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2021 Volvo XC90 Pros vs Cons

Why Buy a 2021 Volvo XC90?
Reviewed & fact checked by
James MurdochNorman Ruckpaul

Are You Considering a 2021 Volvo XC90? Here Are Some Reasons For and Against

SUVs are becoming ever the more popular, rising in demand as families grow and needs change. So, just how is Volvo keeping up with the demand? With a supply of high-quality vehicles, of course! And the 2021 Volvo XC90 is certainly no exception, although, in many ways, it is exceptional within its class.

The second generation, which was introduced in 2016, has seen a few important changes in the last few model years. The addition of the plug-in hybrid T8 (now known as the Recharge) has been a step in the right direction for Volvo. Also, having a good amount of configuration options has kept the XC90 at the top of the full-size SUV segment.

Of course, its size is what helps sell it. This vehicle is about as spacious as it gets. It seats seven with a third row of seats that can actually fit adults! We know, it is a real shocker, and in the best way. And the styling? It blend luxury and comfort seamlessly together, leaving nobody wanting for coziness. Not only that, but you get a massive list of standard features on even the base trim level.

There are, of course, a few drawbacks, like the poor fuel economy (even by segment standards) and the finicky touchscreen. And some of these things might be dealbreakers for certain people, but are they for you?

This review will go over what is new for 2021, what we like about the XC90, a few things we would like to see improved, and how this vehicle stacks up against the competition. Hang on until the end where we will give you our final verdict on the 2021 Volvo XC90.

What's New for 2021?

Not a whole lot is new for the 2021 model year. The T8 plug-in hybrid has been quite aptly renamed the Recharge, and a few more features that were previously optional have been standardized on some trim levels. Other than that, everything else from the 2020 XC90 line-up carries over.

Ten Reasons You May Like the 2021 Volvo XC90 – The Pros

1. Stunning Interior and Exterior Designs

The 2021 Volvo XC90 stands out because of how it looks, and there is no point trying to deny that. Sleek and sophisticated, this luxury SUV has some top-notch materials included inside of the cabin. The upholstery is definitely high-quality and packs in a lot of comfort. Outside, you will find just as many fine details, and there is a lot of chrome trim that ups the level of chic. Overall, you get what you pay for in terms of styling, as Volvo does not skimp on the finer details.

2. Secure Handling Capabilities

The XC90's handling should inspire quite a lot of driver confidence. It feels more agile than most vehicles its size, and the vehicle's stability and traction control systems will kick in to make the vehicle feel all the more secure. The handling is on-point when rounding through turns, and the feedback you get from the steering column enhances the overall experience.

3. Plenty of Space In Each Row of Seats

A third-row SUV with space for adults in the third row?! Say it ain't so! Kids do not have to be relegated to the XC90's rear, as it is spacious enough to host a couple of average sized adults. Heads, shoulders, and legs all fit comfortably within the XC90 regardless of where you are seated. Taller adults should still stick to the first two rows, but the third row should be fine for most folks.

4. A Lengthy List of Standard Features

The list of standard features on the 2021 Volvo XC90 is downright impressive. You will be paying a luxury price tag cost, sure, but it is totally fair given that you get so many standard features. Even the base trim (known as the Momentum on the gas-powered variants and the Recharge Expression on the T8) has stunning faux leather upholstery, heated front seats on the AWD versions, 4-zone climate control, an impressive 10-speaker sound system, a power sunroof, and adaptive LED headlights that create better illumination by swiveling as you round through turns. Up the ante to the line-topping Inscription for features like a 14-speaker Harman Kardon premium sound system, door sills that have illumination built in, and beautiful chrome trim on the exterior. Of course, you can add a lot of options on too.

5. The Recharge

The T8 plug-in hybrid, which was renamed Recharge for this year, is a true highlight on the line-up. Full-size luxury SUVs aren't terribly fuel efficient, and the gas-powered engine options on the XC90 prove this. But the Recharge gives you a more fuel-friendly option. The Recharge takes the T6 engine (a turbo- and super-charged 2.0-L 4-cylinder) and pairs it with a battery pack and an electric motor, creating a combined 400 hp and 472 lb-ft of torque. Before the gas powered engine kicks in, you get 18 miles of pure electric range.

