Despite more than two decades on the market, the Volvo XC90 as we know it is in just its second generation.
That’s Toyota-like longevity, and as the owner of a first-gen model I can tell firsthand that there’s a familiarity here that spans the years – up to and including the 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge. While an all-electric version looms in the not-too-distant future, this plug-in hybrid (PHEV) still has plenty going for it.
The exterior styling is timeless, with only a few changes since the current generation debuted some nine years ago. The Thor’s Hammer headlights are an iconic touch, and the relatively conservative design garners appeal by putting the devil in the details; swooping LED strips on the taillights, big wheels, and just enough chrome to keep it classy without getting gaudy.
At its release, the XC90’s interior was state of the art, setting the standard with a Scandinavian minimalist design. It’s still beautiful and relevant today, while this tester’s light-coloured Nappa leather and hefty crystal gear selector help set the space apart.
Coming from an automaker that has built its brand on pursuing – and pushing – safety innovation, it should be no surprise that the Volvo XC90 comes fitted with all kinds of advanced features. Adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking – it’s all here.
Standard features in the XC90 Recharge’s Ultimate trim level are par for the course. There’s a panoramic sunroof, air purifier, power tailgate, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, a head-up display, rear sun shades, Nappa leather seating surfaces, and a premium stereo. Available options include massaging front seats, a 120-volt charging cable (that really should be standard), air suspension, a Polestar performance package, and more.
In keeping with Volvo tradition, seat comfort is outstanding. While many functions are embedded within the infotainment system, all switches, knobs, and controls are laid out with an ergonomically-friendly reach in mind. Coupled with elegant materials, Volvo pulls off both function and form with its interior design.
When driving in the so-called “pure” all-electric mode, there’s no gas engine to draw upon for heating or cooling the passenger cabin. As a substitute, electric heat and air conditioning units take over and can keep the cabin comfortable year-round. However, the gas engine will still kick in during extreme ambient conditions. With electric heating, an advantage is instant functionality as soon as the car is switched on – there’s no waiting for the engine to warm up before heat becomes available.
The XC90’s suspension makes for a relatively firm – but still comfortable – ride. While every pothole is felt when driving on rough roads, the initial impacts are dulled nicely. The 21-inch alloy wheels are a contributing factor here, too, since the requisite low-profile tires have less sidewall when taking a hit.
The XC90 Recharge is (mostly) easy to live with. Ingress and egress are good, and the windows provide excellent outward visibility from the driver’s seat. It’s easy to get seated comfortably, especially with the power-adjustable thigh support cushions up front.
The infotainment is where the XC90 starts to go awry. While the Google-based system has improved over the years, there’s still a heavy emphasis on touchscreen menus with deeply embedded functions. After climbing a reasonably steep learning curve, the result is like the catch-all kitchen junk drawer: functional, but hardly organized. Signing into the system with a Google account partially negates the need for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the option to pair your smartphone is still included and helps bypass some of the clunkiness.
Its exterior dimensions and overall manoeuvrability aren’t quite as unwieldy as some other SUVs this size, and the interior volume is usable – even with occupants in all three rows of seats. There’s 317 L of cargo space behind the third row, which grows to 966 L when it’s folded and 1,815 L when the second row is stowed, too. Towing capacity is 2,250 kg (4,960 lb), which matches non-PHEV models.
As a PHEV, the XC90 Recharge is a tale of two powertrains. There’s a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine up front that’s paired with a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission, plus there’s an electric motor in the back. Total system output is 455 hp and 523 lb-ft of torque, which helps this SUV sprint from zero to 100 km/h sprint in a claimed 5.3 seconds.
Fuel Economy: 7/10
Volvo has increased the battery capacity three times, with the latest version standing at 18.8 kWh. The result is 53 km of electric driving range. By comparison, the BMW X5 PHEV is good for 64 km thanks to its 25.7-kWh battery, and the Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e can cover a claimed 77 km. Finally, the Lexus RX 450h+ has 60 km of range but doesn’t offer three-row seating.
With the 18.8-kWh battery, 240-volt Level 2 charging at home is a great asset, with a full charge taking about four hours. 120-volt charging takes 13 hours.
Fuel economy for the gas engine is 8.9 L/100 km combined. Observed fuel consumption ended at 6.4 L/100 km.
Driving Feel: 7/10
The Volvo XC90’s handling and overall engagement is numb next to the likes of the BMW X5. It holds its own but it isn’t sporty, nor is it trying to be. Power delivery between the gas engine and electric motor is harmonious, and it’s almost impossible to tell which is running without looking at the gauge cluster.
The XC90 Recharge’s Ultimate trim starts at a base price of $97,939, and options plus destination fees bring the as-tested price of the one shown here to $105,994. At nearly $16,000 more than a comparably equipped gas-only XC90, financial payback from fuel savings won’t be enough to spring for the PHEV. Instead, lower emissions and reducing fossil fuel dependence will be the better reasons to justify the additional electrification.
The BMW X5 xDrive50e and Mercedes-Benz GLE 450e can go longer on a full charge but can also cost more, depending on options. They do, however, offer more engaging driving dynamics, similar interior space and more tech. On the other hand, the XC90 features more restrained luxury paired with an unrivalled reputation for safety.
Despite being in its ninth – and perhaps final – year on the market, the 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge remains a venerable choice in its segment. It’s fallen behind its peers in terms of outright plug-in capabilities but makes up for it with a level of classiness and safety that add significantly to its value.
It’s a comfortable cruiser that blends into traffic without being too anonymous, and even after all this time without a significant redesign, it still commands respect for its balance of practicality and style. Its rivals may offer more bells and whistles and an extra dose of flashiness, but the XC90 is a tried-and-true alternative.
|2.0L (gas) / 340 kW (PHEV)
|455 hp @ 6,000 rpm
|9.1 / 8.6 / 8.9 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb (hybrid); 3.8 Le/100 km, 53 km range (EV mode)
|317 / 966 / 1,816 L behind 3rd/2nd/1st row
|2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge
|Price as Tested
$5,335 – Protection Package, $820; Recharge package, $765; Bowers & Wilkins hi-fidelity audio system, $3,750