2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Review: Volvo’s lighthouse


Like a beacon of light, on the shores of automotive success, the Volvo XC90 has cleared a path for all doubters of the Swedish carmaker’s game. As one of the most awarded SUVs in recent industry history, I’m here to further convey to you how good this vehicle is.

As a long-time fan of this low-volume underdog builder of then semi-luxury civilian tanks on wheels, and station wagons, I admit to being in their corner when the going got tough. It’s nearly impossible to not feel something for Volvo – it’s their Scandinavian ways that somehow makes me think the world can be a better place. I spent a day with Nokian Tyre people a short while back. Geez they’re nice and have it figured out.

2018 Volvo XC90 T6
2018 Volvo XC90 T6 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Volvo gremlins

Volvo’s XC90 flagship SUV also has it all figured out, or just about. The first time I picked up an XC90 press car, I promptly returned it to the staging area as the instrument cluster was lit up like the French Quarter on Mardi Gras. The following few and brief experiences were fine and this time, it was almost perfect.

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With the sole exception of the navigation system thinking I was in Brooklyn while I was driving east from Montreal, it was flawless. For reasons mentioned above, I’d never written off the XC90 because it was a Volvo –  I call it the Saab syndrome, actually. I should not admit to this but I’m glad I did not judge the luxury ute on my first encounter with it.

2018 Volvo XC90 T6
2018 Volvo XC90 T6 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Volvo design

For $59,750, the Momentum T5 AWD XC90 ticks all the right boxes for styling, comfort and features. What’s most honest about Volvo products is their design. Sure, all carmakers have developed their own design language but few are as distinctively different than Volvo. You could be forgiven for mistaking an Audi Q5 for a Mercedes GLC but you’ll never take a Volvo XC90 for a BMW X5.

The XC90’s sculpted and measured lines may be unique but no matter the trim or colour, Volvo’s managed to avoid falling into that often cold and unfriendly luxury vehicle aura. A Volvo always gives me the impression that the owner knows something I don’t. I once owned an XC70 but I knew nothing, still don’t.

2018 Volvo XC90 T6
2018 Volvo XC90 T6 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Volvo cabin and seats

The XC90’s cabin is gorgeous. Here too, Volvo’s created a signature design that is modern, functional and attractive, all at once. The dashboard’s mix of materials and textures is sublime. The central screen and handful of buttons below it create a clean and luxurious look.

About the 9-inch screen, moments after getting acquainted with its true tablet-like operation, working through the menus becomes second nature. Included with the Momentum are Volvo Sensus Connect, navigation, Smartphone Integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and more.

The final word on the cabin belongs to the seats. Be they in the second or front row, the level of support and comfort are phenomenal, therapeutic even.

2018 Volvo XC90 T6
2018 Volvo XC90 T6 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Volvo Twin-charging

All modern Volvos are powered by a sophisticated boosted 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. In an unusual setup, the engine also has trims. The base T5 puts out 250-horsepower, the T6 is good for 316-horsepower and the top-line T8, with hybrid help, does 400.

The texted XC90 is a T6. It also produces 295 lb.-ft. of torque from 2,200 to 5,400 rpm thanks to both a supercharged and a turbocharger. What’s important to know is that because of the double charging, the power is lag free.

The standard 8-speed automatic transmission and AWD system need only do what they were designed to do and off the XC90 goes. Off the line, the Volvo’s quick to react and the same can be said when the driver is annoyed by slower traffic. The 4-cylinder sound seems at odds with the type and size of the vehicle at first but soon enough, reason sets in when the returned fuel numbers hover around the 10L/100 km mark.

2018 Volvo XC90 T6
2018 Volvo XC90 T6 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Volvo architecture

The Volvo XC90 was the first Volvo to be built on the Scalable Product Architecture. This rigid platform is responsible for the solid, cocoon-like feeling passengers get once aboard. It has also allowed engineers to set the XC90 up with a sufficiently compliant suspension to keep ride quality at its best.

Driving the XC90 is surprisingly easy, and effortless. There’s a lightness to the controls that belies the vehicle’s girth and weight. Steering is lovely and direct, the brake pedal requires average and effort and all the while, the big Volvo will handle a sharp onramp without breaking a sweat.

2018 Volvo XC90 T6
2018 Volvo XC90 T6 | Photo: Olivier Delorme

Volvo for life?

The combination of the Volvo XC90’s looks, aura, stature and performance make it a compelling choice. I touched upon some bugs I experienced with the vehicle and this is the Volvo’s sorest point. With novel or new technologies comes the risk of issues. Don’t be thinking that this is not a common occurrence for Audi, BMW and Mercedes!

My Momentum T6 tester rang up a $71,000 price and was without critical elements despite the numerous option packages. Volvo’s actually revised the options menu and for roughly the same money now, later in 2018, you get a little more kit.  

Would I purchase a Volvo XC90 before a BMW X5, Audi Q7 or Mercedes GLE? As I’m not looking for the type of brand recognition the Germans give off, the answer is yes. I might be nearly alone in that thinking. I do think the XC90 is bright though…


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