The three-row SUV is aging really well.
Despite being nearly nine years into its second generation, the Volvo XC90 is still a good-looking and, more importantly, relevant three-row mid-size SUV on the market. It's had nips and tucks in the right places over the years on the outside, and the inside is aesthetically sublime and as timeless as it is comfortable. The plug-in hybrid Recharge model is still the most powerful and fuel-efficient version, with 455 horsepower, up to 58 MPGe, and up to 32 miles of electric-only power.
There are a few updates for 2024, mostly in exterior looks, with new 21-inch 8-Spoke Black Diamond Cut alloy wheels being made standard on the Ultimate trim. The Dark Theme with its black exterior chrome has been axed. The Bright Theme and its shiny accouterments remain, and you can see that in our photos of the Ultimate trim vehicle reviewed here. Vapour Grey is a new color for 2024, which is what our tester was wearing.
The word 'minimalist' gets tossed around way too much, but it can be used confidently here. The lines are clean and simple, the focus is on functionality and avoiding gaudy styling. The Thor's Hammer headlights are distinct without being unnecessarily intricate, and the less-is-more approach works well here. The 21-inch alloys on our Ultimate trim loaner stray away from the idea of minimalism and, along with the slotted grille, are the 'busiest' design elements on the car. Neither adds anything from a functionality perspective, but since the rest of the car is understated, it isn't too much.
In keeping with the minimalist design themes, the exterior paint palette is limited to a range of greys, silvers, white, black, and one blue hue. A panoramic roof is standard on even the base model, and it contributes to a really airy cabin.
Speaking of the cabin, the interior is a pleasant, uncluttered space with plenty of natural light. Volvo has limited interior color schemes on the two base trims, although leather is standard. The Ultimate gets a few more options, including a wool blend textile. The materials used throughout, including the natural wood trim, are well chosen, and contribute to the classy feel. Everything inside the XC90 Recharge has a place and purpose. For the most part, the XC90's interior ticks the boxes for ergonomics and elegance, and it feels more than spacious enough - until you get into the cramped third row, which does not welcome adults.
You could accuse the Orrefors crystal gear shifter on the Ultimate trim Volvos of being an unnecessary embellishment, but it's part of Volvo's functional design that reflects and glows with light without feeling cold and slick like glass would. If you do like a little extra, you can equip front-seat massage function additionally.
At the heart of the XC90 Recharge is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine bolstered by a turbo- and supercharger, and an electric motor. The result is 455 horsepower and 523 lb-ft of torque, and a 0-60 mph sprint in the low five seconds with help from the standard all-wheel drive.
The transmission is an eight-speed automatic unit that can be a bit jolty when pulling away and at lower speeds, in general. Our feeling is that the combination of the four-cylinder engine and a transmission that can display a lack of finesse leaves the XC90 feeling less refined than it should. Unfortunately, with Volvo's drive towards all-electric power, it's unlikely the brand will take a leaf out of Mazda's book and give the XC90 the six-cylinder it deserves.
Volvo, along with the related Polestar brand, has leaned into using Google to underpin its infotainment system, but it's revolution rather than evolution. The upright nine-inch touchscreen is familiar to all modern Volvo owners and still insists on housing the heating and cooling controls rather than using physical buttons.
The user interface is still logical and easy to navigate and doesn't overwhelm the driver or passenger with sub-menus. Our Ultimate trim came standard with the excellent Bowers & Wilkins sound system, which is a must for Volvo customers with a cultured appreciation of music.
The Ultimate trim gets laminated side windows to reduce noise leaking into the interior, which contributes to the quiet and relaxing cabin. Add this to rapid acceleration and smooth driving, and the XC90 Recharge makes for a premium experience for the driver and passengers. We just wish Volvo would take another look at the transmission programming for around town. If you want the best in smooth powertrains, you may want to check out one of the German brands instead (think BMW X5 Hybrid or Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid). The same goes for sportiness, but to be fair, the idea of a sporty three-row crossover deserves to be questioned.
While the XC90 does lean in corners, the suspension soaks up lumps and bumps with little to no fuss despite its weight. The steering can be adjusted in heaviness, but keeping it in its standard setting will suit most drivers and fits with the feel of the whole vehicle - light and fuss-free.
Volvo has done a great job with consistency through its range by invoking a stylish and premium feel that's more superb coffee than aged whiskey and cigars. The XC90 Recharge has its drawbacks, like the cramped third row and inconsistent transmission, but it's far outweighed by the pros of being a svelte, uniquely styled, easy to drive and easy to live with premium crossover. If you only need that third row for emergencies, you can take advantage of the cargo space when they're folded down, and you'll be charmed by the rest of the package.
The 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge starts at $71,900 for the base trim, and while the plush Ultimate costs quite a bit more, it's still under $80k at $79,600, excluding destination and any options.