2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge AWD Ultimate review by Ben Lewis

We love Volvos. Oh yes, we do. From a brand that started out as funky and functional to elegant and excellent, they’ve always kept their unique Swedishness. And lately that has also been combined with some storming performance.

See our reviews of the S60 Recharge and the C40 Recharge, and you’ll see that Volvo is showing that you can combine hybrid and traditional powertrains to create outstanding range, performance and a bright future that will also be a greener one.

So now we have the opportunity to test the Swede’s largest SUV, the 3-row XC90, long a luxury bastion, and epitome of luxury and style in that uniquely Scandinavian way, now brought up to Plug-in Hybrid Recharge standards. Can it still fend off the Europeans, and the newcomers from Japan and Korea? Let’s find out!

Classic Style

Volvo doesn’t do massive makeovers every couple of years. And yet unlike some other companies, the XC90 remains gorgeous.

Up front is bold, with a large, traditional upright grille – although compared to modern BMW and Lexus models, it’s not overdone. Handsome, we’d say. While a lot of manufacturers have signature daytime running lights, Volvo was one of the first with the “Thor’s Hammer” that make it instantly recognizable, and very cool.

The profile looks modern and sleek, while still holding onto a bit of Swedish sensibility, with a bit of chrome to accent, but never too blingy. Well, except maybe, for the massive 21-inch alloys in a throwing star style design. They really fill out the wheel wells, and give a rugged, capable look.

The rear, like the front is conservative, but handsome, with tall vertical LED taillights framing the large rear hatch opening. Finishing off the presentation, our tester wore a tasteful Vapour Gray paint, similar to those concrete and pastel colors that are all the rage these days, it keeps the XC90 looking fresh and upscale.

Scandinavian Design

We also love Volvo interiors. They manage to create an upscale, luxurious environment, yet feel different from notables like Audi, BMW, Mercedes as well as Lexus, Genesis or even Cadillac. It’s that Swedish love of fine materials, attention to details, but with a sense of spaciousness and simplicity. Kind of like IKEA on steroids!

Open the door, and the smell of perforated Nappa leather wafts over you, seducing you to come in. Sink down into those Maroon Brown seats and feel the firm supportive cushions that are the hallmark of fine Swedish furniture. But our XC90 has some tricks even your expensive living room couch doesn’t. Heated and ventilated. And oh, did we mention our tester’s Lounge Package with massage function backrest? 10 massage points with 5 programs, 3 speeds and 3 intensities to choose from! Soooooo lovely!

And that’s just the starting point. There’s matte finish blackened ash trim, and even a crystal gear selector made by Orrefors. At first, we thought that was over the top, but then you see it lit up at night and it’s well, soooooo lovely. (Did we say that already?)

There’s a 12.3-inch digital driver display that serves up all the pertinent info, as well as having a center area that can surface maps and other info in two different display modes: Calm and Navi.

There used to be complaints that the Volvo info-tainment system was pokey, but in the last two years, they’ve managed to upgrade everything to a Google-based system that’s state of the art. The handsome 9-inch display gives you access to Google apps and services, including Google Assistant (you can even ask it to tell a joke!), Google Maps and Google Play store, with handy quick access below for Park Assist and other apps. You can also swipe the screen, tablet style to access more info. Despite all the high-tech toys, we’re pleased to report that Volvo still includes a nice, large volume knob at the bottom of the display.   

And you will be turning up that volume knob! Our tester had the optional $3,200 Bowers and Wilkins Premium audio system. You have some nice ability to choose the locale presentation – we especially liked the cavernous sound when simulating the Gothenburg Concert Hall. Yes, we are spoiled!

It’s also sumptuously serious for the second row, with plenty of room for adults – we do love that the middle seat has an integrated center booster cushion, great for a child. Speaking of kids, the 3rd row seats should only be used for adults in a pinch. The good news, drop that third row and cargo space is impressive. Drop the 2nd row and it’s a massive cargo hold perfect for, dare we say it, trips to IKEA-type stores! We recommend the lingonberry pancakes if they have them. And then maybe a nice nap in those massage seats. Did we mention we’re spoiled?

Plug-in and Take Off!

The drive is also something special. Volvo has been constantly upgrading their hybrid models, taking away the pain of the fact that all models moving forward will have some form of electrification.

Maybe they should say electrifying! Check out the numbers – our XC90 PHEV (plug-in hybrid) is loaded for Bear (or BMW) with a jaw-dropping 455 horsepower and 523 lb.-ft. of torque. In a 3-row SUV. This offers phenomenal acceleration – figure mid 4’s 0-60 mph. That’s enough to bait and hook a variety of high-end performance sedans and sports cars!

If you want, you can go “Pure EV” mode and get somewhere around 32 miles of range – impressive! And once the battery is depleted, you still get hybrid performance from the big Swede, with a combined 27 mpg – pretty impressive for a large, luxury SUV, with all that power!

You might actually have a tough time knowing when youʻre in EV mode or not – Volvo has taken extensive efforts at sound deadening, including laminated side windows, and the XC90 is limo-quite most of the time. Only when you really get on it do you hear the slightly sporty sound of the turbo 4-cylinder.

Also impressive is the ride and handling, especially with our testerʻs optional active chassis with air suspension. It serves up responsive handling with little lean – impressive for such a tall vehicle. The tradeoff is a slightly firm ride, but those aweome seats soak up any harshness the suspension and the 21-inch alloy wheels might let through. Another plus, we noted that the brake pedal feel is much more natural than our previous XC90 hybrid tester.

Another nicety is the 360-degree surround view camera that makes parking easy. And even though it is a 3-row SUV, we found the XC90ʻs tidy exterior dimension to be commendably parking space friendly.

So, We Talking IKEA Pricing?

Uh, not really. This is the brandʻs premium luxury SUV. If you can live without the plug-in hybrid, the XC90 starts at $56,000. For a large luxury SUV with innate Swedish-ness, thatʻs actually a great value. Living the PHEV life will set you back $71,900. Our Ultimate tester started at $79,600. And like the other European brands, the option sheet can quickly escalate things.

Taking our tester to the ultimate Ultimate, we had the Lounge Package ($1,700), Trailer hitch ($1,650), Bowers & Wilkins premium sound ($3,200), and Active Chassis Air Suspension ($1,800). Add in $1,195 for Destination, we rang the bell at $89,145. 

The competition also offers excellent driving dynamics, but is equally as pricey. Loading up an Audi SQ7 got us a touch over $97,000. We like the Audi’s 500-hp, twin-turbo V8, but no way can it match the XCʻs hybrid efficiency. A comparable BMW X7 runs $91,345, but it features less power and poorer fuel efficiency than our big Swede.  

Handsome, beautifully equipped, fast and impressively efficient, the 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge is our favorite 3-row luxury SUV!  

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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