2023 Volvo XC90 Review: Design that stands the test of time

2023 Volvo XC90 Review: Design that stands the test of time

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Pros: Classy, clean, minimalist design; powerful PHEV powertrain available; robust standard safety and driver assistance suite

Cons: While we like the design, it’s due for an update; upgrading to PHEV is costly

The 2023 Volvo XC90 is a three-row, full-size SUV that we like for its tasteful design, comfortable interior space and excellent safety. For 2023, the standard powertrains become mild-hybrid designs based on a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. The plug-in-hybrid XC90 Recharge version raises the price considerably, but provides a generous amount of all-electric range while being the most powerful and fun XC90 by far. It won’t provide the sporty driving dynamics like some of the performance models from BMW and Mercedes, but there’s plenty to like about Volvo’s flagship crossover.


What Volvo does offer is oodles of safety, with excellent crash test results year after year, and a robust suite of safety and driver assistance technology that doesn’t feel like it’s working against you while you’re driving. The XC90 is also comfortable and roomy, seating six to seven passengers in an interior that’s comfortable and interesting to look at without feeling overwrought or ostentatious.

The XC90 is getting a little long in the tooth as it’s now in its eighth year since a complete redesign, but its unique, crisp design and modern technology hide its age well. If you want something all-electric, though, you’ll have to wait just a little longer. Volvo will release its full-size EX90 as a battery-electric successor to the XC90, expected to go on sale in 2023 with an all-new design and more safety tech than ever before.

Interior & Technology   |   Passenger & Cargo Space   |   Performance & Fuel Economy

What it's like to drive   |   Pricing & Trim Levels   |   Crash Ratings & Safety Features

What's new for 2023?

The 2023 XC90 switches to mild-hybrid powertrains as standard, complete with integrated 48-volt battery and an integrated starter/generator added to the existing 2.0-liter engines. The new B5 and B6 mild hybrids therefore replace the outgoing T5 and T6 engines. The XC90 Recharge remains a plug-in hybrid option.

The XC90 switches to Google-based infotainment software for 2023, incorporating Google Maps, Google Play and Google Assistant voice control. The XC90 also gains over-the-air update capability, which means Volvo can send remote software updates to the vehicle, improving features over time.

Trim levels are reorganized into Core, Plus and Ultimate.

What are the XC90’s interior and in-car technology like?

No matter the trim level, the 2023 Volvo XC90’s cabin is a lesson in refined minimalism. The vibe is different from any of the German or Japanese luxury machines. Where BMW and Mercedes dashes are festooned with design flourishes and obvious luxury, the XC90 is laid back and staid. Muted wood inlays grace the dash of luxury models, whereas metal inlays are used on sportier builds. You can get a dose of flash with the Ultimate trim and its Orrefors Crystal shift knob, but even that piece pales in comparison to BMW’s gaudy glass-cut gear lever.

The switch to Google built-in infotainment is an improvement in usability over the old Sensus software. We like the familiarity and ease of use of Google Maps, and the Google Assistant is one of the more natural voice control programs you’ll find in a vehicle. All of your climate controls are placed within the screen, so you’re left without any physical buttons there (though that was the case with Sensus as well). A few audio playback buttons can be found below the screen, but it’s still a tech fiend’s paradise. Volvo’s 12-inch digital instrument cluster comes standard, and it continues the minimalism theme with a simple layout and limited customization. As you’d expect in a big luxury crossover, this one can be loaded to the gills with desirable features like a head-up display and massaging seats.

How big is the XC90?

The XC90 is the biggest Volvo, allowing for three rows of passengers to come along for the ride. Its length is similar to other midsize crossovers like the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE, Acura MDX and Genesis GV80. However, not only can you fit six or seven passengers in the XC90, there's a very good chance that all those passengers will actually be comfortable. The third row is actually habitable for adults, which is a rarity in luxury crossovers apart from bigger, pricier models like the BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS.

The XC90's boxy shape is well-suited to cargo, though, and is similarly better than most competitors. That is particularly true with all rows raised, as our XC90 Luggage Test showed it capable of holding four medium suitcases behind the third row. You'll be lucky to fit two in most competitors.

What are the XC90’s fuel economy and performance specs?

Volvo has moved to all-electrified powertrains for 2023, ranging from mild-hybrid “B5” and “B6” powertrains for its gas-powered XC90, and soldiering on with the XC90 Recharge with the T8 powertrain if you want to add a plug for 35 miles of all electric range. All 2023 XC90’s come with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.

The B5 mild hybrid is the base powertrain. Its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine produces 247 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and uses a braking-regenerated 48-volt battery and an integrated starter/generator to assist the engine and improve fuel economy. It’ll go from a stop to 60 miles per hour in 7.3 seconds. Its fuel economy is rated by the EPA at 22 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.

The B6 mild hybrid is able to get 295 hp and 310 lb-ft out of its 2.0-liter inline-four that’s both turbocharged and supercharged. That makes it quicker to 60 miles per hour, at 6.4 seconds, but it gets slightly worse fuel mileage at 20/26/22 mpg.

Our favorite powertrain of the lineup is the most expensive, but also the most powerful and efficient. The Recharge’s T8 plug-in hybrid features — you guessed it — a 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engine, but this is paired with a battery with a plug and a 143-hp electric motor on the rear axle. The powertrain is good for 455 hp and 523 lb-ft of torque, which shrinks the 0-60 time to a flat 5 seconds. Interestingly, with the gas motor powering the front axle and the e-motor powering the rear, the XC90 T8 operates as a rear-wheel-drive car when only using electric power, and front-wheel-drive when only using gas. It blends gas and electric power simultaneously to provide all-wheel drive. The EPA hasn’t released its range and fuel economy ratings for the 2023 model as of this writing, but Volvo expects up to 32 miles of all-electric driving and 58 combined mpg-equivalent.

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What's the XC90 like to drive?

A little 2.0-liter four-cylinder may not sound sufficient enough for a large vehicle like the XC90, but it actually has plenty of grunt to shove this crossover along with ease. The new mild hybrid engines don’t change much on paper, and we don’t expect them to feel much different than the outgoing T5 and T6 they’re based on. We still expect the B5 to be noticeably slower than the others, but the torque from the turbo should still be enough to keep up with traffic. The B6, with its extra power, should make it feel a little more eager to match highway speeds, dropping the 0-60 time from 7.3 to a more respectable 6.4 seconds. The Recharge is the fastest of the bunch, as power comes on strong right away with the help of the electric motor. Even with the rear axle getting power from this motor, there’s still enough power going forward to spin the front tires up and get torque steer.