2013 Volvo XC90 SUV - FROM $39,700
Although the 2013 Volvo XC90 remains a fairly competent luxury crossover SUV, more modern rivals might prove more appealing.
What's New for 2013
For 2013, the Volvo XC90 sees a mild refresh that brings a monotone paint scheme, LED running/taillights and headlight washers to the exterior. Inside the cabin, the updates include newly available redwood accents along with a handy leather pull-down strap for the tailgate.
Most folks looking for an SUV who appreciate Volvo's styling and comfort would likely be well-served by the brand's XC60 midsize crossover. However, those who need something with greater passenger and cargo capacities might want to consider the 2013 Volvo XC90. Though it is getting rather long in the tooth -- it debuted back in 2003 and hasn't had a major redesign since -- this roomy model has aged well and still has solid appeal with its combination of good looks, comfortable seating and strong reputation for safety. And there's even a sport-tuned version -- the R-Design -- to cater to those looking for a more involving, buttoned-down drive.
Still, there's no denying the XC90's considerable age in a few key areas. As the full-size crossover market has expanded considerably since its debut, the Volvo doesn't offer as much space within as the 2013 Buick Enclave and 2013 Ford Flex (although the Flex and the Ford Explorer are indeed based on this Volvo's architecture). It also lacks many of the advanced safety technologies available from its newer Volvo siblings, not to mention it soldiers on with an older and generally obtuse navigation system, and although adequate, the XC90's performance is lacking compared to more spirited rivals that also manage to offer better fuel economy.
As such, most of the Volvo XC90's more modern competitors are better all-around choices. In addition to the two mentioned earlier, there's also the 2012 Acura MDX, which is the closest in terms of size and price and beats the Volvo in terms of power, driving dynamics and features. If you don't need a third-row seat, the Lexus RX 350, Volkswagen Touareg and Volvo's own XC60 are other strong alternatives. However, if you're just looking for a Euro-style alternative to the pricey family-sized crossovers from Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, then the 2013 Volvo XC90 still represents a solid choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Volvo XC90 is a seven-passenger luxury crossover SUV that comes in two different models: the 3.2 and the sportier R-Design.
The 3.2 includes 18-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated mirrors, headlight washers, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a sunroof, roof rails, rear privacy glass, rear parking sensors and keyless entry. Inside there's dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery, eight-way power front seats with driver-seat memory settings and lumbar adjustment, a fold-flat front passenger seat, 40/20/40-split second-row seats with a built-in center child booster seat, a 50/50-split third-row seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The 3.2 R-Design is identical, though it includes 19-inch alloy wheels, adaptive xenon headlights, sport-tuned suspension and steering, a self-leveling rear suspension, distinctive exterior and interior styling touches, unique leather upholstery, unique gauges and a sport steering wheel.
Opting for the Premier Plus package gets you adaptive xenon headlights (3.2), a rearview mirror-mounted compass, upgraded leather upholstery and redwood cabin accents. The Platinum package includes the contents of the Premier Plus and adds a navigation system, a rearview camera and a 12-speaker premium audio system. The Climate package contains heated front seats and an interior air quality sensor. Stand-alone options include a blind spot warning system and a rear-seat video entertainment system.
Powertrains and Performance
All 2013 Volvo XC90 models are powered by a 3.2-liter inline-6 engine that puts out 240 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic with manual shift control is the only transmission offered. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is available as an option. Properly equipped, the XC90 can tow up to 3,970 pounds.
According to Volvo, the XC90 will go from zero to 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, which is on the slow side for the class. EPA fuel economy estimates are just average for the category at 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models, while all-wheel drive lowers the combined number to 18.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Volvo XC90 include antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, anti-whiplash front seats and a handy child booster seat built into the second row. A blind-spot warning system is optional on all models, but the XC90 is not available with the multitude of advanced accident prevention technologies available on other Volvo models.
In crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the XC90 earned the organization's top "Good" rating in the frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the 2013 Volvo XC90 offers a passenger cabin that's stylish, comfortable and quiet. Front seats offer good support and a generous amount of room, but the second- and third-row seats are a little tighter than those on several competitors. A child booster seat built into the center section of the middle row slides forward to put young ones within easy reach of mom and dad, though Volvo's XC60 and XC70 are available with two booster seats. Gauges and controls are nicely arranged, but the latter aren't the most advanced. The navigation system included in the Platinum level is antiquated and relies on obtuse controls located behind the steering wheel or on a remote control. Most other Volvo models have a more advanced infotainment system.
The XC90's interior can also handle its share of cargo. Folding down the 40/20/40-split second-row and 50/50-split third-row seatbacks results in a flat load floor and 85.1 cubic feet of cargo room. This is pretty good for a luxury crossover, but larger three-row crossovers like the Buick Enclave and Ford Flex will hold much more. Another downside is the fact that there's just 8.8 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seat, which means carrying seven people and their luggage is unlikely unless you invest in a rooftop cargo carrier.
The 3.2-liter six-cylinder delivers only adequate acceleration; one of Volvo's turbocharged engines would certainly be welcome at least as an option. The standard comfort-oriented suspension should be just fine for most folks, though we have to admit we prefer the more confident handling offered by the R-Design's sport-tuned suspension. All in all, the 2013 Volvo XC90 feels more nimble than you'd expect a tall seven-passenger vehicle to be, and continues to drive quite well despite its advancing years.