2024 Volvo XC90 Review

2024 Volvo XC90 - Volvo XC90 PHEV offers three-row flexibility


Volvo, the long-established Swedish Auto Company, enjoys a reputation dating back to the late 20sth Century as a safety-first automaker.  Indeed, Volvo earns credit with popularizing the ubiquitous seat belt thanks to the work of company engineer Nils Bohlin who in 1959 patented the three-point (rather than the single-focus lap design) seat belt. In a nod to open-source development, Volvo offered up the patent to rivals, allowing any and all automakers to latch onto this superior mousetrap technology to the betterment of humankind.
Volvo also gets credit for advancements within the mundane workings of the headrest and improved whiplash protection. Volvo’s early adaption of seat air bags and side curtain airbags only adds to the safety narrative.
While every automaker now includes three-point seat belts and a cadre of air bags, Volvo’s commitment to innovation is noteworthy as the industry grapples with electrification. Since 2023 Volvo’s U.S. lineup includes some form of electrification.  All current internal combustion engines (ICE) include mild hybrid technology assisting the powertrain. Our midsize XC90 five-door crossover tester included Volvo’s available plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology.

Volvo introduced the first-generation mid-size XC90 crossover in 2002 with a standard internal combustion engine. A second generation came online starting in the 2015 model year of which the 2024 model is based upon still looking stylish and relevant.  The PHEV version, added as an option seven years ago, shares nearly identical dimensions and styling with its ICE counterpart based upon Volvo’s versatile Scalable Product Architecture (SPA).  In 2021, Volvo smartly began marketing PHEVs with the ‘Recharge’ designation for better identification to its plug-in technology.
Last year in 2023, sales of PHEVs overall in the United States rose a very healthy 60 percent from the previous 12-month cycle.

If you’re searching for a three-row PHEV in 2024, XC90 is the top as most five-door PHEV crossover rivals offer just two rows.  Built upon a car-based unibody structure, all XC90s enjoy on-road travel primarily rather than deep off-road adventures necessitating a truck-like, body-on-frame structure even though an off-road selection is available as one of five drive mode choices.
Pure electric vehicles, or EVs team together a sizeable, rechargeable, battery pack (combining scores of lithium-ion cells, structured together in modules, then packs) to power an electric motor, or, in some cases, two motors; one for each axel.  In 2024, EVs average approximately 270 miles of pure electric driving when fully charged, a substantial leap forward from the first-generation Nissan Leaf a decade earlier which squeezed approximately 80 electric miles from a full charge.
By contrast, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) straddles EV and traditional ICE worlds by combining both technologies.  A PHEV makes sense for those curious about an electrified future without going full EV first.  The onboard internal combustion engine calms ‘range anxiety, ‘ a term coined describing a fear of running low or out of electric battery power with no apparent working-order charge station in visual range.

It’s important to note any of Volvo’s PHEV recharge offerings don’t reach anywhere near the 270 miles.  Expect about 35 miles of pure electric range in 2024 before the ICE engine summons to work utilizing  gas-electric hybrid technology, falling into the higher end of industry average which in 2024 ranges between 20 and 40 miles.
The XC90 Recharge’s 35 all-electric range in 2024 more than doubles earlier efforts averaging a mere 14 miles of potential all-electric travel.  In 2022, a larger 18.8 kilowatt-hour battery pack was introduced (replacing the smaller 11.6kwh version) with a more potent electric drive motor (143 hp vs. the outgoing’s 87 hp), a huge improvement. Once the electric range drops to zero, the system seamlessly switches to gas-electric hybrid mode welcoming an additional 495 miles of travel based upon a full tank of gas.

Remember this 35-mile figure remains an estimate.  In most favorable weather conditions (ambient temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit) this 35-mile estimate could climb higher by 10 with the aid of on-board regenerative braking.  This process, made possible through hydraulic booster technology, recycles and recaptures kinetic energy created during the braking process for storage and later reuse. It’s most noticeable and effective during stop-and-go city travel.

