2021 Volvo XC90

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2021 Volvo XC90 Test Drive Review: Enduring Luxury

As the first model of a new era for the Swedish manufacturer, the Volvo XC90 signaled big things. Not only was it the brand's first vehicle to be built on the Scalable Platform Architecture (SPA), but it was also the first to invest wholesale in the brand's Drive-E engine lineup. Now, five years on from the second-generation midsize SUV's arrival in the USA, the 2021 Volvo XC90 still serves as a halo model for the brand, competing against the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, and Audi Q7. Seating up to seven occupants across three rows, the XC90 is a spacious, luxurious crossover that prioritizes safety and luxury over sportiness. Three available powertrains range from an FWD T5, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-banger with 250 horsepower on tap, to a hybrid, all-wheel-drive T8 derivative with a twin-charged engine and electric motor generating a combined 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. With Volvo's future firmly embedded in electrification, the Swedes asked us to review a Volvo XC90 T6 R-Design for a week to see if the combustion model still holds up against the newer competition.

Read in this review:

8.9
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New 2021 Volvo XC90 Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 XC90?

Every model across the Volvo lineup has received fresh tech for the new model year, with full-LED active headlights, a speed-limiting "Care Key", and two rear USB outlets now made standard on all. Car-to-car communication has been integrated under the "Connected Safety" moniker to share safety alerts including a Slippery Road Alert and Hazard Light Alert. Also new for 2021, a 112-mph top speed limiter has been introduced on all Volvo models. The XC90 further benefits from the inclusion of wireless charging, front park assist, and new wheel designs in a 19-inch size. The last change to the lineup affects the hybrid T8 variant, with Volvo renaming all hybrid derivatives as 'Recharge' models in the US.

Pros and Cons

  • Exceptionally spacious, well laid out cabin
  • Drivetrain refinement has improved over the years
  • Optional air suspension is incredibly supple
  • Best sound system in the business
  • Standard safety tech is top-class
  • Stylish design, inside and out
  • Engines lack the refinement of rivals
  • Disconnected road feel
  • Cramped third-row seats
  • Laggy infotainment system

Best Deals on 2021 Volvo XC90

2021 Volvo XC90 Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
T5 Momentum
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$49,000
T5 R-Design
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$55,600
T6 Momentum
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$56,950
T6 R-Design
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$62,650
T6 Inscription
2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$63,250
See All 2021 Volvo XC90 Trims and Specs

2021 XC90 Exterior

2021 Volvo XC90 Front Angle View Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 View Out Back Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Sideward Vision Volvo
See All 2021 Volvo XC90 Exterior Photos

Dimensions

  • Length 194.9 in
  • Wheelbase 117.5 in
  • Height 69.9 in
  • Max Width 79.1 in
  • Front Width 65.7 in
  • Rear Width 65.8 in
  • Curb Weight 4,374.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

  • Ice White
  • Savile Grey Metallic
  • Crystal White Metallic
  • Bright Silver Metallic
  • Onyx Black Metallic
  • Denim Blue Metallic
  • Thunder Grey Metallic
  • Pine Grey Metallic
  • Birch Light Metallic
  • Pebble Grey Metallic

2021 XC90 Performance

2021 Volvo XC90 Driving Front Angle Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Driving Back View Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Rim Volvo

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.0L Turbo, 2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas, 2.0L Twincharged, 2.0L Twincharged Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

How comfortable your XC90 is will largely depend on whether you tick the box for the four-corner air suspension at $1,800 on R-Design and Inscription trims. With it, the ride is nothing short of sublime - a magic carpet of an SUV that simply soaks up pockmarked roadways as if they weren't even there, even with the larger 20-inch alloy wheels. Without it, the SUV rides pliantly, but it never quite feels as luxurious as it could, despite novel suspension technologies like a composite leaf spring rear end that makes the XC90 unique amongst its peers.

