Stick Shift: 2017 Volvo XC90 T6


After casting aside Fords’ restricting shackles in 2010, Volvo has returned after a small but necessary hiatus. Far from idling the time away though, they’ve been keeping busy, keeping their ear to the ground and finger on the pulse of what the modern day luxury consumer is craving. Volvos’ re-introduction has taken us all by surprise, restoring it to its former Scandinavian glory. Already collecting its share of awards and accolades, the new XC90 T6 is thriving in an automotive segment already packed full of great options. Volvo was smart in its approach though. Instead of trying to mimic the big German luxury brands, or make their new luxury crossover too American, they stayed true to their roots, creating something unique and truly special.


Like any good IKEA showroom, every square inch of space in the XC90 is cleanly designed and purposefully appointed to a specific task. It’s exterior can best be described as handsome. With those striking headlamps, tall tail, commanding front grill, squared off features and wide stance, there’s plenty of Scandinavian flair to enjoy. My Inscription model brings even more visual appeal to the table with a front grille finish in silver matte, integrated aluminum roof rails and incredible 20″ 10-spoke tinted silver alloy wheels.

Image: Courtesy of Volvo
Image: Courtesy of Volvo


On the inside, the Inscription features multiply. You’ll enjoy rich Nappa leather stretched over the upholstery, dashboard and upper door panels. Seats are heated, cooled, filled with massagers and feature power side support and cushion extenders. Bottom line, if you can’t find a setting that suites you, you may not be anatomically correct. Beautiful walnut wood inlays adorn the cabin, reminding us of the forrest filled region from which the XC90 was conceived. Mounted directly behind the steering wheel is a vivid LCD display that contains all your media selections, navigation and other settings. This is flanked by a sharply designed digital tachometer and speedometer. Mounted in the center console is a 9″ display, like the newest ipad mini, and just as touch responsive, it neatly organizes function groups into different pages that can be easily accessed and adjusted with the gentle touch and swipe of a finger. Volvos’ Sensus interface is easy to learn and even easier to use. It can even be operated while wearing gloves for those cold Swedish mornings! With all of the controls in digital form, it keeps the overall look of the interior remarkably clean and clutter free.


For all of these details and more it’s crystal clear that the new XC90 is the most finely detailed and beautifully appointed Volvo crossover yet. Lines are painfully clean and intentional. The ergonomics are just enough to accomplish maximum comfort without overdoing it. Surprisingly,  with all this attention to the little things, a uniquely Volvo conservatism still pervades the space. A type of minimalism that is truly beautiful to behold but sometimes difficult to describe.


Powering the XC90, and every other Volvo model for that matter, is the recently imagined 2.0 Liter direct-injected four-cylinder twin charged engine. That mouthful pairs a two-stage supercharger, employing a Roots-style blower at lower speeds and then handing the work-load off to a turbo at higher rpm’s. This effective design is hooked up to an Aisin eight-speed automatic transmission, which measures out the power and sends it on to a Haldex four-wheel-drive system. The results are an almost total absence of power lag, and acceleration that comes on gently and evenly. Handling is soft but has an unexpected nimbleness that makes the big Volvo feel light on its feet. A big accomplishment given the seven passenger capacity and overall size of the XC90. As expected, highway and city driving is whisper quite. With good ground clearance, nearly 300 lb ft. of torque at just over 2000 rpm’s and a competent AWD system, the XC90 wont shy away from many off-road challenges, and actually shines brightest when the tarmac ends and the dirt begins.


In a world full of compelling options for crossover SUV’s, in terms of sheer elegance and beauty, nothing I’ve seen quite matches the XC90 T6 Inscription. Volvo has wisely stayed true to the straight forward, uncomplicated and beautifully efficient design that made it successful in the past. The amount of detail is inspiring and level of comfort unmatched . The smell of the soft leather, the feel of the open pore wood trim, shine of the matted metal finishes, weight of the controls, sensitivity of the touch display, all combine to create an experience distinctly and uniquely Volvo. Something we’ve all missed, and I for one am glad to have back.

By: Brandon Randall

Price as tested: $72,805.00

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