NEWS

We Bought a 2016 Volvo XC90

16Volvo_XC90_CARSCOM_ES_01.jpg 2016 Volvo XC90 | Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

CARS.COM — Cars.com just named Volvo’s stunning XC90 our Best of 2016 winner. Since 2013, we’ve purchased each car that has won our top award and owned it for a year to see how it measures up to our expectations. We set out to buy the luxury SUV, but the XC90 is a hot commodity.

Related: Cars.com Names Redesigned Volvo XC90 Best of 2016

We focused on the XC90 T6, which comes with standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that’s both turbocharged and supercharged for a healthy 316 horsepower. Volvo offers three T6 trim levels (the Momentum, R-Design and Inscription) with many options on each. Prices range from $50,795 for a base Momentum to $68,155 for a loaded Inscription; Volvo says a 250-hp T5 model is on the way.

What We Wanted

The Volvo XC90’s AWD T6 Momentum accounted for the vast majority (76 percent) of inventory, so we decided to start there. We also wanted:

  • The air suspension ($1,800), which replaces steel springs.
  • The Convenience Package ($1,800) that’s a prerequisite for the air suspension, which adds semi-automated parking, adaptive cruise control and a few minor features.
  • The Vision Package ($1,800), which augments the standard backup camera with 360-degree cameras, a blind spot warning system, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and power-retracting side mirrors.
  • The Climate Package ($1,050), which adds a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated windshield washer nozzles and a heated windshield. (Heated front seats are standard.)
  • The head-up display ($900) that deletes the heated windshield, a feature we’ve found to reduce visibility in other cars and one we’re happy we can avoid while still getting the heated steering wheel.
  • The second-row integrated booster seat ($250).

We didn’t want extra-cost metallic paint, but nine of the Momentum’s 10 available colors are metallic (white is the sole no-cost choice), which would add $560. As desired, our Volvo XC90 would come to $58,395 including destination.

What We Found

Cars.com listed just 66 XC90s at eight dealerships within 50 miles of our Chicago offices. Forty-nine of them were Momentum trims. We reached out to the six dealers with the most XC90s in stock, sending leads for cars that listed from $53,154 to $62,420. As we always do when we purchase a long-term car, we used a personal email address and cellphone number and didn’t reveal that our purchase was for Cars.com until the negotiations were complete.

It turned out the well-optioned XC90 Momentum we wanted was a needle in a haystack. Our suspension choice was the wrench in the works: Two dealers didn’t have any air-suspension models at all, and the other four only had well-optioned R-Design or Inscription models with the air suspension. Still, we wanted the upgraded suspension, which dispatches bumps with a degree of suppleness the XC90 SUV’s standard suspension doesn’t begin to approach.

That left us with five AWD Volvo XC90s at four dealerships, all R-Design or Inscription models. All five were in a narrow price range ($65,255 to $66,265) and most had other features we didn’t want: metallic paint, the Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, optional larger wheels and a dealer protection package that amounts to floormats and a bumper protector.

Resigned to reality, we asked each dealership for its best out-the-door price on those cars, including taxes and fees.

Pricing Push Back

XC90s are selling like hotcakes, so there were no deals to be had. Excluding loyalty rebates, Volvo didn’t have any factory incentives on the XC90 in our area, and even with the end of the year approaching, dealers were reticent to come down on pricing. A salesman at a dealership near our downtown Chicago offices said he was selling the Volvo XC90 at sticker price, $72,773 out the door. A dealer in the near-west suburbs dropped $300 and threw in free Apple CarPlay (a $300 accessory) to land us at $72,401. A dealer farther west knocked $1,000 off to end up at $71,871, and a second round of negotiations got us to $71,633.

All three dealerships had essentially the same car: an XC90 Inscription with the Convenience and Vision packages, air suspension, Bowers & Wilkins audio, metallic paint, 21-inch wheels and the $510 protection package. Our counteroffers, from the high-$60,000s to an even $70,000, got us nowhere.

We could see why the dealers stuck to their guns. During our negotiations with the far-west suburban dealer, one of its two air-suspension XC90s sold. And during our communication with a dealer in the northwest suburbs, its air-suspension-equipped Volvo XC90 also sold. We had to act. For the moment, the far-west suburban dealer seemed like our best bet. We asked if our salesman could do $70,000 out the door and soon got a call from his sales manager. At $71,633, we were still $1,633 apart. He couldn’t come down that far or even split the difference, but he said he could do $71,288 out the door.

We took that number to the dealership in the near-west suburbs (which had offered $72,401 plus free Apple CarPlay) to see if they could beat it. A finance manager told us he couldn’t even match the price. So $71,288 it was.

Taking Delivery

When we took delivery of the car on Dec. 18, the dealership had activated Apple CarPlay and thrown in some accessory mudguards (a combined $510 value) because Volvo was giving dealerships an allowance for accessories, our salesman said. As equipped, our XC90 would have cost $73,450 out the door, so the total discount was $2,162, or 2.9 percent. That’s far less than we negotiated off last year’s 2015 Honda Fit (9 percent off) and a 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-Class (nearly 14 percent off), but the best we could do with a small group of cars to choose from.

In the end, we got an XC90 T6 Inscription with Crystal White Pearl metallic paint and Amber Nappa leather, plus the Vision and Convenience packages, Bowers & Wilkins premium audio, the air suspension, 21-inch alloy wheels, the dealer protection package, mudguards and Apple CarPlay.

How does that impressive touch-screen technology hold up over time and use? How does the Volvo’s air suspension and general ride quality hold up? Is the supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder as reliable as it is powerful? What sort of gas mileage do we get? And will those SUV’s massive wheels become a liability with city curbs? We’ll report on all of that and more during the next 12 months with our AWD Volvo XC90. In the meantime, check out the photos below.

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