2016 Volvo XC90 T6 first drive
Willie Grace | 2/24/2015, 1:45 p.m. | Updated on 2/24/2015, 1:45 p.m.
When it comes to infotainment, Volvo hasn't been asleep at the wheel either, as the XC90 features a new Sensus infotainment system shaped like a giant smartphone or tablet, complete with a home button at the bottom. And just like a phone or tablet, it will allow for the familiar scrolling and waving motions, in addition to pinching and stretching to navigate, even when the driver is wearing gloves. The Sensus control system will also offer a voice-control system and cloud-based applications.
The XC90 will be available in a choice of three trim levels, with the base Momentum starting at $49,895 with 19-inch wheels, leather upholstery, a 12.3-inch digital instrument display, four-zone climate control, a leather steering wheel, and aluminum sill plates and roof rails. The range then splits in two directions, both positioned as "premium": The Inscription trim level will focus on luxury features, adding items like LED headlights, illuminated sill plates and 21-inch wheels starting at $55,495. Alongside Inscription, Volvo will also offer the sportier XC90 R-Design, with 22-inch wheels and a number of items borrowed from Inscription. R-Design will start at $53,895.
What's it like to drive?
Volvo brought us to northeastern Spain to try out the new XC90, far from the frozen wasteland of the northeastern U.S. that the SUV will traverse come next fall. The largely deserted Spanish coast was a good place to get a baseline feel for the new seven-seater without having to fill up the windshield-washer reservoir twice a day.
First, the redesigned interior is as airy as it looks in the photos -- and far softer, as well. Volvo lavished the door handles and just about every surface below the SUV's shoulderline in nicely padded leather that feels very different from the rock-hard interiors of German SUVs. The seats, which Volvo spent no less than seven years developing, are wonderfully ergonomic and work well with the interior design. Volvo prides itself on uncluttered interiors, and the positioning and framing of the touchscreen infotainment system is far less fussy than in the German competition. Buttons underneath the screen and on the steering wheel control essential functions that you might want to reach for and find without taking your eyes off the road.
At highway speeds, the XC90 stays eerily quiet, only offering up a little bit of wind noise. The transmission shifts through the eight gears almost imperceptibly, without lingering in any gear longer than needed, and it takes very little time to get the large SUV up to speed. The steering stays relatively light at high speeds, but there is a reassuring feeling of stability, with the road surface filtering through to our fingertips to a comfortable degree. The new electric power-steering system is nicely weighted, and it transfers the weight of the car around in a manner that's easy to predict.
As Spanish roads offer up roundabouts at a rate of about one per minute, we got plenty of opportunity to test out the SUV's cornering abilities. Body roll is present, but the XC90 does not feel top-heavy, a criticism of the previous-generation model, which could feel heavy and ponderous when rounding corners. Instead, the new XC90 is reasonably quick on its feet, and it tackles the roundabouts without drama or complaint from the tires.
Volvo's new Sensus touchscreen is pleasantly easy to use, requiring no consultations with the owner's manual for the most basic functions -- it's essentially a very large iPhone. About the only ergonomic miscues we noted involve the accessibility of the third row of seats, which are still best considered an occasional accessory, and the fact that the front visors, large though they may be, do not extend out. That last detail often goes overlooked on test drives at the dealership, and it’s inexcusable in this price category. Then again, the Rolls-Royce Ghost doesn't have extendable visors, either.
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