasing an EX90 for its tire-shredding abilities. Volvo did say that the twin-motor AWD EX90 is the "initially available" variant, perhaps opening the door to more powerful dual- or three-motor configurations at some point in the future.
A new chassis promises a "smooth driving experience," and the dual chamber air suspension should also help. The EX90 has a double wishbone setup in front and an integral link rear suspension.
For an electric SUV, the maximum trailer weight of 4,850 lbs is not bad, and while we don't expect to see many EX90s tackling muddy trails, there are over eight inches of ground clearance in front to work with.
The EX90 has a 111-kWh battery (107 kWh usable). We'll have to wait a bit longer for official MPGe ratings, but Volvo estimates a range of about 300 miles on the EPA test cycle. For now, then, the Tesla Model X looks like it will retain its position as the only seven-seater electric SUV that can reach around 350 miles on a full charge.
Able to support DC fast charging at up to 250 kW, it will take 30 minutes to replenish the battery from 10% to 80% under ideal conditions. With 50 kW DC charging, that time increases to 97 minutes. With AC charging, the best-case scenario is 11 hours to recharge to 80%. The 250-kW maximum charging speed is better than the BMW iX's 195-kW maximum.
Notably, the EX90 is the first Volvo that is capable of bi-directional charging. This allows customers to use the car battery to power electric devices, another Volvo EV, or even your house if required. Volvo says that this functionality will become available at some point in the future in selected markets.
Many enthusiasts have expressed frustration that the move to software-based features has resulted in modern EV interiors that look the same from one manufacturer to the next. At first glance, the interior of the Volvo EX90 closely resembles what you'll find in a Tesla with its large central touchscreen interface, minimalist lines, and paucity of physical controls.
The overall ambiance is warmer than in a Tesla, though, and we'd be shocked if the quality was anything less than exemplary. There are enough seats in the Volvo EX90 to accommodate seven adults, so expect the third row to be much more than just an afterthought. Volvo has used many natural and responsibly-sourced materials as it works towards becoming a climate-neutral company by 2040.
As mentioned, the 14.5-inch center screen dominates the dashboard, with another digital display ahead of the driver. Because it would take an encyclopedia-sized write-up to cover every piece of technology in the new EX90, we'll try to focus on the most important bits here.
Like other new Volvos, the EX90 has an infotainment system with Google built-in for easy access to Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play. Wireless Apple CarPlay is also part of the deal, and 5G connectivity is standard. Another Volvo first is the reference-quality Bowers & Wilkins sound system with Dolby Atmos, a setup that includes speakers in the headrests. Phone-as-key technology is standard, and the SUV will automatically unlock the car as you approach it while also loading your driver profile.
Managing many of the vehicle's core functions - be it safety, infotainment, and battery management - is a bevy of names that are prominent in the tech and even gaming industries. This includes the Nvidia Drive AI platforms Xavier and Orin, Snapdragon Cockpit Platforms from Qualcomm Technologies, and Volvo's in-house software. Combine these tech powerhouses with Google built-in and the visualization capabilities of Unreal Engine, a 3D tool developed by Epic Games, and you'll soon realize that Volvo's claim that the EX90 is a "highly advanced computer on wheels" is no fallacy.
Unreal Engine - the EX90 is the first European car to get it - allows for lightning-fast responses for the head-up display and in-car screens. Volvo promises lag-free, real-time layering of road information on the head-up display, so your commute need not be interrupted by software that can't keep up.
That brings us to the EX90's invisible shield of safety. Besides the roof-mounted LiDAR sensor, the EX90 has five radars, eight cameras, a further two cameras inside, and 16 ultrasonic sensors. Volvo says that the LiDAR tech can detect pedestrians that are 820 feet away or even spot a tire on a black, dark road that's close to 400 feet away. All of this means that the EX90 can identify and respond to hazards with great accuracy, helping to avoid a potential collision. Notably, this is the first Volvo that is hardware-ready for unsupervised driving in the future.
Inside, the cameras and capacitive steering wheel will take note of gaze and posture patterns, helping the driver to stay focused. It can even capture rapid eye-blink rates and pupil dilation. The EX90 has moved way beyond now-commonplace features like blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control.
When you're less worried about how dilated your pupils are and more concerned about whether you can cram the kids' bikes into the back, you'll be pleased with the cargo space in the Volvo EX90. A generous volume of 35.7 cubic feet (including underfloor storage) can be found behind the second row, shrinking to 12.9 cubes behind the third row. With both the rearmost rows folded, expect up to 67.6 cubes. There is also a small frunk, although this only measures 1.3 cubic feet.