2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Review


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We got quite attached to the Volvo XC90 during its yearlong stay at Motor Trend’s Detroit garage. We put the 2016 Motor Trend SUV of the Year through a full-season test, as only this part of the country can. It trekked through blinding snow and rain, and it did yeoman duty in cottage country launching boats, hauling windows, and visiting the local dump.

Even in today’s sea of utility vehicles, the XC90 never failed to attract attention and compliments.

And as we sized it up prior to the arrival of the bad men who took it away from us, we had to admit our T6 Inscription was almost as lovely as the day it arrived with only 887 miles on the odometer. We quickly got used to the rectangular knob on the center console that twists to turn it on, and there was no turning back.

The XC90 left with 28,678 miles on her and was not much worse for wear. The scuffs and stains were few and far between. The buttery tan leather had the slightest tint of blue on the driver’s side from a lot of jeans-clad bums sliding in and out. A darker smudge cleaned off easily.

There was only one small nick on a wheel, which is impressive because the XC90 was always in demand for road trips across the country and into the Canadian north. The rear cargo hold had a few scuff marks, but again they were tame given everything that was hauled.

Cost of ownership was quite reasonable. We spent $4,024.91 on 1,358 gallons of premium gas, which bought us 27,791 miles of road time.

You can’t beat the price of service and repairs: $0. That’s because every new Volvo includes complimentary factory scheduled maintenance, which covers the first three inspections at 10,000, 20,000, and 30,000 miles, each visit valued at about $200 worth of work.

Each of our visits included a software upgrade to address a problem. For a comparative idea of how much we saved, the 2016 Honda Pilot that just wrapped up a year with the California staff tallied $378.62 in routine maintenance costs over a year and 38,523 miles. Before that, our three-row 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander racked up 26,871 miles and a $341.96 bill for regular service and maintenance. A year in the 2016 Land Rover Range Rover Sport Td6 cost us $3,386.50 in service and maintenance.

Even if the work had not been covered, we don’t think the price tag would have been terrible. It was largely oil changes. We had to replace a spark plug when the ceramic cracked, causing a misfire and triggering the check engine light. But most of our issues were software related, including an incident where the SUV ran out of gas and the gauges lit up and flashed “engine performance reduced.” After a software upgrade, it never happened again.

The car is a Wi-Fi hot spot, and it stopped working at one point but was easily restored. The satellite radio subscription expired but was renewed with an over-the-air signal, restoring our favorite channels through the excellent Bowers & Wilkins sound system.

Overall, we were quite pleased with the 2.0-liter super- and turbocharged four-cylinder engine that powers the XC90. The 316 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque were enough that the XC90 had adequate power for passing, and it hauled a few trailers and launched boats with ease. The ability to drop the rear suspension makes it easier to hitch the trailer, and the camera gives a nice high-definition view of the hitch to position the ball perfectly in one try.

Gas mileage averaged 20.5 mpg, which is a bit shy of the EPA-estimated rating of 22 mpg combined. We expected it to be slightly better, but then again its aerodynamics and fuel efficiency were often impaired due to hauling a lot of gear and an the occasional use of a cargo rack on the roof. There was a weird glitch where the long-term average fuel economy readout would show a ridiculously low single-digit number when our record keeping clearly showed mileage was always in the 20s.

The eight-speed automatic transmission proved smooth in city and highway driving. The start/stop system has a slight hesitation when the engine restarts, but it soon was almost imperceptible. Although it can easily be turned off, we rarely chose to do so.

Everyone felt safe at all times and in all conditions, thanks to the Volvo’s all-wheel drive and suite of advanced safety systems. Some even complained it was too safe. The parking brake automatically engages if you don’t fasten your seat belt, which can be frustrating when you hop back in to move the car a few inches in a parking spot. It is a feature that can be turned off in the settings on the touchscreen, but it takes a bit of work to find.

