What is the best vehicle available today? I get asked that loaded question a lot. And the truth is, there is no perfect vehicle and certainly best or perfect is totally subjective too.
That being said, the 2021 Volvo XC90 would be in the conversation, especially when configured with an engine that is both supercharged and turbocharged and also has two electric motor assists too. Talk about combining the best of all automotive technology under one hood.
This week, I’m behind the wheel of the seven-passenger SUV with that engine configuration – the 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription.
Volvo has been doing its thing quietly for many decades. The Swedish auto manufacturer now has Chinese ownership. Many of us covering the auto industry were fearful that the Chinese takeover would diminish the quality of the Volvo, but it hasn’t diminished it one bit. In fact, Volvo continues to churn out steady, consistent, high-end vehicles, culminating with this XC90.
Purely on looks, the XC90 steps to the forefront with distinctive headlights, known as the hammer of Thor (hammer-shaped). These compliment and balance out the front end which includes a concave grille with the Volvo logo centered on it.
Similar distinctive styling of the taillights balance out the XC90 which looks every bit the part of a luxury SUV on appearance alone. The rear spoiler gives a hint at the sneaky, powerful performance that lurks.
Speaking of that performance, my tester had a supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that also had two electric assist motors. All of this technology combined created 400 horsepower and 472 lb.-ft. of torque. Add in all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission and it all works in concert to perfection. The XC90’s powertrain, in this configuration (there’s a non-supercharged version and also a non-electric motor version) raises the bar for the rest of the highly-competitive luxury SUV segment.
The inside of the Volvo XC90 does not disappoint either. In fact, it might push the envelope even further than the powertrain does. The luxury segment is chock full of niceties and amenities and at times garish interiors.
The XC90’s interior takes a less is more approach and it absolutely works. The clean, simplistic styling shows that you don’t have to go over the top to be luxurious. Fine features like a crystal-looking gear shift knob is so European but also classy. Nappa leather seats add to the wow factor.
The cabin has a lot of room. The second row provides ample legroom and headroom. The third row is more limiting, as is the case with most SUVs this size. But the XC90 overcomes this by offering segment-leading cargo room.
There is 15.8 cubic feet of room behind the third-row seat, 41.8 cubic feet with the third row folded down and a vast 85.7 cubic feet of room with all rear seats folded. That showcases just how big this “midsize” SUV is and showcases one of the XC90’s strengths.
The technology is good too for the XC90, although the infotainment system has a bit of a learning curve. A 9-inch touchscreen is responsive and is angled toward the driver as part of the clean, simple 12.3-inch cluster. A combination of knobs and touchpoints help balance it out. The Bowers and Wilkins sound system thumps up the overall audio experience, but that also comes as a $3,200 add on.
Base price of the XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription (the highest trim offering) is $69,750. My tester came with many additional features and packages to up the final MSRP to $79,990.
If you plug in and recharge the XC90 you can see fuel economy of more than 55 mpg. Volvo says charge time to achieve that is three hours (on 240v). Without a charge and on gasoline only, the XC90 has an EPA rating 18 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway. In a week’s worth of combined city/suburban driving I averaged more than 27 mpg. For a vehicle that has a curb weight over more than 5,000 pounds, that’s pretty impressive.
So, is the all-wheel drive, plug-in hybrid electric Volvo XC90 the perfect vehicle? Who’s to say, really? It sure has a lot of merit and brings a lot to the table though.