- Hands-free automatic tailgate
- 4-zone electronic climate control including cooled glovebox
- Panoramic moonroof with power sunshade
- Volvo On Call, including remote start and vehicle tracking (4-year subscription)
Whether you’re welcoming a new baby or your kids are growing up, you’re probably beginning to think about a bigger vehicle. It has to handle people of various ages and heights, plus all the stuff that comes along with them: strollers, diaper bags, hockey equipment, golf clubs, mountain bikes… The Volvo XC90 does all that and more. Today’s Parent Approved editors put the Volvo XC90 to the test and arranged for week-long loans for three families so we could get to the heart of how well this SUV works for everyday family use. Our parent testers loved that the XC90 had enough room for their family and everything they needed to haul around. Plus, they were thrilled with the standard safety features, as well as the luxurious ride and interior finishes.
Volvo has always been generous when it comes to including safety features—they built their brand on being leaders in this area and the standard fare on every XC90 illustrates this. Every trim level includes IntelliSafe Standard, which includes a long list of safety features. There’s City Safety, which detects vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and large animals in your path and automatically brakes if a collision is about to happen. Other features included in IntelliSafe Standard are lane keeping aid, rear collision warning, automatic braking after a collision, a whiplash-prevention system, electronic stability control and rear park assist. The Volvo XC90 also comes with a four-year subscription to the Volvo On Call app, which provides emergency roadside assistance, emergency support, automatic collision alert and theft alert, as well as neat features like sending your navigation to the car before you leave, keeping a detailed trip log that can be exported, and remote start.
Our test vehicle also came equipped with two optional packages. The Vision package ($2,000) features blind spot information, cross traffic alerts and bird’s-eye-view camera to help you park the XC90. The Convenience package ($2,200) adds pilot assist—a semi-autonomous drive system with adaptive cruise control. Parent testers loved the wide range of safety features, telling us it offered everything they could ask for.
It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into making the XC90 a comfortable vehicle, not just to pilot but also to be a passenger in. The driver’s seat is fully adjustable (lumbar support included), and a memory feature ensures your settings aren’t lost when someone else gets behind the wheel and adjusts the seat to their liking. Both the driver and front passenger seats also extend at the front of the seat to give those with longer legs more thigh support, and the seats also ventilated—a big plus in hot summer months. Plus, heated front seats are standard in all trims.
The two rear rows of seating also offer a comfy seat for adults and bigger kids, and there’s lots of room for car seats in the second row. It’s worth noting that the third row is less roomy, but even so, it’s plenty comfortable for a few hours on the road. One of the really nice things about the four-zone climate control is the passengers in the rear rows can control their own settings—no need to freeze because someone up front is running warm.
There’s no shortage of cargo space in the back of the Volvo XC90. Editors loaded up a full-size stroller (the UppaBaby Vista, which has a pretty bulky fold) and two huge IKEA shopping bags filled with stuff, with room to spare. When you want extra space, seats fold down individually with a lever, offering you a wide range of configuration options. With the third row folded down, you shouldn’t have trouble fitting any stroller—even the bulkiest of side-by-side doubles. And the seats aren’t too heavy to put them back in place if you suddenly need room for friends (yours or your kids’). A nice touch that drivers will appreciate is the ability to fold the rear headrests down with the press of a button on the dash; they’ll quickly get better visibility out the back without any need for someone to manually make adjustments.
One of the great things about the XC90 is the automatic rear tailgate. With a wave of your foot under the rear bumper, the tailgate opens. It’s a really nice feature for those times you’re loaded down with bags of groceries or you’re holding a large, heavy item. It’s worth noting that using the hands-free tailgate function can take some practice, but that’s common across all vehicles that have this kind of feature (in fact, this feature on many vehicles we’ve tested are far more finicky than on the XC90). The tailgate also closes with the press of a button—no need to haul the large door up or down.
If you’ve ever been loading items in the rear cargo area of an SUV and had the tailgate begin to close, you’re fully aware of how awkward it is to get out of the way without hitting your head. In line with Volvo’s emphasis on safety, the rear tailgate in the XC90 will not close while someone is standing under it—a really nice feature that can save you or your kids from a bump on the head.
