The 2020 Volvo XC90 is a three-row luxury SUV fresh off a timely update to keep it competitive against rivals like the Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class, BMW X5, Acura MDX, and Lexus RX350. Those are some tough competitors — and that means the XC90 can’t rest on past successes if it wants to stay competitive.
As Cars.com’s Brian Wong pointed out in his recent review of the updated XC90 that you can read via the related link above, the previous iteration of the XC90 won our Best of 2016 award and the model we bought for our long-term test-car fleet proved popular. In total during our yearlong trial, we piled more than 22,000 miles onto our XC90 test vehicle as we reported extensively on the ownership experience.
But time waits for no one — and for no luxury SUV, for that matter. Keep reading to see if Volvo’s latest round of improvements are enough to keep the XC90 going strong or if the competition has nudged it to the sidelines.
Here are six things we like — along with three that are gonna be a no from us, dawg — about the 2020 Volvo XC90:
Things We Like
1. Plug-In Hybrid Power
We tested two versions of the 2020 Volvo XC90, each fitted with a different engine. Let’s focus on the range-topping T8 trim level here, however. This plug-in hybrid is motivated by a four-cylinder engine that’s both supercharged and turbocharged. Coupled to this engine is an electric motor mounted at the rear axle. In total, this powertrain setup sends 400 horsepower and 472 pounds-feet of torque to all four wheels. Not only does this allow for seamless passing and ample acceleration, but the plug-in XC90 T8 has 18 miles of electric-only driving range, too.
2. Classy Exterior Looks
Volvo decided not to mess with a good thing when it came to the XC90’s exterior design. A few new paint colors and wheel choices sum up most of the visual tweaks. The front grille also has a new concave design, though you’d need to be a diehard Volvo fan to spot that modification. All in all, the XC90 was and remains an elegant-looking luxury SUV.
3. More Seating Capacity Choices
At last, Volvo allows XC90 buyers to choose between a second-row bench and two captain’s chairs. This is available on countless other SUVs, a fact that made the lack of seating flexibility so strange in the Volvo. Having the pair of captain’s chairs, particularly the space between them, makes getting into the third row that much easier. Then again, you might not want to raise your hand and volunteer to head back there. More on that topic soon.
4. Better Brake Behavior
In our previous experience with the XC90 T8, we commented on the lack of brake feel. To put it bluntly, bringing the previous version to a stop felt strange and lifeless. The combination of the hybrid’s regenerative and mechanical braking system simply didn’t feel good from the driver’s seat. Thankfully, Volvo has refined the brakes and the newest T8 exhibits none of this bad braking behavior.
5. Luxurious Cabin Materials
Volvo continues to fit the XC90 with high-end trim workings that look fantastic. In our review, we called the cabin materials “grin-inducing” thanks to their quality and the attention to detail.
6. Standard Safety Features
As the premiere luxury SUV from the car brand that’s synonymous with safety, the XC90 comes loaded with standard safety features. These include automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, rearview camera, lane keep assist, blind spot monitors, road-sign detection, a driver drowsiness monitor, adaptive cruise control and more. Also available are features like hands-free park assist, pivoting headlights and a surround-view camera system.
More From Cars.com:
- Shopping for a 2020 Volvo XC90? Research One, Here
- Find a 2020 Volvo XC90 for Sale Near You, Now
- 2019-2020 Volvo XC90: Everything You Need to Know
- Which Cars Fit Three Car Seats?
- Which 2019 Three-Row SUVs Offer Captain’s Chairs?
Things We Don’t
1. Cramped Third Row
If you plan on using the third row in your luxury SUV to transport a full complement of adults, think again. We found the XC90 to be short on rear legroom during our test drive. Granted, the second row can slide forward to make extra space available. But if you have lots of long-legged family or friends to tote around, the XC90 could be cramped.
2. Dated Infotainment System
The good news is that Volvo now equips the XC90 with a 12.3-inch touchscreen as standard. The bad news is that many competitors now have similarly large screens along with interfaces that are simpler to use than the one in the Volvo. We also found the lack of any USB outlet in the second and third rows to be a major oversight for a family-focused SUV.
3. Sticker Shock
You’re probably not expecting a bargain when shopping for a three-row luxury SUV, though the price attached to our recent test vehicles was a shock. The loaded T8 Inscription came to nearly $87,000, while the T6 R-Design (fitted with the same supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder, but minus the electric motor) stickered at just under $75,000.
Editor’s note: This story was updated March 6, 2020, to reflect the correct size of the standard 9-inch touchscreen.
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