2016 Volvo XC90: Family Road-Trip All-Star

2016-volvo-xc90-jg.jpg 2016 Volvo XC90 | photos by Jennifer Geiger

CARS.COM — As Kermit and Fozzie sing in “The Muppet Movie,” “gettin’ there is half the fun,” but throw a few kids into the road trip mix and fun is not guaranteed. Who you travel with is important, but so is how you get you there. Luckily, I spent a recent family road trip behind the wheel of the 2016 Volvo XC90.

Related: How Well Do the Volvo XC90’s Safety Systems Work?

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Volvo’s three-row SUV; after awarding it our Best of 2016 honors and then buying one, it then made our list of Great Road Trip Rides for its refined road manners as well as its laundry list of luxurious amenities and active safety features. Those features look great and sound helpful, but how do they hold up on the road after a few hundred miles with a gaggle of crabby kids (and, OK, crabby parents)? I loaded the three-row SUV with my family of five for a trip from’s Chicago office to St. Louis to find out.

Safety Hits and Misses


Our 2016 XC90 is the T6 Inscription model and its standard safety features are generous: forward collision warning with full automatic braking, active high-beam headlights, bending headlights and a backup camera. The optional Vision and Convenience packages add a surround-view camera, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control with Pilot Assist, lane keeping aid and a semi-automated parking system. Some of these systems are more helpful and user-friendly than others. Managing Editor Jennifer Newman called the XC90’s adaptive cruise control system a “road-trip game-changer” during a drive from Chicago to Omaha, Nebraska. “As the car approaches a slower vehicle on the highway, it slows to maintain a preset distance. One thing I’d like with the adaptive cruise control is a chime to alert the driver that you’ve dropped below your set speed. We were listening to an audio book and I sometimes wouldn’t notice immediately that we had slowed down,” she said. 

One of my favorites is the surround-view camera; it projects multiple angles of the vehicle on the massive tablet-like touch-screen and is ideal for parking in tight spaces. The camera fritzed out at the end of my trip, however, which we’ve noted in our glitch report. The blind spot detection system is also one of the more helpful aids. The icon that illuminates near the side mirror is big and easy to see without being obnoxious. The system itself is also less sensitive than others I’ve tested, so things like construction cones and trees don’t trigger it.

Conversely, the lane keeping system is too sensitive. When the vehicle senses lane wandering, the car automatically nudges itself back to center. Unfortunately, construction markings confuse it and the nudge is more of a jarring pull, which is unsettling. Turning these systems off is another challenge. Rather than an easy-to-locate button, like in many vehicles, the controls are within the touch-screen and require a few steps to disengage.

Boredom-Busting Tech Features

2016-volvo-xc90-pandora-jg.JPG 2016 Volvo XC90 | photos by Jennifer Geiger

The drive from Chicago to St. Louis is not exactly scenic, with its flat topography and cornfield-filled landscape. The internet provided some much-needed entertainment. Our XC90 came with a six-month free trial of an AT&T data plan that provides Wi-Fi hot spot functionality. Connecting to the network was easy and my husband was able to get a little work done on the trip. Even better, we were able to sign into our Pandora account and stream music through the multimedia system.

We also used the Wi-Fi to download a movie on my 6-year-old’s tablet, but things got trickier when it came time to charge the tablet and other devices — a few more charging ports would be nice. “Our complaints about the XC90 were minor, but the one I heard the most from every family member was the lack of USBs. We basically rotated devices through the available USBs as they needed charging,” Newman said. 

Flexible Room

xc90-car-seats-jg.JPG 2016 Volvo XC90 | photos by Jennifer Geiger

With three young kids, I need a lot of room. The XC90 offered ample room for car seats and installation is easy thanks to its accessible second-row Latch anchors. Its second row also offers a flexible seating configuration that helped keep the peace for hundreds of miles. It folds in a 40/20/40 split — rather than the more traditional 60/40 split — and this feature turned out to be essential in quelling some fierce twin turf battles. I initially put my twin toddlers and their rear-facing car seats in the 40 and 20 portions of the second row, leaving the remaining section down so my 6-year-old could climb into her third-row booster. Chaos ensued. After separating them in the outboard seats and leaving the middle portion down for third row access, I didn’t hear a peep for miles. 

There was also ample room for our luggage. The XC90 has 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row; we also lowered one section of the third row for more room.

xc90-cargo-jg.JPG 2016 Volvo XC90 | photos by Jennifer Geiger

Newman agreed. “For my family of four, the XC90 is plenty roomy, with tons of cargo room for hauling several large bags full of baseball gear in addition to our luggage. We folded the third-row seats and had more than enough room for all the items,” she said.

Overall, the XC90’s thoughtful features turned what could’ve been a boring, sibling-spat-filled ride into a pleasant road trip.

Photo of Jennifer Geiger
News Editor Jennifer Geiger joined the automotive industry in 2003, much to the delight of her Corvette-obsessed dad. Jennifer is an expert reviewer, certified car-seat technician and mom of three. She wears a lot of hats — many of them while driving a minivan. Email Jennifer Geiger

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