The Volvo XC90 is an all-wheel drive vehicle, which inherently uses more fuel. Nonetheless, the XC90 has a respectable fuel economy of 10.8 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 7.6 L per 100 km on the highway. Volvo says real world driving, which includes a mixture of both city and highway driving, should result in a fuel economy of 9.4 L per 100 km. But you can improve fuel economy if you use Volvo’s Eco Mode, which calibrates the engine and gearbox to lower fuel consumption (it also reduces AC output, but you can override that). Eco Coast, which powers the vehicle with kinetic energy, and the Start/Stop feature will also help reduce fuel consumption.
Unlike a lot of other higher-end vehicles, Volvo says the XC90 can run on regular fuel without affecting performance. That said, they also note that premium fuel is required for optimum performance.
A smooth ride and complete comfort were priorities when designing the Volvo XC90. It’s built on what Volvo describes as a touring chassis, which typically refers to a smoother ride where bumps and road imperfections are absorbed by the car and not felt with any significance by the passengers. The drive feel of XC90 can be further configured through five drive modes: comfort, the default mode; eco to help make driving more fuel-efficient; off road, where the ground clearance is increased (the vehicle can only be used at low speeds); dynamic, which provides more responsive steering and stiffer suspension; and individual mode, which allows the driver to configure vehicle settings for a custom feel.
Both editors and testers loved the way the XC90 drives. Editors noted it felt like they were floating down the road thanks to the combination of the smooth ride and the high riding height, and they described braking as buttery smooth. Parent testers also loved how easy it was to navigate on the road, noting that even though it can seat seven passengers, it didn’t feel like a big vehicle.
One of the really nice things about the Volvo XC90 is it has a very small blindspot. (We measured this by having one person in the driver’s seat and a second person stand behind the vehicle with their hand held out. The person behind the XC90 moved out from the side of the vehicle until the driver could see the hand in the rear-view mirror.) Our editors were impressed with how much visibility they had despite the XC90’s larger size. In fact, most approaching vehicles would seamlessly transition from mirror to window without our driver losing sight of them. However, if your XC90 is equipped with Volvo’s Vision package (available on all trims), a blind spot warning indicator will light up on your side mirror when another vehicle approaches, giving you extra peace of mind and, if necessary, a slight nudge back into your lane.
Parking is made easier with the XC90’s rear parking camera and rear park assist—standard on all trims. Our editors found these features very useful when reversing in a busy parking lot. The camera gives you visibility behind your vehicle with yellow guiding lines and the assist feature gives you an audible beep when you get close to another object. The Vision package also comes with some handy parking features like the cross-traffic alert (to help when reversing out of a space) and the 360-surround view camera, which uses four cameras to give you a bird’s-eye view of your vehicle, allowing you to snuggle into even the tightest spaces without a scratch. Another tester was a fan of the park assist pilot (part of the Convenience package, available on all trim levels), which takes over your steering while parking so all you have to do is control the brake.
There’s truly something special about a Volvo interior. Editors were impressed with the attention to detail and the gorgeous finishes that leave very little to want. Even the gearshift lever offers a luxe touch—it’s made of crystal. Our parent testers were in lock step with our editors, telling us the interior is stylish and appealing thanks to high-quality materials.
Typical of any vehicle, the upholstery varies by trim. In the Momentum you’ll get charcoal leatherette, though you can upgrade to leather. The sporty R-Design has Nubuck/Nappa leather upholstery on its contour seats—a cockpit-like seat design unique to this trim. And the Inscription comes with seats covered in fine Nappa leather, with ventilation for ultimate comfort. If you opt for the top-trim Inscription, the premium finishes also include wood inlays.
