I recently had the opportunity to check out the 2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence. This is the top-level version of the new Volvo XC90 SUV, and it costs — I am completely serious here — $105,695. Nearly $106,000 … for a Volvo. See the 2017 Volvo XC90 models for sale near you
Obviously, this makes the XC90 Excellence the single most expensive Volvo in history, so I wanted to find out exactly what was going on with this thing. What makes it so expensive? Why is it so "excellent?" And is it really $99,000 better than my first car, which was also a Volvo, which my family bought heavily used in 2004 for $6,500 from a guy who also owned an Alfa Romeo 164?
To do this, I borrowed this XC90 Excellent from Ourisman Volvo in Bethesda, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C. Ourisman has two of these things — out of 250 or so that are coming to the United States — and they also had one more, but they sold it. As you might imagine, they’ve had it a while: People aren’t exactly lining up to buy a $106,000 Volvo. But they’re confident they can sell it, because D.C. is a huge Volvo market, and someone, somewhere, will want the ultimate Volvo.
And it is, indeed, the ultimate Volvo.
I’ll start with a little overview of what the Excellence is: the top trim level of the XC90, like I said, which is slotted above the Momentum (starting at $47,900), the R-Design ($53,300) and the Inscription ($60,200). Yes, that’s right: The Excellence is more than double the base price of the standard XC90 — and not due to some crazy powertrain or extended-length body with a larger interior. It all comes down to the equipment.
Most of that equipment is in back. Sure, there are a lot of nice features and touches throughout the car (like beautiful wood trim, and aluminum exterior accents, and a crystal shifter, and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins sound system), but it’s mostly concentrated on the back, because in the Excellence, you’re supposed to sit in back. Your chauffeur sits up front.
I’m serious. The XC90 Excellence is primarily aimed at the Chinese market, where people actually are chauffeured around in their Volvos, and so the rear seats are absolutely, unfathomably luxurious — especially for a Volvo. They are, for instance, power adjustable, just like the front seats. They’re heated. They’re cooled. There’s a heated or cooled cupholder in the middle of the rear seats, which changes color depending on whether you’re heating or cooling it. There’s a center console in back, which is quite deep, and which features a household-style electrical outlet. There are iPad holders behind the front seats.
And then there’s the really crazy stuff. Like, for instance, the rear partition that blocks out noise coming from the cargo area for a more luxurious, refined experience — and the tray tables that rise up from the center console so you can work (or eat) while you’re driven. And the champagne flutes, emblazoned with the logo of the company that made them; the same company that made the crystal shifter. And the refrigerator, which is massive, and which can hold two bottles of champagne plus both of the champagne flutes.
The entire thing is a wonderful experience, and as you start going through and enjoying all the luxury touches and features, you start to wrap your mind around the fact that this thing makes sense for $100,000. Until you think about it practically.
Here’s what I mean: A standard XC90 Momentum is $47,900 without any features, but let’s say you option one up a bit, and you’re at $60,000 or maybe $65,000. That model gives you seven seats, and folding rear seats to improve your cargo-carrying capabilities. The Excellence? It’s over $100,000, and you only get four seats — and the rear partition means there are no folding rear seats, so the cargo area gives you the storage space of a normal XC90. In other words, you have to really, really want to be chauffeured in your Volvo.
But if you do climb behind the wheel, you’ll find an endlessly pleasant experience. The Excellence’s ride quality is absolutely top-notch, the seats are tremendously comfortable and plush, and you exert virtually no energy making turns thanks to the ultra-light steering. In a world where every automaker seems to be racing to capture the "sporty" buyers — even Lexus with the aggressive new RX — Volvo has focused more on comfort and luxury, and the XC90 benefits from it. Even though it has 400 horsepower (courtesy of a turbo-supercharged plug-in hybrid 4-cylinder), the XC90 Excellence doesn’t feel very fast — but this isn’t the SUV for the "high-performance" driver. This is the SUV for the driver who wants to haul around the whole family in pure serenity.
Serenity, of course, that comes from having your kids in back, sitting on their plush Excellence leather seats, playing with the heated seats and the cooled cupholder, watching an iPad that’s clipped to the front seat, and sipping from the champagne flutes … full of orange juice.
One final thought: Despite the $105,695 sticker price, Ourisman Volvo — who lent me this XC90 Excellence — currently has this thing listed for around $78,000. If you don’t need the cargo area or the seven seats, this thing probably has the most luxury per dollar of any new vehicle on sale today. Find a 2017 Volvo XC90 for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.