CHATHAM, Mass. – Large, quiet, well behaved and relatively fuel efficient, the mild-hybrid Volvo XC90 B6 AWD Ultimate three-row sport-utility vehicle (SUV) provided an enjoyable week of driving during the continuing remarkably mild New England Winter.
Living with the Volvo for a week was effortless – the SUV did everything it was supposed to do comfortably, without drama.
An electric boost and regenerative braking
All 2023 Volvo models are equipped with a version of an electrified powertrain, from all-electric (BEV) to hybrid-electric (HEV) to plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) to mild hybrid-electric (MHEV) like the version I drove.
The heart of the powertrain remains an internal-combustion engine (ICE), a turbocharged, 2-liter, double-overhead cam four cylinder one. Adding the boost of the battery-backed 48-volt electric starter/generator means the overall unit provides 295 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque.
The generator’s functions include starting the car, especially helpful when restarting when the stop/start system has done its thing, and slowing the car through regenerative braking. This activity also recaptures the braking energy to recharge the system’s battery.
The system delivers on the promise of smooth driving characteristics, pulling strongly from a stop, again without any drama (Volvo says it can go from 0-60 miles per hour in a brisk 6.4 seconds).
The remainder of the powertrain includes an eight-speed automatic transmission feeding into an all-wheel-drive (AWD) system coupled with a driver-mode selector (comfort, Polestar Engineered, for a more performance-oriented sojourn, and off road).
A very nice touch is excellent fuel economy for a three-row, seven-seat SUV. My heavy-footed driving (mostly without the stop/start system activated – I find them annoying, though MHEV versions are the least so) returned 24.9 miles per gallon, almost three more than the federal Environmental Protection Agency rating of 22mpg (20 urban, 26 highway).
Air suspension, vented disc brakes a feature of the XC90 platform
A major option ($1,800) brings the 4-corner air suspension system which helps provide a controlled, comfortable ride with solid handling attributes. In addition, it can range from 8.3 inches of ground clearance for easier ingress and egress from the cabin, as well as more aerodynamic highway travel (better fuel economy) to 8.8 inches of ground clearance to better maneuver off road and over poor road surfaces.
A unique feature for the XC90 is its ability to go through water up to 17.7 inches deep (at “walking speeds”).
The anti-lock (ABS) brake system features 14.4×1.2-inch vented rotors in the front, 13.4×0.8-inch ones in the rear.
Extensive ADAS in the Volvo safety tradition
The list of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) is comprehensive, which is expected in a high-end Volvo like the XC90 Ultimate. This group of safety-oriented features includes: blind-spot information system with steering assist and cross-traffic alert with autobrake; collision-avoidance featuring low-and-high-speed collision mitigation, vehicle/pedestrian/cyclist/large animal detection & driver-alert control; run-off road protection and run-off road mitigation; lane-departure warning/lane-keeping aid; oncoming mitigation by braking; rear park-assist camera with front & rear park assist, and 360º surround-view camera.
A head-up display further helps the driver keep his/her eyes on the road, further enhancing safety as do the high-power headlight washers.
The Nappa leather appointed interior of the seven-seater is thoughtfully designed and familiar to owners of other modern Volvo vehicles.
The seats are heated front and rear with the fronts featuring ventilation and electric adjustment with memory (lumbar, cushion extension and side support power-adjusted also).
The automatic climate-control system has four zones to cover all seven potential occupants in the SUV’s three sections.
Sitting in the middle of the dashboard is the nine-inch color touchscreen, the heart of the infotainment system and vehicle control. The system includes navigation through Google Maps; Google Assistant; Google Play Store, as well as Bluetooth smartphone connectivity and SiriusXM satellite radio.
The version I sampled came with the optional ($3,200) Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system. Unfortunately, its capabilities were lost on me – I really was not able to experience its full benefits during my time behind the wheel, but audiophiles I know vow by the company’s reputation for quality, high-end sound.
The other luxurious, decadent but very relaxing and comfortable feature in this SUV was the primary ingredient in the ($1,700) lounge package – the front-seat backrest massager. Driving down the highway, the seat began its rolling dance on my back, and it was wonderful.
The Ultimate Volvo ICE SUV
Three rows, 25mpg, luxury oozing out of every pore and the Volvo safety legacy contribute mightily to the 2023 Volvo XC90 B6 AWD Ultimate earning its name within the Swedish brand’s range.
The base price is $68,200 and with the options mentioned as well as the $1,095 destination charge brought the as-tested price to $76,995, very competitive with premium/luxury three-row SUVs.
Volvo SUVs are different from others in the segment, with unique features and controls. They are comfortable, quiet, good performers, and filled with safety features. In general, a solid choice amongst the crowd.