Which brings us to the Sensus infotainment system, a large touchscreen with pages of information and functions. It is slow to load and can require three screen swipes to do what a turn of a knob would otherwise do. Volvo knows this and has already improved the Sensus system for the 2018 XC60; it is now easier to use and has larger fonts.

But familiarity goes a long way, and most of the commands are intuitive. The navigation system lets you input addresses using zip codes or city names, and there is a writing pad if you prefer to use cursive over a keyboard. The touchscreen has an infrared film that senses even a gloved finger in front of an icon—handy up north.

Most found the car to be quite comfortable and almost soothing to ride in with its rich colors and natural open-pore wood trim, though one passenger lamented the lack of front passenger seat lumbar support. Adults were comfortable even in the third row, but getting in and out is a bit tricky.

The XC90 is not cheap. Our Inscription had a base price of $56,395, and we optioned it up to $69,625. A base XC90 can be had for $49,800 and still offers modern Scandinavian styling and one of the safest vehicles on the road. Notching up to Inscription with its Nappa leather and walnut trim puts you in a Zen garden. Adding the $1,800 Vision package provides blind-spot and cross-traffic alerts, cameras, and dimming mirrors—all safety features that are hard to live without once you have tried them. The $1,800 Convenience package is what takes the SUV closer to autonomy; it helps control speed with adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping aid to keep you from crossing the line, and park assist.

The four-corner suspension air suspension ($1,800) contributed to superb ride quality and made it easier to lower the back end for loading and unloading. If you had to cut costs and are not an audiophile, perhaps you can live without the $2,650 Bowers & Wilkins premium sound system—just don’t listen to it first or it will be hard to uncheck that box.

It all added up to a premium experience in a three-row vehicle that will be hard to replace in our Detroit garage. As a Scandinavian myself, I found it hard to head north this summer without a Swede to park near the sauna.

Read more about our 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription:

Our Car
SERVICE LIFE 13 mo / 27,791 mi
BASE PRICE $56,395
OPTIONS Inscription package ($5,600); Bowers & Wilkins sound system ($2,650); Climate/HUD ($1,950); Vision package/Convenience package/air suspension ($1,800 each)
AVG ECON/CO2 20.5 mpg / 0.95 lb/mi
PROBLEM AREAS Temporary loss of WiFi hot spot; software glitch after running out of gas triggered “engine performance reduced”; spark plug crack triggered check engine light
MAINTENANCE COST $0 (2-oil change, inspection)
*IntelliChoice data; assumes 42,000 miles at the end of 3-years
2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
ENGINE TYPE Turbo- & s’charged I-4, alum block/head
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 120.1 cu in/1,969 cc
POWER (SAE NET) 316 hp @ 5,700 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 295 lb-ft @ 2,200 rpm
REDLINE 6,500 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 15.2 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Control arms, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar; multilink, air springs, adj shocks, anti-roll bar
BRAKES, F; R 13.6-in vented disc; 12.6-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS 9.0 x 21 in, cast aluminum
TIRES 275/40R21 107V M+S Pirelli Scorpion Verde All Season
WHEELBASE 117.5 in
TRACK, F/R 65.7/65.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 194.8 x 75.7 x 69.9 in
CURB WEIGHT 4,800 lb
HEADROOM, F/M/R 38.9/38.5/35.5 in
LEGROOM, F/M/R 40.9/37.0/31.9 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/M/R 57.7/56.5/46.9 in
CARGO VOL BEH F/M/R 87.5/41.8/15.8 cu ft
0-30 2.5 sec
0-40 3.6
0-50 4.9
0-60 6.6
0-70 8.5
0-80 10.8
0-90 13.7
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.3
QUARTER MILE 15.0 sec @ 94.0 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 121 ft
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,900 rpm
BASE PRICE $56,395
AIRBAGS Dual front, front side, f/m/r curtain, driver knee
BASIC WARRANTY 4 yrs/50,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 4 yrs/50,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 4 yrs/Unlimited miles
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.88 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded premium

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