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2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2021 Cadillac XT6: Which Is Better?

Home Depot squares off against Ikea in the battle for three-row midsize crossover supremacy. 2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2021 Cadillac XT6: Which is better?

Quick Facts

  • Both are seven-passenger, three-row crossovers.
  • Cadillac XT6 was brand-new for 2020.
  • Volvo offers a plug-in hybrid.

2021 Volvo XC90

2021 Volvo XC90

Base price: $49,995 / Read our 2021 Volvo XC90 Review

What we like: Optional plug-in hybrid; beautiful interior; excellent optional B&W stereo; graceful exterior styling.

What we would change: There’s no V6 or V8 option; physical controls for climate control, rather than touchscreen; hybrid is very expensive.

Overview:

At a price significantly below some of its European competitors, the 2021 Volvo XC90 offers solid build quality, plenty of technology, sharp exterior styling, and as expected from Volvo, plenty of safety features. A three-row midsize SUV/crossover, the XC90 offers seating for seven, although to be fair, the third row is best only for kids or short trips. Optional captain’s chairs in the second row reduce capacity to six. There is technically one engine for the XC90, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, although the base engine is turbocharged and the upgrade adds a supercharger for 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, quite a lot from a four-cylinder. That upgrade engine is also good for a 5,000-pound maximum towing weight. There’s also a plug-in hybrid called the Recharge, which pairs an electric motor with this engine. The base engine is competent, although not exactly thrilling, whereas the upgrade offers plenty of power. We would not describe the XC90 as sporty, per se, but it can handle being driven aggressively.

The interior is properly Scandinavian, providing luxury without flash: elegant, yet practical. Up front is a 12.3-inch digital display and a 9-inch infotainment touchscreen below it. We like it, although we prefer physical buttons for functions such as climate control. There are several trim levels, although the names can be a bit confusing. The base engine is T5, with the upgrade engine being T6 and the hybrid called Recharge. Trim levels are called Momentum, R-Design (sportier touches), and Inscription. The basic hybrid, though, is the Recharge Inscription Expression. Every XC90 comes very nicely equipped, with things like adaptive suspension, a 360-degree camera system, and a superlative Bowers & Wilkins audio system offered as upgrades.

What’s new for 2021: For 2021, the XC90 gets a number of technological upgrades. Full LED lights with active bending and high-pressure cleaning are now standard. Wireless charging is also standard, and the 12-volt outlet in the second row is now two USB C-ports. Parking sensors are also standard, and a programmable key is included in the base trim. Also included are name changes, with the hybrid, formerly called, T8, now called Recharge. Following that, the former Momentum T8 is now called the Recharge Inscription Expression.

Features and technology: One of Volvo’s more intriguing options for the 2021 XC90 is called Care by Volvo. It’s a subscription service ($750 for a Momentum trim, for example) that includes insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance. Subscribers to the service can also swap vehicles after a year. Another interesting feature, new for 2021, is called the Care Key, which allows owners to program things such as speed limits and alerts for young drivers.

As mentioned above, standard features are generous on the XC90. It starts with adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, full LED lighting, four-zone automatic climate control, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, and a panoramic moonroof. Also standard are parking sensors, high-pressure headlight cleaning, 10-way power front seats, four USB ports, and a 4-year subscription to Volvo On-Call. Options include all-wheel drive in the base trim, although it’s standard in upper trims. The R-Design adds more features like leather upholstery, 20-inch wheels, and a 600-watt Harman Kardon audio system.

Other options include an adaptive air suspension, heated seats and steering wheel, a 360-degree camera system, massaging front seats, and the B&W audio system. Inscription models get Nappa leather upholstery, although that can be changed for a tailored wool blend instead.

What does the future hold: Volvo has traditionally been a fairly conservative company, so don’t expect anything too radical. Upgrades will likely include more technology and, of course, safety features. As we mentioned, we would like to see an optional V6 engine.

2021 Cadillac XT6

2021 Cadillac XT6

 

Base price: $48,990 / Read our 2021 Cadillac XT6 Review

What we like: Full-size third row; smooth ride; low price compared to competition.

What we would change: Sharpen up the interior; needs more power; towing capacity.

Overview: Brand-new for 2020 and slotting between the two-row XT5 and gargantuan Escalade, the Cadillac XT6 returns for 2021 as a premium luxury crossover with three rows of seats for full-size adults. The base V6 has been replaced by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which to our tastes is a bit underpowered, although there’s an upgrade 3.6-liter V6 in Premium and Luxury models. The base model comes with front-wheel drive, although there are three driving modes and all-wheel drive is optional. Sport mode offers a distinctly lively ride, but without a loss of comfort.

