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2016 Volvo XC90 vs. 2016 Lexus RX: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro March 2016

The luxury-crossover segment is booming, with many shoppers choosing luxury SUVs for their family vehicles, personal vehicles or work vehicles. Two of the most compelling new options are the 2016 Volvo XC90 and the 2016 Lexus RX, both of which were fully redesigned for the latest model year. But which one is better? We've created a close comparison of the two models in order to find out, but first let's see what's new with the XC90 and the RX for the latest model year.

2016 Volvo XC90

The XC90 was fully redesigned for the 2016 model year. In addition to a totally new look and a new interior, the XC90 touts a long list of new features and new powertrains with added efficiency.

2016 Lexus RX

The Lexus RX is also totally redesigned for the 2016 model year. Like the XC90, it touts a new look, a thoroughly updated interior and a lot of new equipment. The Lexus' powertrains are revised but not changed as drastically as the Volvo's engines.

Reliability

Because the XC90 and the RX are so new, neither model has yet been rated for reliability by the experts at J.D. Power. It's worth noting, however, that Lexus scored at the top of J.D. Power's recent vehicle-dependability study, indicating that it was the most reliable brand J.D. Power tested. By comparison, Volvo scored near the industry average.

The RX also offers a slight edge in terms of warranty coverage. While both models tout 4 years or 50,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage, the Lexus also offers an additional 2 years or 20,000 miles of powertrain protection -- not included with the XC90. As a result, the RX is the winner of our reliability category.

Fuel Economy

Both the RX and the XC90 offer two engines. In the Volvo, most models use the T6 powertrain -- a 316-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged 4-cylinder, which returns up to 22 miles per gallon in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Drivers looking for more efficiency can upgrade to the XC90 T8, which boasts 394 hp and an 18-mile fully electric range. That engine returns 24 mpg city/27 mpg hwy in conventional gasoline mode.

As for the RX, base models use a 295-hp 3.5-liter V6, which touts up to 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. Drivers interested in improved fuel efficiency can choose the hybrid-powered RX 450h, which uses a 308-hp hybrid version of the same V6 and returns up to 31 mpg city/30 mpg hwy.

So which one is better? That depends on your definition. Both models offer roughly the same base-level fuel economy, while the two choose different powertrains in their efficiency-focused variants. While the Volvo's plug-in hybrid can't beat the Lexus' traditional hybrid in gasoline mode, only the Volvo touts an 18-mile electric-only range. To us, that makes this category a toss-up.

Safety

As of March 2016, neither the XC90 nor the RX had been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In tests carried out by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, both earned the firm's highest possible rating of Top Safety Pick+.

When it comes to safety, there is little doubt that the latest RX and the latest XC90 are among the safest vehicles on the road. Both offer everything you might expect as standard equipment, such as a backup camera, traction and stability control, side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes. And both tout a wide range of safety options, including rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assist.

With that said, we think the Volvo offers a slight leg up. It comes standard with forward-collision warning and automatic braking, while the Lexus has those features on its options list. The Volvo also offers an automated parking system and a unique new feature that detects when the vehicle has run off the road and reacts accordingly.

Neither of these two models comes up short on safety, but to us, the Volvo is the winner here.

Technology

Much like in the Safety section, we think both of these models are at the cutting edge of automotive technology. They both tout just about everything you can imagine, from a rear-seat entertainment system to a 360-degree camera, a panoramic sunroof and a modern infotainment system with a huge center screen.

With that said, the Volvo is our winner here. The main reason is that its infotainment system really feels like it's from the future -- a huge, easy-to-use screen with seemingly infinite controls -- while the Lexus' Remote Touch system seems to be from the past. It also helps that the XC90 offers a few features that you can't get in an RX, including an adaptive air suspension, an automated parking system and a 19-speaker stereo.

Indeed, the Lexus is a few steps behind the Volvo in terms of technology, but considering how advanced the XC90 is, that's not a bad place to be.

Value

Despite the XC90's equipment and safety advantage over the RX, it's not all that more expensive. In fact, the XC90's base price ($44,900 with shipping) is only around $2,000 more than the RX's $42,900 base price with destination. And it's worth noting that the XC90 is also larger and more powerful than the Lexus, and it touts a third-row seat, which, inexplicably, is still not an option in the RX.

Although we rarely award the value category to the more expensive vehicle, we think the Volvo easily earns a win here by offering a more compelling choice for not too much more money.

Autotrader's Advice

Although we think both the 2016 Lexus RX and the 2016 Volvo XC90 are among the best luxury SUVs on the market, the Volvo is our winner here. Handsome, roomy, comfortable and loaded with gadgets and features, the Volvo is probably the best luxury SUV on the market, and it offers surprisingly reasonable pricing, too. Although we wouldn't fault you for choosing the RX -- routinely a desirable, durable option with lots of features of its own -- we think the XC90 is a few steps ahead of its Lexus rival.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Volvo XC90 vs. 2016 Lexus RX: Which Is Better? - Autotrader