Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription review: the taste test
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Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription
- Cool design inside and out
- Great interior quality/packaging
- Interesting engine
- Relatively expensive
- Gearbox easily thrown off guard
- Inscription trim a bit blingy
Some cars don’t age well. And some really do.
The Volvo XC90 has been with us since way back in 2015. It marked the start of a new generation for the Swedish company, with striking exterior design, stunning interiors and even the first step towards electric technology with the T8 “twin engine” Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) model.
Not a lot has changed in the years since, save a minor facelift. And it might be because the XC90 has had such a huge influence on the XC60 and XC40 SUVs that followed, but it still feels like the big fella could have been launched yesterday. It’s a magnificent way to cart six passengers around.
Our reacquaintance with the XC90 has come not via the T8 but the more conventional petrol T6. That’s “more conventional”, but still technologically interesting: it has a 2.0-litre engine that’s both turbocharged and supercharged, which means a strong power delivery down low, energy up top and some interesting noises.
All XC90s are AWD, with an eight-speed “Geartronic” transmission which is smooth when you are, but doesn’t take kindly to abrupt changes in driver behaviour. It can get a bit dithery. That’s been a Volvo thing for a while, actually.
Volvo was at the head of the pack with safety and driver-assistance equipment when the XC90 was launched, and this model is still bang up to date with its Pilot Assist system.
The T6 comes in entry Momentum ($99,900) more luxurious Inscription ($105,900) or sporty R-Design ($109,900) models.
For our money the R-Design is still the one. The in-your-face exterior detailing, darker tones and monster 22-inch wheels really suit the Volvo’s avant garde look (even if they don’t do the ride any favours).
The model tested here is the Inscription, which is a lot more conservative with “bright aluminium deco” trim all over and a tailored dashboard. Although you do still get 21-inch alloys.
But that’s all a matter of personal taste, right? Any XC90 is a thing of great beauty and astonishing practicality inside. The nine-inch portrait infotainment screen that seemed so revolutionary (and so large) back in 2015 is much less so now, but it’s still swish looking and ergonomically excellent by more modern standards.
This is still one of the nicest SUV interiors in any model, at any price. Be brave with lighter tones (our test car was very black), as is the fashion in Sweden, and it’s even more striking.
The driving position is brilliant and the seats brilliantly comfortable. Our test car had the optional wool-blend upholstery in place of the standard leather: same price but even nicer for our money, with classy looks and superior comfort. It’s a great alternative for buyers with a moral objection to leather, but it’s a tempting choice for absolutely anybody.
Accommodation is generous in the second row and even with the third in use, there’s still 300 litres of bootspace on offer. This is a car that’s designed for occupants first and makes no apologies for it. But as a driver there’s still plenty to keep you engaged.
Foibles are few, but the keyfob is one. Volvo started a trend for remotes that look very minimalist because they have slender buttons on the side, rather than the top; stylish, but very fiddly and difficult to know which once you’re pressing at times.
It’s also very easy to accidentally change radio stations/music tracks when “palming” the steering wheel in tight turns, thanks to the placement of the remote controls. Or maybe that’s just me. It's an issue I have in every current Volvo - anybody else?
The XC90 is not as sporty as some big SUVs and it’s expensive compared with a Skoda Kodiaq, but as a premium-brand seven-seater with top-notch quality it’s still pretty hard to fault. It doesn’t claim to be all things to all people; but it is an exquisite family car with a lot of cool Swedish character.
VOLVO XC90 T6 INSCRIPTION
ENGINES: 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol four
GEARBOX: Eight-speed automatic, AWD
0-100KM/H: 5.6 seconds
ECONOMY: 8.5 litres per 100km