The exterior design follows that of its smaller siblings, the XT4 and XT5, and there are some nice luxury touches on the interior, including semi-aniline leather, rich woods, and soft-touch materials. It’s a very nice and comfortable place to be, although to our minds, it feels a bit generic, without really distinguishing itself as a premium vehicle. The 2021 Cadillac XT6 comes well equipped, and of course, plenty of options are available, including the $4,900 Platinum package on upper-tier models.

What’s new for 2021: The XT6 was brand new for 2020, so there are not a lot of changes for this year. Most significantly for 2021, last year’s 3.6-liter V6 is now the upgrade engine, with the base engine being a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It’s a bit underpowered but returns 24 mpg combined. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity have also been added, and there are a new 20-inch wheel design for Sport models and a couple of new paint colors.

Features and technology: For 2021, XT6 trim levels are increased from two to three, with the Luxury trim joining the Sport and Premium Luxury. Luxury and Premium Luxury models are offered with front-wheel drive and optional all-wheel drive, while the Sport has dual-clutch Sport Control all-wheel drive, continuous damping control, and faster steering.

The base XT6 comes with leather seating, heated 8-way power front seats, an 8-speaker Bose audio system, a heated steering wheel, and a power sunroof. Also included are a power-folding third-row seat, tri-zone climate controls, wireless charging, an 8-inch touchscreen with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration, 20-inch wheels, and rain-sensing wipers. Driver assists include forward collision alert, pedestrian braking, low-speed forward automatic braking, front and rear park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot warning.

Options include ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, captain’s chairs for the second row, a 360-degree camera, and a 14-speaker Bose audio system. On the top two trims, Cadillac also offers the $4,900 Platinum package, with Opus semi-aniline leather, a leather-wrapped console, a micro-suede headliner, and a performance suspension.

What does the future hold: As we feel the base engine is a bit underpowered, we would like to see more power, and maybe even a top-level V trim. Other than that, expect the usual tweaks and refinements.

XC90 vs. XT6: Strengths comparison

XC90 Benefits:

Higher maximum tow rating; more cargo space; optional plug-in hybrid; more luxurious interior.

XT6 Benefits:

Third row is big enough for adults; Sport model; more physical buttons.

XC90 vs. XT6: Which is better?

On paper, the 2021 Volvo XC90 and 2021 Cadillac XT6 are very similar. Their starting prices are nearly identical,  and there are slight differences, with the Caddy’s rear seats being bigger but the Volvo offering a higher tow rating and more cargo capacity.  With none of those affecting your decision, however, we have to go with the Volvo. Its understated cabin is elegant, tasteful, and luxurious in a way the Cadillac just can’t quite match. Find a Volvo XC90 for sale or Find a Cadillac XT6 for sale

2021 Volvo XC90 2021 Cadillac XT6
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.0-liter I4, turbocharged 2.0-liter I4, turbocharged
Horsepower 250 hp @ 5500 rpm 237 hp @ 6700 rpm
Torque 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm 258 lb-ft @ 1500 rpm
Transmission Automatic, 8-Spd Automatic, 9-Spd
Fuel Economy 25 mpg (21 city, 30 hwy) 24 mpg (21 city, 27hwy)
Also Available 2.0-liter I4, turbocharged and supercharged; 2.0-liter I4, turbocharged and supercharged + electric motor 3.6-liter V6
Specs
Basic Warranty 4 years or 50,000 miles 4 years or 50,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 4 years or 50,000 miles 6 years or 70,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety Rating n/a 4 Stars
Max Seating Capacity 7 7
Wheelbase 117.5 inches 112.7 inches
Overall Length 194.9 inches 198.5 inches
Width 84.3 inches (w/ mirrors) 77.3 inches
Height 69.9 inches 69.9 inches
Turning Diameter 38.7 feet 39.1 feet
Headroom, Front 38.9 inches 39.8 inches
Headroom, Rear 38.5 inches 39.1 inches
Legroom, Front 40.9 inches 41.2 inches
Legroom, Rear 37.0 inches 39.1 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 57.7 inches 58.3 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 56.6 inches 57.4 inches
EPA Passenger Volume n/a 149.9 cu. ft.
EPA Cargo Volume 85.7 cu. ft. 78.7 cu. ft.
Doug Lloyd
Doug Lloyd is an author specializing in comparison tests. A veteran of the automotive press world, Doug started at Sports Car International and Vintage Motorsport magazines and has worked at both Porsche Panorama magazine and Edmunds.com. Doug is also a jazz piano player and a composer for television.

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