During cold winter months or when driving through mountainous terrain, the 35-mile range may drop.  Lithium-ion battery packs enjoy mild weather almost as much as humans.  Tire size and structure also plays a role when determining estimates.

A 2.0-liter inline turbocharged four-cylinder engine works with an eight-speed automatic transmission and an electric drive motor delivering an all-wheel drive experience.  The large18.8-gallon fuel tank recommends premium fuel for optimal engine results. 
The Volvo XC90, as with most PHEV products with all-electric ranges under 60 miles, does not need or accept publicly situated Direct Current (DC) fast charging utilized with pure EVs.

Instead, XC90 Recharge depends upon Level One and Level Two charging based upon common household alternating current (AC). A Level One charge refers to electricity sourced from a common household 120-volt outlet. For all intents and purposes, PHEVs survive just fine utilizing this option.  During our week’s testing, less than 13 hours were required for 35 miles of pure EV driving, easily accomplished when plugging in early evening and overnight to a common 120-volt outlet.
Level 2 represents a 240-outlet, used commonly for furnaces and washer/dryers.  Level 2 charging necessitates special garage wiring and EVSE (Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment) wall-mounted units with varying price and ampere output.  This investment lowers recharging time to under five hours. The XC90 Recharge’s on-board 3.7kwh charger converts household AC current into DC current for storage into the DC battery pack. Volvo locates the plug port on the driver’s side front fender behind a circular swing-out door.

During one overnight charge when temperatures stayed below 50 degrees, the Level One charge took about 12 hours to reach 33 miles of electric charge. The next nightly plug charge resulted in 34 miles of travel with little change in the outdoor temperature.

When switched on, our tester’s system defaulted to pure electric driving mode when fully charged.  This updates to hybrid-gas engine mode if desired by manually switching to ‘hybrid’ mode from an in-screen menu selection consisting of three additional modes: power, off-road and constant AWD.  The off-road mode raises ground clearance if desired.
For a three-row vehicle, ride quality rates as good, designed for family travel, not a stiff-riding experience found in sport-tuned rivals such as the BMW X5 or Porche Cayenne.  A lower side belt line welcomes larger-dimension windows, providing drivers with better-than-average visibility. The electric battery assist provides superior acceleration when gaining momentum for highway merges. The PHEV Recharge offers three trims (Core, Plus and top-dog Ultimate), the same three as the non-plug-in mild-hybrid versions. Expect minimal updates in 2024 when compared to 2023.

Volvo’s crossovers and wagons incorporate a bit of Scandinavian influence with ‘Thor’ inspired headlights with a polite nod to the Nordic God of Thunder.  The ‘T’ shaped bulb design rests on its side in the shape of Thor’s handheld hammer with bejeweled LED bulbs flanking both sides of the handle. Also, rear vertical lights hug the sides of power-operated swing up hatch doors in resemblance of an Alpine like ski run.

Our Ultimate trim started at $79,600 with three options including pampered front bucket seats boasting massaging backrests ($1,700), Premium audio system ($3,200) and air suspension to smooth out travel ($1,800).  The bottom line ended at $87,495 with $1,195 destination charge.
While $1,700 may seem overpriced for a massage feature, multiple tennis-ball-sized orbs worked inside the seatback pampering the lower back delivers very welcome feedback.  If the budget allows, grab this extra as it returns multiple smiles in the long run.

The lowest priced XC90 Recharge in 2024, a Core trim, starts at $71,900.  A Core trim with conventional internal combustion engine and self-charging mild hybrid technology starts at $56,000.

The 2024 XC90 Recharge does not qualify for any portion of the Federal Government’s $7,500 tax credit for electrified vehicle purchase largely due to its assembly outside the U.S.  The Illinois’ Electric Vehicle Rebate Program’s $4,000 incentive only applies to pure EVs, PHEVs including the XC90 Recharge are not eligible.
Inside, Volvo dares to be different by positioning its electronic start/stop functioning between the front bucket seats instead of the usual dashboard placement.   It’s not a drab push button design at all, but a small chrome, ornament-style twist-style tactile knob.  A gentle twist right summons the system to attention.  The same twist right also shuts down the system before exiting. Nice touch.

