2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid

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2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid Test Drive Review: The Perfect Family Roadtrip

The open road awaits, the massaging seats keeping me content as I barrel down the highway with 19 speakers blasting my favorite music through the cabin, the Pilot Assist function removing most of the tedious elements involved with driving. It's blissful. If you are going to take a roadtrip, there are few vehicles better for the occasion than the 2020 Volvo XC90 T8 E-AWD Inscription.

The Volvo brand has been synonymous with safety for many decades but in recent memory, the Swedish brand has struggled in the US market. Volvo cars lacked the dependability of a Lexus and you can forget all about the sportiness of a BMW. That all changed in 2015 when Volvo reinvented itself with the all-new, second-generation XC90. Rather than introduce a midcycle facelift as most automakers do, Volvo instead performs yearly updates to its vehicles in order to keep them fresh. We decided to check in on the company's latest updates to its flagship SUV to see how it stacks up in the mid-size luxury SUV segment.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 9 /10
  • Performance 9 /10
  • Fuel Economy 9 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 10 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 10 /10
  • Reliability 7 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 8 /10
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2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2019 XC90 Hybrid?

The lineup for 2020 has been trimmed slightly, with the T8 Excellence model excluded for this year. Now a three-model range, the plug-in hybrid version of the XC90 also boasts new seating configurations, with the Momentum and Inscription models able to seat either six, or seven. A few tweaks were made to the suspension and a slightly larger battery promises to improve all-electric range marginally, too. There are also some alterations to the available color palette for this year, while a few additional exterior updates have been made (but may be hard to spot unless you really know the car like the back of your hand).

Pros and Cons

  • Class-leading cargo capacity
  • New seating configurations provide versatility and space
  • Cloud-like cabin comfort and quality
  • Responsive and consistent power-delivery from motor
  • Comprehensive safety features and driver aids - across the range
  • Expensive!
  • Slightly bland driving experience
  • Not the smoothest ride on larger wheels
  • You won't go far on electric power
  • Interior is a fingerprint magnet

What's the Price of the 2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid?

Although the levels of luxury and the quality of materials warrant a sturdy price tag, the range of XC90 Hybrids are still expensive - especially in comparison to rivals from Lexus that start at $46,750. The base model T8 Momentum has an MSRP of $67,000, with the R-Design bumping costs up to $72,700. At the top of the range, the T8 Inscription has a sticker price of $73,300, with the entry-level model and the range-topper requiring an extra $500 to equip the six-seater package. These prices exclude a destination charge of $995, as well as any taxes, licensing and registration fees. With options, our test model rang in at $85,790 delivered.

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2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
T8 Momentum Plug-In Hybrid
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
T8 R-Design Plug-In Hybrid
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
T8 Inscription Plug-In Hybrid
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Plug-in Hybrid
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

Even with the optional 21-inch wheels on our tester, which would ruin the ride comfort in most SUVs, the XC90 is exceptionally smooth. It's one of the softest SUVs we've ever tested. Frankly, Volvo has positioned the XC90 Inscription as a luxury model without paying as much attention to sporty endeavors, so it lacks unnecessary accouterments like paddle shifters, though there is a Power Mode setting. This is how a luxury SUV should be executed.

Despite the softness, the XC90 doesn't flop around corners like a bowl of pudding. We're looking at you Lexus RX. It delivers handling characteristics befitting of a European car, the air suspension keeping the vehicle steady even when pushed hard. The steering doesn't transmit any feedback to the driver, though the Power Mode does inject some weight into the rack. Volvo has also improved the brake pedal feel for 2020 after some journalists claimed it felt unnatural with the hybrid regeneration. We had no such criticism here, so Volvo's changes must have worked.

Verdict: Is the 2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid A Good SUV?

If you'd like your mid-size SUV to go on the race track of through a desert, a BMW X5 or Mercedes-Benz GLE might be a better option. But if you are one of the realistic buyers who knows they will never hit apexes at Silverstone or traverse the Australian Outback, the XC90 might just be the best option on the market. The Volvo lacks the flashy appeal of the BMW or Mercedes but once you hop inside, you'll realize that the Swedes know how to execute on luxury better than anyone.

The Volvo XC90 hits on all the key points we think a mid-size luxury SUV should tackle. It's roomy enough for five or six people, it rides like a cloud, the interior is premium, and as a cherry on top, the Bowers and Wilkins stereo will ensure that every family road trip sounds as if you are sitting in the first row of a live concert. Cheap, the XC90 is not. But elegant in all the right ways, it remains one of our top recommendations in this segment.

What Volvo XC90 Hybrid Model Should I Buy?

After having experienced every model in Volvo's lineup, our stance remains that the Inscription trim is the one to buy over the similarly-priced but sportier R-Design. All of the R-Design models sacrifice Volvo's fabulous massage seats and ride on a stiffer chassis that hurts the ride comfort. In our opinion, sporty SUVs are better left to the Germans while Volvo perfectly executes on providing a flawless luxury experience.

We'd opt for the slightly less practical (but more accessible) six-seater XC90 T8 Inscription for $73,800. From there, we'd add must-have packages like the $3,100 Luxury Package to get seat massaging, Four Corner Adaptive Air Suspension for $1,800, and the Bowers and Wilkins Premium Sound for $3,200. As described, the XC90 will set you back around $83,540.

Check out other Volvo XC90 Styles

2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid Comparisons

Tesla Model X Tesla
Lexus RX Hybrid CarBuzz

2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid vs Tesla Model X

Although both make use of electrons in their motors, the Tesla Model X is different in that it relies fully on electric power. Whereas the XC90 has a plug-in hybridized engine that makes use of gas and electricity, the Model X is pure battery power all the way. Both can seat up to seven passengers, and both offer contemporary and modern cabins - however, the Model X leans much more heavily on technology, with a spartan look as opposed to the plush, clean-yet-comfy Scandivanian design of the XC90. The Model X is priced at $84,990 - much more than the Volvo, but for this price, you get a 4.4 second 0-60 mph time, a top speed of 155 mph, and a 328-mile all-electric range. When it comes down to comparing electric superiority, Tesla is nigh unbeatable. But, in our opinion, the Volvo XC90 - especially in six-seater guise - is more spacious, more comfortable, and much more passenger-focused with unrivaled luxury.

See Tesla Model X Review

2020 Volvo XC90 Hybrid vs Lexus RX Hybrid

Throwing the first punch, the Lexus RX 450 hybrid undercuts the base-line XC90 by more than $20k - that's a rather large amount of money to account for. Where the Volvo lineup comes incredibly well-stocked with features - especially in terms of safety and driver's aids - the Lexus requires numerous packages to be optioned on to get up to par; this easily pushes the prices on par with the Volvo, while offering arguably less in terms of quality. Still, the Lexus is debatably more contemporary than the Volvo in looks alone, and the Lexus is also AWD and comes with a larger 3.5-liter V6 engine paired to three electric motors to produce a combined 308 horses. This is not as powerful as what the Volvo kicks out, but the payoff is in the gas mileage - the Lexus has EPA figures of 31/28/30 mpg versus the Volvo's 26/30/27 mpg, although it misses out on all-electric driving range as it isn't a plug-in hybrid. While the RX 450h is most certainly a more affordable option for those who don't necessarily need all the bells and whistles, we'd be hard-pressed to choose it over the Volvo, whose higher price is fully validated by its extensive features list and levels of comfort.

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