6. Swift Acceleration

The XC90's T6 engine equipped, the vehicle can get from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.4 seconds, which is pretty quick for its segment. It does not do as well when in lower RPMs, but at higher ones, the T6 does quite well. Consider the fact that 4-cylinder engines are a rarity in this segment (whereas V6 engines are the typical go-to), and you might find yourself impressed with the T6's power output.

7. Stability While Braking

The upgrades done a few years ago on the brakes have made a huge difference in terms of their performance. Not much effort is needed, and the pedal has a light feel to it. The brakes might take a little getting used to, but once you get past the first few unintentionally harsh stops, you should feel secure with how the brakes function. When you press down hard in a panic stop, you will not get any nosedive, and the stopping distance from 60 mph is about 122 feet.

8. Seats Padded for Comfort

The XC90's seats are absolutely padded for comfort. The padding is appropriately firm, and the leather upholstery feels just soft enough. The lateral support is on point, and the thigh bolsters that extend up front feel nice. The second row's seatback angle is just right, and though the seats are more firmly padded, their stiffness is not a downside at all.

9. Excellent Outward Visibility

Outward visibility from the driver's seat is vast. The high roof creates a lot of glass and space, and it is aided by a low belt line and hood line. Even the rear side windows are well sized, offering more visibility than what you might get in other full-size SUVs. The rear-view camera system helps, as do the massive side mirrors.

10. Easy to Load Cargo In

While the amount of cargo space is not best-in-class, the low load height and flat floor make getting cargo in and out relatively easy. Both rows of seats fold down flat enough to help you max out space at 66 cubic feet, so that does give you space for some bulkier items.

Reasons You May Not Like the 2021 Volvo XC90 – The Cons

1. Poor Fuel Economy

The fuel economy is the 2021 Volvo XC90's downfall - at least where the gas-powered engines are concerned. You might not be buying a luxury SUV for fuel economy, but you probably still want to pull some decent numbers. And the XC90's T5 and T6 engines just don't do that. Most competitors average a few mpg better than either of these engines. At least there is the Recharge for those wanting a little boost.

2. A Finicky Touchscreen

The XC90's touchscreen display is kind of picky on how it functions. The screen is pretty big, which is nice, but it does not respond as it should to touch inputs. Drivers who are new to infotainment systems might find this to be aggravating and distracting while driving. Even if you are not new to this type of tech, you might not like the amount of effort it takes to get the touchscreen to respond accordingly.

3. It Isn't a Capable Off-roader

While some luxury SUVs are able to do light off-roading, the XC90 is not meant for it at all. The off-road mode is there, but the clamping force is not enough get the XC90 out of slick situations with just two wheels. The differentials would have to be tweaked to improve any off-roading.

4. A Confusing Climate Control System for Rear Seat Occupants

The 4-zone climate control system sounds nice on the surface, and it actually feels okay up front. But rear seat occupants have to figure out their own controls (unless the driver locks them out from the controls), and the whole process of navigating the system is moderately confusing with its multiple steps.

How It Stacks Up to the Competition:

2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2021 Volvo XC60

The smaller 2021 Volvo XC60 is just as gorgeous inside and out, and it has a second row of seats that offers a lot of space. Like the XC90, you can get the XC60 as a plug-in hybrid. However, it might seem to be less fun to drive, and the touchscreen interface is just as confusing and frustrating. Also, the ride quality is busier than you might expect from a luxury SUV.

2021 Volvo XC90 vs. 2021 BMW X5

The 2021 BMW X5 is a top contender this model year, as it has engine options that blend powerful performances with decent fuel economies. You also get a cabin that is both quiet and luxurious, loaded to the brim with standard features. Even the cargo area feels remarkably spacious. On the downside, though, getting in and out of the X5 can be difficult due to the wide door sills, and there are a ton of big-ish blind spots. Also, you do not get as much small item storage space in the cabin as you might like.


The 2021 Volvo XC90 is a solidly built vehicle that looks exceedingly upscale. This full-size luxury SUV might not meet everyone's needs and could do better on fuel, but the Recharge is a nice option to have if you are looking for a hybrid powertrain.

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