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2016 Volvo XC90: New Car Review

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Used 2016 Volvo XC90 AWD T6 Momentum
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author photo by Autotrader June 2016

It's taken some time, but the all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 is ready to drive into the future. This model year marks the debut of the XC90's second generation. The first was around from 2003 to 2014, an eternity in automotive years.

But the wait has been well worth it. A rejuvenated Volvo has come up with a simple yet elegant design that does its best to stop the new XC90 from looking like a huge truck. Meanwhile, an equal amount of thought and ingenuity can also be witnessed in the cabin. This fresh generation reestablishes the XC90 as a credible contender among daunting competition. It even earned a spot on our list of 10 Must Test Drive Vehicles for 2016.

What's New for 2016?

From design to equipment and architecture, pretty much everything is new for this model year.

What We Like

Handsome exterior design; thoughtful interior design; top-notch safety equipment

What We Don't

Stop/start engine feature a little too intrusive; smallest engine not the best choice; only one USB port in a 7-seater luxury vehicle

How Much?


Fuel Economy

The engine in T5 models is a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit turbocharged to produce 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, linked to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Power goes to the front wheels in standard models, while all-wheel drive is optional.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption in front-wheel-drive models at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. With all-wheel drive, the numbers are 22 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

The T6 features the same transmission but with all-wheel drive as standard. It also uses a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, but this one is turbocharged and supercharged. The result is 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Despite that extra power, fuel consumption is pretty good at 20 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

Add the engine and the all-wheel-drive setup of the T6 to an electric motor, and you have the basis for the T8 Twin Engine Plug-in Hybrid version. The whole system develops 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates an all-electric range of 14 miles and an average of 53 miles per gallon equivalent. In standard hybrid mode, combined consumption is 25 mpg. Charging the lithium-ion battery pack from a 240-volt outlet takes 2.5 hours; using a 120-volt outlet takes almost three times as long.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Volvo XC90 comes in T5, T6 and T8 Twin Engine Plug-in Hybrid versions. The T5 accommodates five occupants, while the T6 and T8 can take seven. Each model then comes in basic Momentum trim, sporty R-Design trim or luxurious Inscription trim.

The T5 Momentum ($44,945) comes well equipped with 18-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, premium vinyl upholstery, 8-way power adjustable front seats with driver's-side memory settings, a hands-free lift gate, roof rails, rain-sensing wipers, drive-mode selection, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, navigation, keyless entry/ignition, Bluetooth phone and audio, a 9-in touchscreen (set vertically) and a 10-speaker audio system with satellite radio, a USB port and an auxiliary input. A suite of advanced protection features (see the Safety section below) is also part of the stock package.

The T6 Momentum ($50,795) and T8 Momentum ($69,095) add 19-in wheels, heated front seats, leather upholstery and quad-zone automatic climate control. The T8 Momentum also has extendable under-thigh support for the front seats, along with LED adaptive headlights and daytime running lights.

The T5 R-Design ($50,345) brings a sportier steering wheel with gearshift paddles, plus 20-in alloys, sport seats, leather upholstery and various cosmetic touches.

The T6 R-Design ($54,795) and T8 R-Design ($70,995) bring their own drivetrains.

The T5 Inscription ($52,245) has even nicer leather upholstery to accompany its own set of plusher cosmetic additions. Comfort also increases thanks to heated and ventilated front seats with adjustable bolstering, as well as sunshades for the rear section of the cabin.

Once again, the T6 Inscription ($56,395) and T8 Inscription ($72,595) contribute their particular drivetrains.

Among the many options are a built-in children's booster seat (for the second row), a head-up display, an adaptive air suspension, 22-in wheels, automated parking and a Bowers & Wilkins 19-speaker audio system.

Those versions with seating for seven have a third row that can split and fold in 50/50 fashion. Behind these seats is a generous 15.8 cu ft. of cargo space. Fold down the second and third rows for a maximum of 85.7 cu ft. No rivals can offer anything better.


If Volvo had a middle name, it would be Safety. In addition to the mandatory anti-lock brakes, airbags and traction control, the XC90 comes standard with a forward-collision warning system featuring automatic braking and detection of pedestrians and cyclists. It also has a rearview camera.

Run-off road protection is a new idea: Should the XC90 suddenly leave the pavement, the system tightens seat belts and uses shock-absorbing seat cushions to reduce the risk of spinal injuries. This is also standard equipment.

Optional safety gear includes adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure intervention and a 360-degree camera system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn't crash-tested the 2016 XC90 yet, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has made it a Top Safety Pick+ after awarding the vehicle its top score of Good in all the major categories.

Behind the Wheel

Inside this tranquil cabin are cool surfaces of aluminum trim and matte-finish wood accents. Even with three rows of seating, there's still plenty of passenger space. The seats themselves are typically sumptuous and typically Volvo, some of the most comfortable in the business. And the controls are all laid out in a tidy manner -- Volvo doesn't go in for clutter.

The handling is similarly tidy, with stability and composure shining through even when tackling corners. But here's the usual piece of advice about not going for a combination of big wheels and lower-profile tires: Comfort levels will be far better with smaller wheels and more forgiving tire sidewalls.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Acura MDX -- The MDX is one of the few premium rivals that can also seat seven.

2017 Audi Q7 -- Another completely renewed SUV, the 2017 Q7 is a little more elegant and comes packed with technology.

2016 BMW X5 -- The driver's choice, the X5 comes with diesel and plug-in hybrid options, but the handling isn't too firm.

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class -- A change of name and a redesign updates the former M-Class. Like the X5, diesel and plug-in hybrid options are also offered.

2016 Lexus RX -- All new for 2016, the RX is well built and a big seller. The looks might deter some buyers, while the unremarkable driving experience might put off others. A hybrid version is available.

2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport -- A diesel engine has become an option for 2016. Elsewhere, the Range Rover Sport has much of its bigger sibling's plushness in a more accessible package.

Autotrader's Advice

The T5 seems somewhat underpowered for such a large vehicle. You'd be better served to go for the T6, since there isn't much of a penalty at the fuel pump, and even the entry-level Momentum trim is well stocked.

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Used 2016 Volvo XC90 AWD T6 Momentum
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2016 Volvo XC90: New Car Review - Autotrader