2017 Volvo XC90 setting sights on climbing luxury ladder

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The 2017 Volvo XC90 is a large luxury SUV that, along with SC sedans, is taking strides to position the near-luxury brand to enter the tier-one luxury segment. Volvo currently finds itself in the same position Audi was more than a decade ago.

For 2017, the XC90 comes in: Momentum (base T5 and T6), Inscription (up-level T5, T6, and T8), R-Design (sport T6 and T8), and the T8 Excellence model. My tester was the T6 Inscription.

The XC90 has a blend that feels like Audi meets Range Rover. The result is an attractive and luxurious looking SUV that appears smaller than it is. I had a number of people ask me what I was driving and they were surprised when I said it was a Volvo. I had a similar reaction when I tested the Volvo SC sedan. The crisp, almost blunt nose rolls into a fairly upright windshield. The profile is tall with lots of glass for good visibility. The XC90 sits on attractive 20-inch wheels and tires.

The interior is a nice change from some of the austere designs Volvo used to produce. It starts with the heat/cool seats, which were very comfortable, supportive, and with the doors closed, the scent of leather is fantastic. There is seating for seven and the middle row (40/20/40) slides to facilitate entry to the rear seats and offers some additional leg room for adult rear passengers.

The driver faces a configurable hi-definition screen that replaces traditional gauges. I liked the high-quality metal and matte wood trim and the modern Swedish design vibe. The passenger-centric 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and Sensus navi system are easier to use than most competitors. A nice feature is the huge (standard) panoramic sunroof. Cargo space is good with 15.8 cubic feet with all seats up, 41.8 cubic feet with the third row folded, and 85.7 cubic feet with two rows folded.

The powerplant for the XC90 T6 is a turbo and supercharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine with stop/start technology. The engine is mated to a quick shift 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard on all versions unless you find a base model.

Driving the XC90 felt similar to piloting a sedan. Power from the supercharged, turbo four comes on quickly, resulting good acceleration, but makes noise doing it. I found the steering to provide average feedback and braking was short, straight and without fade. Around town the XC90 further emphasizes the sedan feel but could be better at absorbing bumps and irregular pavement. It was nimble in parking lots and in tight traffic. It does feel a little top heavy while cornering aggressively and also exhibits a little body roll. Road holding, at-the-limit performance driving is not its forte, but this kind of behavior was not a cause for concern. The all-wheel drive does enhance grip and will be a plus in Chicago winters.

The 2017 Volvo XC90 has a lot going for it and Volvo’s top sedans are also cars to consider. If Volvo continues its smart product offensive it could find itself seriously rubbing elbows with Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

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