It’s highly unlikely that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” translates easily into Swedish. However, the 2020 Volvo XC90 serves as proof that the uniquely American saying may actually be somewhat popular in Scandinavia. The current-generation XC90 debuted in 2015. Since then, not a whole heck of a lot has changed.
The XC90 is still as spacious and luxurious as ever. It also packs enough standard safety tech for two cars. That being said, the XC90 isn’t necessarily the top choice in its class. That is thanks, in large part, to its engine options starting to look a bit dated. Still, the 2020 Volvo XC90 is one of the best mid-size luxury SUVs on the market today. Here’s why.
Exterior Styling: New Decade, (Slightly) New Look
The Volvo XC90 did actually receive a slight redesign for 2020. However, you’ll have to look closely to notice what’s changed. The grille, front bumper, and wheels have all been redesigned a bit. The result is an SUV that looks… well, pretty much the same as the 2019 model. It’s hard to fault Volvo for leaving the design of the XC90 relatively unchanged over the past five years. The Swedish SUV has a restrained and elegant style that screams refinement. It’s not as sporty as some of its competitors. But rest assured, what the XC90 lacks in sharp lines and aggressive posturing it makes up for with quiet sophistication and minimalist refinement.
Under The Hood: Trading Power for MPGs
Unlike the Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz GLE or BMW X5 — or any other full-size luxury SUV, for that matter — the 2020 XC90 is only available with a four-cylinder engine. Granted, that engine does come in a variety of flavors. Volvo offers a turbocharged, turbocharged and supercharged, and a hybrid version that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. “Turbocharged” and “supercharged” invoke thoughts of high-powered imports and burly muscle cars, but Volvo’s beefiest XC90 only makes 400 horsepower.
The XC90 offers three different variants of a 2.0-liter four-cylinder. The T5 is turbocharged only and produces 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels, although all-wheel drive is also available. The addition of a supercharger ups the power in the T6 engine to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, with power sent to all four wheels. The plug-in hybrid T8 offers 400 horsepower and a whopping 472 lb-ft of torque. According to Volvo, the T8 offers 18 miles of electric-only driving range. Regardless of the engine you choose, the only transmission on offer is an eight-speed automatic.
While the T8 offers competitive power, reviewers note that the XC90s equipped with the T5 engine move sluggishly at highway speeds. While the T6 naturally fares better than the T5, it does get knocked for being noisy when pushed to the limit. Of course, a smaller and less powerful engine equates to better gas mileage.
The T5 XC90 in FWD gets an EPA estimated 21/30/25 MPG (city, highway, combined). The figures dip slightly in the AWD version, which checks in at 20/27/23 MPG. The more powerful T6 engine is the thirstiest of the bunch and is rated at 18/26/21 MPG.
Meanwhile, the fuel-sipping T8 hybrid — which is also the most powerful XC90 available — records 27 MPG combined and 55 MPGe. According to U.S. News & World Report, the XC90 is behind only the Acura MDX and Lexus RX Hybrid L when it comes to the most fuel-efficient three-row luxury SUVs.
In their review, MotorTrend noted that the XC90 offered “no surprises” and drove like a big SUV. So, exactly what it is. That said, the outlet did note that the Volvo performed just as well as some of its sportier-looking competitors — namely the BMW X5 and Audi Q7 and Q8 — during skidpad and figure-eight testing. The XC90 features multiple drive modes and an optional adjustable air suspension that offers improved on-road comfort.
What’s Inside: Luxury and Space to Spare
The 2020 Volvo XC90 is the opposite of ostentatious in almost every way. Nothing about its cabin screams “luxury” at first glance. But once you settle in and begin to admire the details, the quality of the craftsmanship hits you. For starters, the gear shift knob on all models is made from Orrefor crystals, as opposed to a combination of plastic and metal. Black ash wood inlays are standard, too, and run across the length of the dashboard and onto the center console.
