As an automotive journalist, it’s always fun getting a new brand of automobile delivered to the driveway. Oftentimes, if the same brands tend to like you, or your opinions, on their automobiles (*cough* Lexus *cough* Toyota *cough cough*…excuse me, sorry) you keep getting more of them. So, when a new one shows up, it’s a great opportunity to look at other offerings and get a broader understanding of the automotive market today.
Well, last week that new brand was Volvo. The last time I had even been in a Volvo was probably five years ago, and the car was at least 10 years older than that. I’ve been super interested in what Volvo has been working on, especially their V60 and V90 wagons with the twin-charged, 4-cylinder, hybrid-assisted T8 engine. However, getting my hands on the latest XC90 Recharge Inscription was close enough.
First thought when I saw the XC90 was that it was very Volvo-esque. In the Denim Blue Metallic, it was handsome, but restrained, while still retaining all of the characteristic Volvo features including the taillight that curved around the rear hips and “Thors Hammer” headlights. The 21” wheels optioned on this particular vehicle also happened to be my favorite out of the four total wheels available. Unfortunately, the Demin Blue Metallic, while handsome, is basically the only half-way “real” color offered by Volvo. Every other color is black, silver, white, or grey. The monotony of colors is unfortunate, especially when Volvo has historically offered great greens, bright blues, beautiful greens, and even some reds and oranges.
Upon entering the door on this particular XC90, I was shocked to find… cloth seats. My understanding was that they and sent me a car with an MSRP of around $70,000 so I was doubly confused when I learned it was optioned up to just $10 short of $80,000. With cloth seats. That confusion was cured after just a few miles in the driver’s seat. The seats are actually not just any cloth. They are “Tailored Wool” made from 70% recycled polyester and 30% wool. The wool allows for the seats to be much more comfortable in weather that’s not exactly perfect. In winter they will not get cold, and during the summer they will not become incredibly hot and burn any part of your body touching them, as well as create less heat build-up in the cabin. While leather is considered the most luxurious material, this consistency in expectation is really a creature comfort of its own.
Technologically, the Volvo is right where I would expect it. The Bowers & Wilkins Sound System is up there as the best I have ever tested, rivaling the Lexus Mark Levinson system for the overall best sound quality and fullness. It has Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and all the gadgets as expected in the infotainment system. Safety is unsurprinsgly ever present in this XC90, which has one of the best safety records of any car ever made. Blind Spot Monitoring, Cross Traffic Alert, 360 camera, and lane departure are all provided. My biggest disappointment was in how the infotainment system could feel clunky and hard to use while driving which is definitely an issue.
Driving the XC90 is a very luxurious experience. Even with a 0-60 time of 5 seconds, the XC90 never felt hectic. It was quick, but wouldnt shove you into the back of your seat. It just worked. The ride is extremely smooth and since the Volvo air suspension doesn’t seem to really have any modes, it just chooses *good*, which is fine by me. The biggest thing that stood out to me was sometimes the brakes did not feel too excited to stop quickly. This is probably a result of the regenerative braking, but in a 4500 SUV I would hope they were a bit more encouraging.
Overall, I really enjoyed my week in the 2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge Inscription. I’ve always been intrigued by Volvo and glad to learn they are pretty much as good as advertised. $80,000 is a tough price point as the competition is so fierce at that level, but the Volvo definitely fits certain people very well, and they bought them to the tune of about 3,000 a month in 2020. While many of those are going to be less expensive models, there is definitely a market for these upscale, hidden gems like the Recharge Inscription. It’s a great car and, if you have the cash, should be a consideration on your next SUV purchase. Oh, and get the wool.