In front resides an electronic eight-speed transmission with a translucent crystal, bejeweled lever (within the Ultimate trim) when engages reverse when tapped forward and drive when tapped backward.  Neutral resides smack dab in the middle with park engaged with the push of planetary P just to the left.
The clean-looking central dashboard includes an inlaid, nine-inch portrait-style multi-function touch screen flanked by winglike air vents.  One large prominent dial locates under the screen controlling on/off and volume.  The few push buttons nearby include the red hazard button and front/rear defroster.  All other climate functions operate from the touch monitor, including an along-the-screen bottom readout of dual front zone temperatures.   A rectangular lower frame push button brings the screen back to its ‘Home’ menu. The lack of tactile buttons creates a clean, minimalist look, but allow extra time to digest all the nesting and temperature operations.

Android-powered Google-based connectivity streams Google Maps, and Google Assistant Voice Control, parts of the built in Android Automotive Services. After a trial period, these services require a monthly charge.
Row three consists of 50/50 split manually folding seats while row two includes a 40/20/40 three-person manual-fold split bench welcoming seven-passenger seating. Back-row seating folds completely flat when desired nicely welcoming aboard 85.7 cubic feet of cargo space. Plus and Ultimate trim include the option of six-passenger seating by opting for second-row captain’s chairs.
The two-person third row handles pre-teens and their younger friends; not very adult friendly.  Row two seats manually slide forward once tilting seatbacks forward, but not as smoothly as many other rivals.
In keeping with its safety-minded traditions, an array of standard radar-based equipment come standard in all three XC90 Recharge trims including rear cross traffic alerts, handy in crowded parking lots when slowly backing out.  Also, standard, side blind-spot alerts, cruise control, lane keep assist and rear parking sensors.

 In Volvo speak, XC indicates a five-door crossover body style.  A V prefix constitutes ‘versatile’, or the mighty, still-standing station wagon.  An S prefix signifies ‘sedan.’ Volvo’s newly minted EX prefix designates all electric all the time.  Later in the 2024 calendar year, the 2025 model year EX 90 goes on sale in the U.S. as Volvo’s first, all-electric vehicle.  

In 2010, Ford Motor Company, sold its then ownership stake in Volvo to Geely Holdings of China, which currently holds a 79.5 percent stake in the 97-year-old Swedish company.  Volvo sales in the U.S. reached 128,701 in 2023, up 26 percent from the preceding 12 months.

2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge

Price as tested: $87,495
Gas Engine: 2.0-liter turbo 4
Combined horsepower: 455
Battery Pack: 18.8 KWH Lithium-ion
Driving range:  530 miles
All-electric miles:  35
Wheelbase: 117.5 inches
Total Length: 195  inches
Total Height: 69.9 inches
Total Width:  79.1 inches
Curb weight 5,290 pounds
Assembly: Torslanda, Sweden

Dave Boe

Dave Boe, a lifetime Chicago area resident, worked at the Daily Herald, Illinois' third-largest daily newspaper, for 24 years. In 1989, the Daily Herald began a weekly Saturday Auto Section and he was shortly appointed editor. The product quickly grew into one of the largest weekend sections in the paper thanks to his locally-written auto reviews, the introduction of a local automotive question-and-answer column, a new colorful format and news happenings from Chicago area new-car dealerships.

Five years later, a second weekly auto section debuted on Mondays with Boe adding an industry insight column and introducing a "Love Affair with Your Car" column where readers sent in their own automotive memories for publication. During the next 10 years, the number of weekly auto sections Boe edited and coordinated grew to five and featured expanded NASCAR racing coverage, a dealer spotlight/profile feature and a Car Club Calendar where grass-roots automobile clubs could publish upcoming events for free. Boe also introduced more local automotive columnists into the pages of the sections, all of whom were seasoned members of the well respected Midwest Automotive Media Association. In 1997, Boe earned the Employee of the Year award from the Daily Herald.

Boe is a founding member and current president of the Midwest Automotive Media Association. He has degrees in Journalism and Business Administration from Northern Illinois University.