Supremely elegant and technologically advanced, the 2021 Volvo XC90 is one of the most desirable mid-size luxury crossovers. Volvo loves to promote its safety-conscious image and makes it real by packing its lone three-row SUV with copious standard driver assists. Along with tech-savvy features such as a fully digital gauge cluster and a tablet-like infotainment touchscreen, the XC90 offers a semi-autonomous drive mode. Although the Volvo isn’t very engaging from behind the wheel, especially compared with sportier rivals such as the Audi Q7 and Porsche Cayenne, it has one of the prettiest interiors in the game. A trio of four-cylinder engines are highlighted by a quick and potent 400-hp plug-in hybrid. However, the hybrid has a short all-electric range. Still, the 2021 XC90 is a perfectly splendid luxury vehicle with seating for up to seven.
What’s New for 2021?
Volvo makes a number of minor changes to the 2021 XC90 lineup. Every model now comes standard with front parking sensors, LED headlights that turn with the steering wheel, high-pressure headlight washers, wireless charging, two USB-C ports on the back of the center console, and the company’s Care Key, which allows an owner to set limitations on the vehicle’s top speed. The plug-in-hybrid T8 is now branded with the Recharge moniker. Other updates include the addition of Savile Grey metallic paint, updated speaker cones for the Bowers & Wilkins sound system, and a new gloss-black grille for the R-Design.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
Volvo’s largest SUV is best had with the mid-range T6 engine—a 316-hp turbo- and supercharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder—and dressed in rich Inscription trim. Stepping up from the mid-range R-Design to the Inscription adds a host of features that we expect luxury SUV buyers will have on their short list. This includes statelier exterior trim, 20-inch wheels, a fully digital gauge cluster, lane-keeping assist, nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats with massage functions, and a Harman/Kardon audio system.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The XC90 can be had in three versions, all of them riffs on the theme of Volvo’s 2.0-liter turbo four. The base model, which we have yet to test, features the 250-hp turbocharged T5 engine paired with front-wheel drive. The more powerful T6 version adds supercharging to the turbocharging system to result in 316 horsepower. It’s optional in the base Momentum trim and standard in Inscription models; the engine only pairs with all-wheel drive. The 400-hp plug-in hybrid XC90 T8 starts with the T6 powertrain and adds two electric motors and a charging port on the exterior. All XC90 engine variants are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and are rated to tow 5000 pounds, a respectable but not extraordinary figure for a vehicle this size. As with many vehicles in the class, the Volvo leans noticeably around curves, but its steering responses are accurate, and the wheel has a pleasing heft that splits the difference between feather-light and heavyweight. Our test car had the optional air suspension and provided a pleasant, insulated ride, and it handled most road situations well. Some clattering from the chassis over particularly sharp bumps betrays minor imperfections, one of only a few grievances with the otherwise graceful XC90.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
With the exception of its plug-in-hybrid powertrain, the XC90 achieves similar EPA ratings to those of its V-6 competitors. The turbo-only version is rated at up to 21 mpg city and 30 highway, but the turbo- and supercharged version sees those figures drop to 19 mpg and 28 highway. We tested the latter on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen, and observed 27 mpg. The plug-in hybrid earned 29 MPGe in the same real-world test. It also has 18 miles of estimated all-electric range, but that’s shorter than other plug-in-hybrids in this class such as the BMX X5 (31 miles) and Lincoln Aviator (21 miles).
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The XC90’s interior is a masterpiece of the medium. From the attractive design to the quality of the materials, we wish there were more vehicles like this. Adults won’t be happy in the third row, despite the fact that it offers more legroom than similar rivals, but preteens can probably be persuaded, provided the journey is short. The XC90’s wide, boxy silhouette helps in the cargo-hauling department, but interior compartments aren’t as cavernous as in some competitors.
Infotainment and Connectivity
A handsome, tabletlike 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard in all XC90s, and its operation is mostly intuitive. Every model has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability; a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot is optional. The system could be improved by adding more redundant hard buttons.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
The 2021 XC90 earned a five-star crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the last version that was evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was named a Top Safety Pick. Volvo’s commitment to safety is legendary, and its three-row crossover has a loaded roster of driver-assistance technology. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
- Standard lane-departure warning
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The XC90 has a merely average warranty plan versus competitors. However, Volvo outdoes them by offering excellent complimentary scheduled maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers four years or 50,000 miles
- Hybrid components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles
- Complimentary maintenance is covered for three years or 36,000 miles
More Features and Specs