It was the final car to review for 2017 – who could ask for anything more than the 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription SUV? This three-row, seven-passenger, all-wheel-drive first-class coach on wheels has so much to recommend it, hard to find to a place to start.
Volvo has upgraded its top-of-the-line sports utility vehicle, making it a modern conveyance that exudes luxury. From its massive front waterfall grille to the soft tilt of its rear end, to its exceptionally comfortable interior, its more-than-competent drivetrain, the XC90 stands above its major competitors, so much so that even fans of German marques are taking notice.
Rather than equip the XC90 with a large engine, in this trim level Volvo uses a 2-liter directly-injected four-cylinder that is both turbocharged and supercharged to produce 316 horsepower at 5,700 rpm, along with 295 lb-ft of torque at 2,200 rpm. Redline comes at 6,500 rpm. Volvo fits a shiftable eight-speed GearTronic automatic transmission that has a stop/start feature that allows the car to restart when one’s foot leaves the brake pedal from a dead stop. This definitely helps mileage, which is rated at 20/27/23 from the 18.8-gallon tank. Premium fuel is required; there is no fuel filler cap to lose.
Double wishbone front suspension with coil springs and multilink rear suspension with leaf springs aid the excellent ride capabilities; this 4804-pound SUV is far more agile than its weight would imply. Volvo fits electric rack and pinion steering that is absolutely spot-on and allows quick directional changes. All-wheel disc brakes have brake assist, hill descent control and an electric parking brake that senses the need for its duties. Massive P275/45R 21-inch Pirelli all-season tires are mounted on eight-spoke aluminum wheels, while a compact, steel spare lies underbody.
Quality control and construction are exemplary, using Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture with high strength steel rather than aluminum. This chassis offers both great comfort and handling abilities for this new Volvo and will be part of all upcoming vehicles. As expected, Volvo’s safety ratings for this SUV are exceptionally good, earning five stars in all but rollover. It feels safe as houses inside as it cavorts down country roads at speed. With a sufficient number of driver aids that safety aspect is heightened in the XC90 T6 Inscription, making it a truly safe place on wheels.
The goodness of the 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription (couldn’t they have used a shorter name?) for its overall $74,090 price tag includes some very nice options. Like BMW, Volvo seems to charge extra for just about everything on this vehicle; the start-line price is $54,985 including freight.
The XC90’s Inscription features ($5,100) are extensive: active bending LED lights (great on country roads), Thor’s Hammer daytime running lights and auto high beams, bright chrome bars in the front grill, chrome side trim with Inscription logotype, dual integrated tailpipes with body colored lower insert, headlight high-pressure cleaning, a 12.3-inch driver digital instrument cluster, lovely linear walnut wood inlays, high-level interior lighting, Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated – as well as heated – front seats, power side support and power cushion extension for the front seats, matching Nappa key fob, illuminated door handles and a tailgate Inscription badge.
Add to that the convenience package ($1,950) of heated washer nozzles, a 360-degree surround view camera, grocery bag holder, HomeLink, 12-volt power outlet in the hatch area, compass in the rearview mirror, park assist pilot and front park assist (rear is standard). There’s more: a luxury package ($3,150) of massaging front seats, heated rear outboard seats, leather wrapped sun visors and grab handles front and rear, headliner with all pillars in Nubuck trim.
Volvo’s individual options include metallic paint, an integrated center booster cushion, a very nice heads-up display, the 21-in 8-spoke diamond-cut alloy wheels, exceptional Bowers and Wilkins premium sound system, heated steering wheel (essential for December in the Midwest), 4-corner air suspension and a tailored dash. Quite a laundry list!
The 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription definitely looks great in Onyx black metallic and is welcoming with its amber perforated Nappa leather interior that complements the blackness of the carpet. The dash area’s elegance has to be seen, with its wood and leather throughout the office area. The center of the dash is taken up with the tablet-sized screen that pretty much handles all of the infotainment necessities and behaves much like an iPad.
Understanding the screen area and how to work with it doesn’t take a lot of time and once the driver knows how to change settings, the Volvo XC90 is an easy place to exist, especially on a long trip. There are a grouping of main screens; one can point between them to access navigation, audio, phone, mileage and, once the home button is understood, the rest is easy. Using the screen display is akin to using an iPad, with pinching and sliding motions.
This Volvo was picked up in Chicago, driven to Indianapolis and back in early December, and it was an absolute delight over the road. With three driver and passenger memories, the XC90’s front seats are pretty amazing at this trim level, especially with the massage feature that can assuage discomfort on the long drive. Heating the steering wheel and seats made for an stress-free ride. Volvo uses a turning knob to start and stop the XC90, rather than a pushbutton. Just something different.
Doors unlock and close at a touch, as does the hatch, which is power operated; lift-over to the hatch is doable, even for a shortie. There’s plenty of space to stretch out with the three rows and accessing the third from row 2 is not a contortionist’s job. All passengers were pleased with access to both front and rear seats – there was some argumentation about who gets to sit in front to enjoy the massage… Rear seat occupants have window nets to keep the sun out, full heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls, vents and a 12-volt outlet, as well as those outboard heated seats.
Volvo’s adaptive cruise control is one of the best yet and allows the driver to leave ample or minimum room between the XC90 and a vehicle ahead. Although Volvo does have a semi-autonomous drive mode, there wasn’t a safe place to try it on this trip, but the lane keeping assistance wasn’t as aggressive as others tested. Blind spot monitoring in the mirrors is excellent and, again, not too bold.
The Bowers and Wilkins audio is among the best this writer has ever used in a vehicle. B&W’s speakers and headphones are renown and placing the manufacturer’s products in this cabin is just brilliant. Every sound is crisp and full; turn it up and you’re in a concert hall. Absolutely fabulous. It was also wonderful, once the sun came out, to open the panorama sunroof and enjoy the sky. Wind and road noise intrusion is minimal. Volvo includes an iPhone cord and USB plug in the elegant central storage.
Everyone that needs an SUV of this nature wants space, and the cargo area of the 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription is excellent, with a full 85.7 cubic feet of hatch space available. All of the rear seats can be folded down; after a big box store run this is exceptionally useful. With indents on the sides of the hatch, there’s space for all those little items that need secure spots.
If the need arises for a vehicle of this nature, it’s important not to forget the 2018 Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription. Volvo vehicles are made to last and this one is no different. It offers a plethora of luxury, refined handling, good and precise acceleration and an experience that will make the driver smile just approaching and preparing to drive.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit