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2021 Volvo XC90 Review

The 2021 Volvo XC90 ranks toward the bottom of the luxury midsize SUV class. It has a spacious and high-end interior, lots of standard features, and great fuel economy, but its poor predicted reliability rating holds it back.

Pros & Cons

  • Generous seating and cargo space
  • Lots of standard safety features
  • Good fuel economy
  • Low predicted reliability rating
  • Harsh ride when equipped with larger wheels

New for 2021

  • Adaptive headlights, front parking sensors, and a smartphone charging pad now standard

7.6

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 8.4
Performance: 7.3
Interior: 7.3
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 9.8 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Volvo XC90 a Good SUV?

Yes, the 2021 Volvo XC90 is a good luxury midsize SUV. The three-row XC90 has a handsome interior with top-notch materials, room for up to seven occupants, and an expansive cargo area. It’s loaded with advanced tech and safety features, and it offers engine options that provide great fuel economy and reasonably zippy performance. This is especially true of the T8 plug-in-hybrid variant. The XC90 suffers from an abysmal predicted reliability rating, however, and some critics complain of a rather stiff-legged ride quality in models with the larger wheels.

Why You Can Trust Us: 34 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 34 Volvo XC90 reviews, as well as data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible. This 2021 XC90 review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2016.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Volvo XC90?

The 2021 Volvo XC90 is definitely worth a look, but there are better alternatives in this class. The BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, and Porsche Cayenne all rate considerably higher than the Volvo when it comes to performance and predicted reliability.

Find a 2021 Volvo XC90 for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Volvo XC90: What's the Difference?

There aren’t too many differences between the 2020 and 2021 XC90 models. Volvo added front parking sensors and adaptive pivoting headlights to the 2021 XC90’s standard features. These features were previously optional. The new XC90 also gains a standard smartphone charging pad.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 XC90 »

Here are the key changes for the Volvo XC90 over the last few years:

  • 2016: fully redesigned (start of second generation); available with T5, T6, and T8 engine options; offered in five- and seven-seat layouts
  • 2017: four-seat layout debuted
  • 2018: adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto became standard (previously optional)
  • 2019: five-seat layout discontinued
  • 2020: refreshed exterior styling; six-seat layout became available; four-seat layout discontinued
  • 2021: adaptive LED headlights, front parking sensors, and a smartphone charging pad added to standard features list

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 XC90, 2019 XC90, and 2020 XC90 reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Volvo XC90 Cost?

The 2021 Volvo XC90 T5 has a $49,000 starting price, which is a bit lower than average for a luxury midsize SUV. The starting prices rise to $56,950 for the zippier XC90 T6 and $63,450 for the T8 plug-in-hybrid model.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volvo dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volvo deals page.

Volvo XC90 Versus the Competition

Volvo XC90 vs. Volvo XC60

The XC60 is Volvo’s entry in the luxury compact SUV class. It offers similar interior and exterior styling to the XC90, as well as comparable safety features, engine performance, and fuel economy. It also carries the same infotainment system. The key differences are size and price. The Volvo XC60 has five seats and a smaller cargo area, but it starts at just $41,700. The XC90 can seat seven and pack away considerably more luggage, though it starts at $49,000. Go with the XC90 if you need the extra seating and cargo space. Otherwise, the XC60 is a better value for small families.

Compare the XC90 and XC60 »

Volvo XC90 vs. Audi Q7

The Audi Q7 is a compelling option in the luxury midsize SUV class. Like the XC90, the Q7 boasts high-end cabin materials, a sleek infotainment system, room for seven occupants, and many active safety features. While the Volvo delivers better fuel economy estimates, more cargo space, and a lower starting price, the Audi provides snappier acceleration and a comfier ride. The Q7’s superior driving dynamics and slightly better predicted reliability rating give it the edge in our rankings.

Compare the XC90 and Q7 »

Compare the XC90, XC60, and Q7 »

XC90 Interior: Simply Scandinavian

XC90 Cargo Space

The Volvo XC90 has 15.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seats, 41.8 cubic feet with these seats folded, and 85.7 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. That’s more cargo space than in any other luxury midsize SUV.

How Many People Does the XC90 Seat?

The Volvo XC90 is a three-row luxury SUV with seven seats. A six-seat configuration is optional, and it removes the second-row middle seat, making it easier to access the third row. Regardless of layout, the front seats are supple and spacious enough for taller occupants, and they provide an expansive view of the road ahead and good visibility to the sides and rear. The second row is similarly accommodating, with plush cushioning and ample headroom and legroom. The third row can fit two adults in a pinch, but it is better suited for kids and teens.

Synthetic leather upholstery and power-adjustable front seats are standard. Genuine leather upholstery, heated and massaging front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel are available.

XC90 and Child Car Seats

The XC90 has two full sets of LATCH car-seat connectors for its second row, as well as a tether anchor for the middle seat. The connectors are relatively easy to use, but the lower anchors are set too deeply in the seats.

XC90 Interior Quality

This Volvo has one of the nicest interiors in the luxury midsize SUV segment. The cabin has a minimalist and uncluttered appearance that is pulled together by a large vertically oriented touch screen and refined interior accents like open-pore wood and brushed metal trim. Build quality is top-notch, and the cabin does a fine job of muffling road and wind noise.

XC90 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Volvo XC90 earns both praise and criticism for its Sensus infotainment system. The 9-inch touch screen has slick graphics, and you operate it much like a tablet, with tap, pinch, and swipe gestures. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, allowing you to integrate your smartphone with the touch screen.

The main drawback to the infotainment system is its relative lack of physical buttons and knobs. This complicates otherwise simple functions like adjusting climate and audio settings. Also, the screen tends to respond slowly to inputs, especially at vehicle start-up.

  • Standard infotainment features: a 9-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, HD Radio, satellite radio, a 10-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, two USB-C ports, a smartphone charging pad, and a Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Available infotainment features: a 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo and a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo
  • Additional standard features: a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, keyless entry, four-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and a hands-free power liftgate

Read more about interior »

XC90 Performance: T-Minus 8… 6… 5…

XC90 Engine

Volvo offers the 2021 XC90 with three powertrain options: T5, T6, and T8. The XC90 T5 features a 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available. This engine does a decent job of shuttling the XC90 around town, but it feels strained under hard acceleration, and it delivers underwhelming passing power on the highway. The jaunt from zero to 60 mph takes 7.5 seconds. The automatic transmission shifts smoothly for the most part, but it’s occasionally hesitant to downshift.

The T6 and T8 powertrains are a better fit for this Volvo, and they come standard with all-wheel drive. The XC90 T6 has a turbocharged and supercharged version of the T5 engine, and it puts out 316 horsepower. This "twin-charged" engine can zip the XC90 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds. It also feels smoother and more energetic in day-to-day driving. The XC90 Recharge Plug-In Hybrid T8 pairs that twin-charged engine with two electric motors to produce a 400-horsepower hybrid. This setup makes the SUV feel quite light on its feet. Going from zero to 60 mph takes a brief 5.3 seconds, and there’s ample passing power on tap, thanks to the immediate torque from the electric motors.

XC90 Gas Mileage

The Volvo XC90 returns great fuel economy for a luxury midsize SUV. The front-wheel-drive XC90 T5 gets an EPA-rated 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway (20/28 mpg with all-wheel drive). The XC90 T6 gets 19/28 mpg city/highway.

The plug-in-hybrid XC90 T8 gets 27 mpg in combined city/highway driving, and it can go up to 18 miles on battery power alone. Recharging its 11.6 kWh battery pack takes about seven hours using a 120-volt home outlet. Level 2 public chargers or a 240-volt household outlet can recharge the battery in about three hours.

XC90 Ride and Handling

The Volvo XC90 has agreeable driving dynamics. It feels fairly stable and composed around turns, the steering is crisp and responsive, and the brakes provide confident stopping power. This luxury crossover is also relatively easy to park and maneuver in tight spaces.

The XC90’s ride quality largely depends on its wheel and tire combination. Models equipped with the 19- and 20-inch wheels tend to soak up bumps in the road without too much drama, especially when paired with the optional air suspension system. However, the available 21- and 22-inch wheels are wrapped in stiff low-profile tires, and they cause the XC90 to jitter and jolt over rough pavement.

XC90 Towing Capacity

The XC90 T6 and T8 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped. The XC90 T5 is only rated for up to 4,000 pounds.

Read more about performance »

XC90 Reliability

Is the Volvo XC90 Reliable?

The 2021 Volvo XC90 has an awful predicted reliability rating of two out of five.

Volvo XC90 Warranty

Volvo covers the XC90 with a four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty.

Read more about reliability »

XC90 Safety

XC90 Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Volvo XC90 an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. The XC90 earned five stars in the frontal and side crash tests, as well as four stars in the rollover test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 XC90, but the similar 2020 model earned the highest rating of Good in all six IIHS crashworthiness tests.

