By Derek Price
Volvo started making some of the best engines in the world last year.
This year, they’ve finally got a vehicle to match.
The Swedish maker of super-safe cars has just released the new XC90 for 2016, and it feels like a next-generation family vehicle in many ways. This is the first in a fresh lineup of Volvos that will be hitting dealerships in the next few years, and I love the direction it portends for the brand after spending a couple of days driving it.
For one thing, the technology in the XC90 is the most delightful I’ve ever experienced in a car. A huge center display looks and operates similar to an iPad, letting you pinch, click and drag your finger across the screen with an instant response to your touch. It’s not exactly the same as Apple’s interface, but it’s close — and becomes second nature after just a few minutes of playing with it.
It’s a touch display done right, an all-too-rare thing in today’s world.
This new XC90 gets a lot of other things right, too, including the cabin materials and design. It has the cool, modern Scandinavian vibe that I like to see in a Volvo, with an uncluttered look that makes tasteful use of wood, leather and genuine crystal glass on the gear lever.
And the best part? Its seats put everything else in the world to shame. Volvo spent about six years designing the XC90 and about eight years designing the seats that go in it.
This is the first application of Volvo’s new-generation seating that is not only ridiculously over-engineered for safety, including a special mounting and bracing system that can reduce spinal cord injuries in off-road accidents, but also the most comfortable seats I’ve ever sat in. It beats my previous favorite seats, the cushy recliner-like chairs in the Ford F-150 Platinum, by a slim margin.
There are two powertrains available, both of which are world-beaters.
One is the T6, which straps both a turbocharger and supercharger to a small four-cylinder engine to make 316 horsepower while getting impressive gas mileage.
The other is the T8, which makes the XC90 the world’s first plug-in hybrid vehicle with three rows of seating. It makes a sumptuous, smooth 400 horsepower from a combination of electric motors and a gasoline engine.
And, being a Volvo, it’s got enough safety features to make you feel invincible behind the wheel. It’s the first car in the world that can automatically brake at an intersection if it senses you’re dangerously pulling into oncoming traffic, for example.
Pricing starts at $48,900 for the T6 and $68,100 for the T8.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription ($48,900). Options: Inscription features ($5,600), vision package ($1,600), climate package with HUD ($1,950), convenience package ($1,800), Bowers & Wilkins premium sound ($2,500), metallic paint ($560), second-row center booster ($250), 21-inch wheels ($750), air suspension ($1,800). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $66,705
Wheelbase: 117.5 in.
Length: 194.8 in.
Width: 79.1 in.
Height: 69.9 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter T6 (316 hp, 295 lbs.-ft. torque)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 20 city, 25 highway
2016 Volvo XC90
Why buy it?
Volvo may have just created the best family car on Planet Earth. Its cabin, seating, technology and safety features are all top-notch, and the whole thing is wrapped in a layer of oh-so-cool Swedish style.