Vehicle Overview
Volvo introduced an available V-8 engine for its sport utility vehicle during the 2005 model year. First seen at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, the 311-horsepower V-8 version featured new 18-inch wheels, a graphite-gray grille and twin exhaust pipes. Volvo said the engine emitted a distinctive sound. The 2005 model year also brought improved Rainsensor wipers with flat blades and a standard HomeLink transmitter.

Long known for safe, solid sedans and wagons, Volvo joined the SUV fray in 2003 with its car-based XC90. The Swedish automaker claimed the midsize XC90 with Roll Stability Control would be the safest SUV on the market.

Volvo offers a five-cylinder 2.5T edition of the XC90, while the T6 has been discontinued for 2006. Available all-wheel drive permits operation on a variety of terrains, but the XC90 isn't intended for serious offroad driving. For 2006, a new all-wheel-drive system with Instant Traction is optional on 2.5T models and comes standard on V-8 versions. Rear park assist is now a stand-alone option for the V-8 version, and a tire-pressure-monitoring system is standard.

Chief designer Peter Horbury called the XC90's appearance "masculine, but not macho; muscular, but not aggressive." At 188.9 inches long overall, the XC90 is 2 inches shorter than the automaker's S80 sedan. A 112.6-inch wheelbase and wide track dimensions help enhance stability. Ground clearance is 8.9 inches.

Styling features include tall taillamps, an accentuated V-shaped hood and a dark, upright eggcrate grille. Bi-xenon headlights are optional.

The XC90 can seat either five or seven occupants and is equipped with a 40/20/40-split second-row bench. In seven-passenger versions, a child booster seat in the second row slides forward, nearly between the front seats. Two separate seats make up the third row, which is standard in the V-8 model and optional in the 2.5T.

Cargo volume is 93.2 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. Leather seating surfaces are provided for all three rows in the V-8 version, which includes a six-CD changer. Options include rear-seat DVD entertainment and a navigation system with a pop-up screen.

Under the Hood
A light-pressure-turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-five-cylinder engine in the 2.5T sends 208 hp to a five-speed-automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional on the 2.5T. Volvo's 32-valve, 4.4-liter V-8 produces 311 hp and 325 pounds-feet of torque and teams with a six-speed Geartronic automatic transmission; all-wheel drive is standard.

Volvo's Roll Stability Control system employs a gyrosensor. Inflatable side curtain-type airbags drop down to protect occupants in all three rows of seats. Side-impact airbags and Dynamic Stability and Traction Control are standard.

Driving Impressions
The solid, refined XC90 handles more like a taut European sedan. It reacts masterfully on twisting roads and functions with precise control.

Expect a smooth, solid ride as the base suspension irons out pavement imperfections. The 208-hp engine performs with reasonable vigor, and automatic-transmission shifts are smooth. Other than a light growl on acceleration, the five-cylinder XC90 is quiet.

Most seats are firm but comfortable. Second-row seats have good legroom and foot space, but the center position is painful; the meager third row is for children.