Installing a Car Seat
Installing a car seat can be a challenge, generous door openings and a roomy interior can make the process that much easier—and this is where the XC90 excels. The doors open wide, making it easy to manoeuvre even a large, heavy car seat into the second row of seats (car seats cannot be installed in the third row). Inside the vehicle, there’s plenty of room for two people to work in tandem to get the car seat secured to one of the two sets of ISOFIX anchors or by using a seatbelt and tether (if forward facing) in the middle seat. You may have to move front seats forward a touch to accommodate a rear-facing car seat (our editors had to do this during testing), but there’s still plenty of legroom for anyone riding up front.
One thing worth noting: The XC90 sits high off the ground, so getting your child in and out of the car seat should be pretty easy—no need to bend down. Plus, the wide door frame means you shouldn’t have issues with bumping your head or elbows—so long as the car parked beside isn’t super close.
Volvo’s Sensus Connect takes the standard entertainment system to a whole new level. It features a nine-inch touchscreen in the centre of the dash, which serves as the hub for enertainment, as well as navigation and climate control. Sensus Connect also includes a digital driver display and a high performance audio system with 10 speakers. Everything can be controlled through the touchscreen, by voice or with buttons on the steering wheel. You can integrate your smartphone with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto—just connect your device with USB and you can send messages, play music and more. When plugged into the USB port, the XC90 will also charge your phone. You can also connect your phone via Bluetooth, but editors found the process a bit tricky at first; once they were set up, it worked well, though. Each trim level of the XC90 includes access to Sirius XM radio (you’ll get a six-month subscription to get you started). Overall, parent testers said they and their kids all found the entertainment system easy to use.
If you want a really premium sound system, Volvo offers a Bowers & Wilkins system with 15 speakers, including a subwoofer, and a 12-channel 1,100-watt amplifier. The smooth, rich sound is enough to make your inner audiophile weep tears of joy. In order to give you the most immersive experience, speakers are placed all around the cabin, including one on top of the dashboard.
Volvo is a premium brand, so it’s not surprising that the price of the Volvo XC90 reflects that. But when you consider that what’s standard in a Volvo is often top-of-the-line for other automakers, the starting price of $59,150 makes a lot of sense. If you want the best you can get in the XC90, the top-trim Inscription starts at $69,950 (with added options, the XC90 we tested would be priced at just over $76,000). While it might not be in every family’s budget, the XC90 is loaded with features that add a lot of value, making it a great option among luxury SUVs.
The Volvo XC90 is, in a word, gorgeous. Our editors were impressed with its safety features, smooth ride, entertainment system and generous cargo space. All of our parent testers gave the XC90 very good ratings for quality, and most felt the same way about the overall ease of use. Parents told us they felt safe and comfortable in the XC90—exactly what you want when you’re hitting the road with your kids riding in the back. One dad, who was really impressed with this vehicle, said the XC90 would be at the top of the list if his family was in the market for a luxury vehicle—high praise that’s well deserved.
- Up to 7 passengers
- 3 rows of seating
- ISOFIX anchors for 2 car seats
- Car seats cannot be installed in the third row
Standard Safety Features
- Front, side, curtain, and driver-side knee airbags
- Lane keeping aid
- Pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection
- Automatic braking after collision
- Rear parking assist and rear park camera
- Driver alert control
- Hill descent control
- Run-off road protection and mitigation
- Roll stability control
- Whiplash protection system (front seats)
- T5 AWD — City: 10.9 L/100 km, Highway: 8.3 L/100 km
- T6 AWD — City: 11.5 L/100 km, Highway: 8.8 L/100 km
- T8 eAWD — City: 9.6 L/100 km, Highway: 8.6 L/100 km
T5 AWD Engine, Horsepower, Towing
- 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder, turbocharged
- 250 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
- 2,250-kg (4,960-lb.) towing capacity
T6 AWD Engine, Horsepower, Towing
- 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder, supercharged and turbocharged
- 316 horsepower @ 5,700 rpm
- 2,250-kg (4,960-lb.) towing capacity
T8 eAWD Engine, Horsepower, Towing
- 2.0-litre inline 4-cylinder, supercharged and turbocharged with electric motor
- 400 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
- 2,250-kg (4,960-lb.) towing capacity