XC90 Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Forward collision warning
  • Pedestrian and cyclist detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Adaptive LED headlights
  • Road sign recognition
  • Driver drowsiness monitoring

Available advanced safety features:

  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Hands-free park assist
  • Head-up display

Read more about safety »

XC90 Dimensions and Weight

The XC90 is 16.3 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,387 to 5,145 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Volvo XC90 Built?

Volvo builds the 2021 XC90 in Sweden.

Which Volvo XC90 Model Is Right for Me?

There are a few decisions to make when picking out an XC90 model. First, choose a trim level. There’s the base model Momentum, the sporty R-Design, and the posh Inscription. This determines the standard and available features. Next, choose an engine. Options include the 250-horsepower T5, the 316-horsepower T6, and the 400-horsepower XC90 Recharge (T8 plug-in hybrid). Lastly, pick a seating layout. The XC90 is available in six- and seven-seat configurations.

We think the seven-seat XC90 T6 Momentum hits the sweet spot for most shoppers. It has a healthy list of standard features for the price, as well as punchy engine performance.

Volvo XC90 Momentum

The entry-level XC90 Momentum T5 has a $49,000 starting price. It’s equipped with a 250-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. Upgrading to all-wheel drive costs $2,550. The XC90 Momentum T6 variant starts at $56,950 and comes with a 316-horsepower twin-charged four-cylinder engine and AWD.

Standard features include a 9-inch touch screen, a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, two USB-C ports, HD Radio, satellite radio, a 10-speaker stereo, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a smartphone charging pad, keyless entry, four-zone automatic climate control, a seven-seat layout, synthetic leather upholstery, power-adjustable front seats, walnut wood trim, a panoramic sunroof, a hands-free power liftgate, and 19-inch wheels.

Standard safety features include a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian and cyclist detection, adaptive cruise control, adaptive pivoting LED headlights, road sign recognition, and driver drowsiness monitoring.

Options include a six-seat layout, genuine leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, a head-up display, a surround-view parking camera system, running boards, and 20-, 21-, or 22-inch wheels.

Volvo XC90 R-Design

The midrange XC90 R-Design is available in T5 and T6 configurations, as well as in the Recharge T8 plug-in-hybrid configuration. Prices start at $55,600 for the front-wheel-drive T5, $58,100 for the all-wheel-drive T5, $62,650 for the AWD T6, and $69,150 for the AWD T8.

The R-Design trim adds genuine leather upholstery, heated front seats with additional thigh and lumbar support, metal interior accents, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, and 20-inch wheels. In addition to the previously mentioned options, the R-Design is available with heated rear seats, a 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins stereo, hands-free park assist, and an adaptive air suspension.

Volvo XC90 Inscription

The luxe XC90 Inscription is available in T6 and T8 configurations. Prices start at $63,250 for the T6 model and $69,750 for the T8 hybrid. This trim adds ash wood trim and perforated leather upholstery. Notably, it’s the only trim available with massaging front seats. Most other options carryover unchanged.

Volvo XC90 Inscription Expression

The new-for-2021 XC90 Inscription Expression is only available with the T8 hybrid system. Prices start at $63,450. This model shares the bulk of its standard features with the entry-level Momentum trim.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Volvo dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Volvo deals page.

See 2021 Volvo XC90 specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2021 Volvo XC90 is a few refinements short of greatness. It stands out in the luxury midsize SUV class for its generous seating and cargo space, wealth of standard safety features, and minimalist interior. It’s maneuverable and reasonably peppy in everyday driving, and it returns great gas mileage. Ultimately, however, the XC90 doesn't measure up to competitors when it comes to performance. Its base engine is merely adequate, and ride quality in certain models is stiff. Additionally, its poor predicted reliability rating doesn’t inspire confidence. This Volvo is a fine option but not a top pick.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "Those looking for something shiny and flashy should look elsewhere, because even if the snappy tech and diverse powertrain lineup are intriguing, the XC90 still flies under the radar. It’s the luxury crossover for a family that doesn’t wish to boast about its bank account, but still wants a taste of the finer things in life." -- Autoblog
  • "What the XC90 lacks in driving verve it packs in designer styling and luxury features." -- Car and Driver
  • "After driving the XC90 again, it reminded me of why I fell in love with it initially. The style, the easy-going driving experience and the well implemented safety features still make it a standout in this class — the sum is somehow greater than the parts." -- Cars.com (2020)
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