The 2020 XC90 comes standard with three rows and seating for seven. You can opt to replace the second-row bench seat with captain’s chairs though, which drops the total seating to six. While leatherette seats are standard, they’re still 10-way power adjustable. Full-leather seats are standard at higher trim levels, with wool seats available as an optional extra. Heating, ventilation, and massaging functions (for the front seats only) are also available, as is a heated steering wheel. While reviewers note that the third row of seats are a bit cramped for adults, the first and second rows receive high praise for both the comfort and space they offer.
Regardless of the layout, the XC90 has 15.8 cubic feet of storage space behind its third row of seats. Fold those down and there’s 41.8 cubic feet of storage space on offer. Folding down the second and third row of seats boosts the total cargo capacity to 85.7 cubic feet.
Technology and Safety Tech
The 2020 XC90 comes equipped with a wealth of technology and standard safety features. All models have a nine-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s vertically oriented. It operates exactly like you’d expect a tablet to, although the learning curve can be a bit steep. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard, along with GPS navigation and a ten-speaker sound system. Additional standard features include a panoramic moonroof, hands-free liftgate, and quad-zone climate control. All models come equipped with a digital dashboard measuring 12.3 inches. Available features include a 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system, a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins speaker system, and an updated navigation system that adds a heads-up display to the gauge cluster.
The list of standard safety technology and driver’s assistance aids on the XC90 is long. Highlights include blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a driver alert system, hill descent control, a rear collision warning system, and rear parking sensors. All XC90s also come standard with Pilot Assist, which is Volvo’s version of adaptive cruise control that also provides steering assistance. We sang Pilot Assist’s praises back in our behind-the-wheel review of the 2018 XC90, noting that (at the time) it offered a semi-autonomous driving experience that was perhaps second only to Tesla. Optional safety tech and driver’s aids include a 360-degree surround-view camera, hands-free park assist, and front parking sensors.
Pricing and Trim Levels
The 2020 XC90 comes in three trim levels: the Momentum, R-Design, and Inscription. The Momentum and Inscription trims each offer the option of captain’s chairs, while the R-Design does not. The Momentum and R-Design are available with the T5, T6 and T8 engines. However, the Inscription can only be had with either the T6 or T8. All T6 models come equipped with heated leather front seats as standard, while heated rear seats are only available on XC90s equipped with the T6 and T8 engines.
Easy to remember, right?
The Momentum starts at $48,350 when equipped with the T5 engine and FWD. Opting for AWD pushes the price tag to $50,850. The more powerful T6 engine checks in at $56,300 while the hybrid T8 starts at $67,000. The Momentum trim can be optioned with captain’s chairs, but they come at a high price: $8,450 more to be exact.
The R-Design has some subtle body changes that denote its “sportiness,” including five-spoke 20-inch wheels (19-inchers are standard), dual integrated tailpipes, and roof rails. Inside the cabin, you’ll find Nappa perforated leather seats are standard, as are metal mesh inlays and the aforementioned 14-speaker Harman Kardon sound system. Volvo’s lane-keep aid technology also comes standard. The R-Design with the T5 engine and FWD starts at $56,100, with the T5 AWD stickering at $58,600. The T6 and T8 check in at $62,000 and $72,700, respectively.
Volvo did away with the “Excellence” trim level for 2020. That means the Inscription now sits at the top of the totem pole. The Inscription features many of the same features of the R-Design, but adds ventilated seats, linear walnut wood inlays, and ten-spoke 20-inch wheels. Unlike the Momentum trim level, Volvo asks just $500 to replace the second-row bench seat with captain’s chairs on this model. The T6 Inscription starts at $62,600 while the more powerful and efficient hybrid T8 costs $73,700.
The Last Word
The 2020 Volvo XC90 might not be the very best mid-size luxury SUV on the market — but it’s not far off. Other than a touchscreen that can be a tad too complicated and engines that lack pep, the XC90 offers just about everything today’s buyer is looking for. There’s a wealth of space for people and cargo, a luxurious design inside and out, and staggering amount of standard tech and safety features. If you’re in the market for a new luxury three-row SUV and can’t wait for 2022 — the year the new XC90 is supposed to hit showrooms — we recommend taking the 2020 XC90 out for a test drive today.