Regardless of your chosen suspension setup, however, the XC90 never pretends to be sporty, despite the Sport mode available on the drive selector, but rather delivers a lounge-like journey that's relaxing. Road noise, like most road abrasions, is an almost foreign concept, but then again, so is steering feel. The wheel feels good in hand and the front end responds well to inputs, but there's never much communication. One never feels completely isolated from the road, but there's a sense of disconnection as if driving a simulator rather than a buttoned-down mechanical being.

It'll handle perfectly well when asked, and down stretches of dirt, you'll never question its ability. You can even select an off-road driving mode that raises the air suspension and adapts the throttle programming for tough terrain. But, those looking for a sense of involvement would do better to shop over in the German aisle of the SUV supermarket.

2021 XC90 Interior

2021 Volvo XC90 Dashboard Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Seat Details Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Gear Shifter Volvo
See All 2021 Volvo XC90 Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    7-seater
  • Front Leg Room 40.9 in
  • Front Head Room 38.9 in
  • Rear Leg Room 37.0 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.5 in

2021 XC90 Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Volvo XC90 Armrest Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Interior Overview Volvo
2021 Volvo XC90 Side Perspective Driving Volvo

2021 XC90 Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    12 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: Is the 2021 Volvo XC90 A Good car?

In the five years since the second-generation XC90 debuted, rivals from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz have all had substantial overhauls. But despite now being one of the older entrants in the luxury midsize SUV segment, the XC90 doesn't miss a beat. The laggy infotainment system may be one downside, but in every other facet, Volvo has kept the crossover up to date with the latest advanced safety and convenience features. Where others try to strike the duality of comfort and performance, Volvo eschews any concept of sportiness. Instead, the XC90 is best enjoyed with the air suspension, lavish Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and cruise control enabled as you go about your business. An X5 may be more emotive, a Mercedes GLE might be more opulent, but the XC90 remains a classy proposition among German titans that can't be ignored.

Check out other Volvo XC90 Styles

2021 Volvo XC90 Comparisons

Audi Q7 Audi
Volvo XC60 Volvo
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Volvo XC90247 hp22/28 mpg$56,000
Audi Q7 261 hp19/25 mpg$59,200
Volvo XC60 295 hp21/27 mpg$42,650

2021 Volvo XC90 vs Audi Q7

The Audi Q7 is perhaps the most similar to the XC90 of the three German luxury SUVs, with three-row seating and a greater focus on luxury instead of handling dynamics. While both share the similarity of a turbocharged four-cylinder as a base engine with around 250 horsepower, the Audi has standard all-wheel-drive compared to the Volvo's default FWD setup. The Audi also offers a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 335 hp, making it more potent than the XC90's 316-hp T6 powertrain. Both are similarly well-equipped up the grades, with the Audi having the better infotainment suite, but Volvo boasting the best available sound system. Both feature lavish interiors, and both have similar cargo volume in the grand scheme of things. The Volvo comes out on top for third-row head and legroom, however, while the Audi can tow more at 7,700 lbs. The Q7 is marginally more expensive than the XC90 across the range, but the Volvo doesn't feel old enough to justify the extra price for the German. We'd stick with the Volvo, unless we needed to tow.

See Audi Q7 Review

2021 Volvo XC90 vs Volvo XC60

If the massive dimensions and three-row seating of the XC90 are simply too much for you, the XC60 gives you an almost identical experience with two fewer seats and smaller, more wieldy dimensions. Based on the same SPA platform and with the same powertrains available, the XC60 is quicker and more agile, thanks to less weight and size to carry around. It also starts just shy of $8,000 cheaper than the XC90. But in sharing so much, the XC60 also inherits the XC90's faults. That means the infotainment is still laggy and now outgunned by rivals, although the optional sound system from Bowers & Wilkins is still sublime. With the same available safety and convenience equipment, and even the same air suspension system available, the XC60 is every bit as luxurious as the XC90, but with a smaller cash outlay. For us, the XC60 simply makes sense, and if you don't need six or seven seats, it will for you too.

See Volvo XC60 Review

2021 Volvo XC90 Popular Comparisons

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