Four Things a 2009 Volvo XC90 Owner Would Change With the 2016 Model

NewXC90-vs-OldXC90_JB_10.jpg photo by Joe Bruzek

CARS.COM — As soon as welcomed a 2016 Volvo XC90 into its test fleet for a yearlong evaluation, I wanted a family who has logged 75,000-plus kid-tested, weekend sports-approved miles in their 2009 XC90 to drive ours and tell us what works and what doesn’t. Francesco and Bridgett Sessa of Chicago are longtime XC90 owners currently driving a 2009 XC90 3.2 with three rows and all-wheel drive. They purchased the SUV after their lease ended on — you guessed it — another XC90.

Related: Follow Our Long-Term Fleet

The Sessas’ XC90 is a war wagon of youth sports equipment that is usually filled to the brim with their two kids’ baseball, soccer and basketball gear. As well as being my neighbors, they’re also family, so during a recent weekend trip I asked them to log 150 miles in’s 2016 Volvo XC90 long-term test SUV. They were as blown away by the car as our editors who named it’s Best of 2016, but they suggested a few improvements.

16Volvo_XC90_CARSCOM_ES_55.jpg 2016 Volvo XC90; | photo by Evan Sears

More USB Ports

The XC90 came up short in the number of USB ports for a family of four. Just one USB port in front wasn’t enough for the three-hour drive considering the parents have their own smartphones and the two kids each use tablets in the backseat.

“It needs at least two in the back and one more up front,” Francesco said. “Coming up here, the kids typically need to charge their iPads. Even our [Honda] HR-V has two in the front.”

More USB ports isn’t an unreasonable request considering Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and the Chevrolet Traverse offer backseat USB ports, and Hyundai’s three-row Santa Fe includes one in the third row for 2017.

NewXC90-vs-OldXC90_JB_08.jpg photo by Joe Bruzek

Fewer Touch-Screen Fingerprints

Right off the bat, Francesco wasn’t thrilled with the touch-screen after it accumulated a healthy number of fingerprints after just a trip around the block.

“I think I like the center controller way,” he said, referring to the touch-screen-alternative control knob some Audi and Mercedes-Benz vehicles use for media, climate control and system settings.

“The touch-screen requires a little too much of a reach. I wish there was a knob to flip between the screens,” Francesco continued.

16Volvo_XC90_CARSCOM_ES_05.jpg 2016 Volvo XC90; | photo by Evan Sears

Less Road Noise’s XC90 rides on the optional 21-inch wheels, a monstrosity of a tire that oddly doesn’t look too ginormous under the chiseled XC90’s body. While they look good, we’ve noticed ill characteristics possibly attributed to the tires, and Francesco also picked up on that while driving the 2016:

“The comfort is ridiculous, but there’s a bit of a road noise,” he said after driving the XC90 mostly at highway speeds of 60-70 mph.

Other driving characteristics reminded him why he likes the 2009 model, including a familiar, solid-feeling ride quality and confident accelerator pedal.

XC90_Safety-Systems_AC_5.jpg XC90 Safety Features | photo by Angela Conners

Less Intrusive Stop-Start System

Stop-start systems aim to improve fuel economy by shutting off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop and restarting once it’s time to start moving. Finding one of these that’s truly seamless is almost impossible, and the XC90’s wasn’t inoffensive enough to Bridgett.

“The only thing that takes a little bit of getting used to is the stutter when you stop,” she said. “You can tell the engine shuts off. It feels like you’re starting the car every time at a stoplight, which is a little annoying.”

More seat time could have made it less of an issue. And if not, the feature can be defeated, though if it’s irritating enough to turn off, it’s clearly not one of the better systems available.

Despite these annoyances, when asked if they would buy the 2016 XC90, the answer was a resounding yes.

Photo of Joe Bruzek
Managing Editor Joe Bruzek’s 22 years of automotive experience doesn’t count the lifelong obsession that started as a kid admiring his dad’s 1964 Chevrolet Corvette — and continues to this day. Joe’s been an automotive journalist with for 16 years, writing shopper-focused car reviews, news and research content. As Managing Editor, one of his favorite areas of focus is helping shoppers understand electric cars and how to determine whether going electric is right for them. In his free time, Joe maintains a love-hate relationship with his 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am that he wishes would fix itself. LinkedIn: Email Joe Bruzek

Latest expert reviews