Volvo XC90 continues to rake in awards, praise

When you’re nominated for a prestigious award, the common saying is, it’s just an honor to be nominated. And that certainly can apply to my tester, although, rightfully, the 2016 Volvo XC90 has a right to a long, drawn out acceptance speech or victory lap. During the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, the XC90 took home the prestigious North American Truck of the Year award. It beat out the redesigned Nissan Titan and the redesigned Honda Pilot. Both worthy competitors, but in all fairness, it was a no-brainer.

I spent significant time behind the wheel of the Volvo XC90 and was blown away with how amazing this SUV is. It’s not quite flawless, but this seven-passenger SUV is certainly worthy of accolades.

For 2016, the Volvo XC90 is totally redesigned. The European-looking SUV has both refinement and distinction. It’s both modern and timeless. The grille is just the right size but is highlighted with headlights that feature Volvo’s “hammer of Thor” design. In the daytime, it’s attractive, but at night it’s distinctive. It’s rare to find a vehicle that has two different looks in daylight and night time.

The beauty of the XC90 is rivaled only by its efficient engine. The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder powerplant gets amazing numbers from such a small engine. To power a vehicle that weighs more than 4,300 pounds, you’d expect the necessity of a bigger engine. However, the powertrain numbers are impressive, to the tune of 316 horsepower and 295 lbs.-ft. of torque. There is no turbo lag. An eight-speed automatic transmission is also flawless. There is all-wheel drive to compliment Volvo’s traction-control technology. This SUV is confident in all road conditions. And with a double-wishbone suspension, it’s a firm ride and a little on the bouncy side.

Inside, the award-winning appeal continues. A plush dashboard has a luxurious feel and smaller features show attention to high-quality details. Features like illuminated tread platers, Nappa leather and walnut wood inlays give the XC90 a special feel.

The second-row seat can accommodate three passengers. Two adults will have plenty of leg and head room. Between them is a fold-down seat that functions as a child booster. As is the case for most seven-passenger SUVs, the third-row seat should be restricted to smaller passengers.

There’s 15.8 cubic feet behind the third row. Fold all the seats flat and there’s 85.7 cubic feet of usable space. The XC90 is not just a comfortable commuter, but has the room and versatility to be a weekend warrior.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t relay a story about the technology found in the XC90. This SUV has several autonomous driving features and is one of the most self-driving-ready vehicles on the road today. However, the sensor-based technology got in the way of a routine trip to a car wash. The sensors detected the car wash objects and refused to proceed, or shift into neutral in order to be guided through the wash. I had to find the kill switch to turn all the cheats off in order to get it to go. In this regard, the technology is amazing and cool, but can also get in the way.

The XC90 does practically drive itself at speeds below 25 mph. It’s neat to see this actually in place, but it also takes away from overall joy of driving.

There are three trims for this SUV, as well as a hybrid version. For a luxury-branded vehicle, the XC90 has an affordable price point. My tester was the top-of-the-line Inscription trim and had a base price of $48,900. However, my tester was loaded up with options and had a final MSRP of $66,705, which takes it to a much pricier level. Eliminating some of the options does not take away from the award-winning appeal of the XC90, so keeping it near or under $50,000 makes it incredibly well-priced when compared to its European and Japanese rivals.

The XC90 has average fuel economy. It does employ start/stop technology but still has an EPA rating of 20 mpg/city and 25 mpg/highway. I averaged only 20.8 mpg in mostly highway driving.

The 2016 Volvo XC90 belongs in the conversation as one of the best Volvo vehicles produced in many years and is certainly worthy of all the awards it has won.

Jimmy Dinsmore is a freelance automotive journalist.

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