Avg. Price Paid:$12,798 - $18,951
Original MSRP: $36,210 - $49,870
MPG: 14 City / 20 Hwy
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2008 Volvo XC90 Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Volvo XC90 was new.

Our analysis shows that the 2008 Volvo XC90 offers good, but not great, performance for its class. With a six-cylinder and a V8 engine available, the XC90 offers buyers a choice between a fair amount of power at a low price for the class or abundant power at a premium.

Forbes sums up the view of most reviewers, saying, "Underneath its unmistakable Volvo styling, the XC90 packs enough performance to please the average driver" and adding that the 2008 Volvo XC90 offers "an appealing blend of comfort and handling that will satisfy most drivers."

The majority of reviewers find the SUV to be fairly nimble. MSN says, "It even drives much like a Volvo sedan or wagon." U.S. News' reviewer Rick Newman says, "It's a wonderful combination of carlike handling and SUV-style command seating...While not as sporting as the BMW X5 or the new Lexus RX330, the XC90 holds curves gracefully and is quiet enough on the highway that the driver can converse easily with kids in the third row."

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Volvo XC90 offers two engine options. The 3.2-liter six-cylinder produces 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. The V8 engine displaces 4.4 liters, with 311 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. Edmunds sums up the difference between the two engines by saying "[B]uyers can expect adequate acceleration from the 3.2 model, while the Volvo XC90 V8 will appeal to those seeking brisk response at the expense of some fuel economy."

The in-line six is not the reviewer favorite, though most think it is adequate. Car and Driver reflects the majority view, saying, "coupled to a six-speed automatic with a very short first gear the new six will step smartly away from a stop. Unfortunately, at speeds above 50 mph the engine struggles to motivate the XC90's 4786-pounds and all-wheel drive system." It goes on to note, "it's unfortunate that the 3.2-liter six has to be flogged to get the XC90 up to highway speeds because once the XC90 finally gets to 70 or 80 mph the experience calms significantly." The 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine has fair fuel economy for its class, with an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 14 miles per gallon in the city and 20 miles per gallon on the highway for the two-wheel drive version.

While most reviewers like the six-cylinder, they love the V8. It's the first eight-cylinder offered by Volvo, which faced a unique challenge. Volvo didn't want to compromise on the XC90's size or interior space, so it called on Yamaha to build the engine because of that company's expertise in building small but powerful engines. Reviewers are happy with the end result. "The XC90's Yamaha-built V-8 does allow the Swedish SUV to blast off," says Forbes, while MSN adds, "The 4.4-liter 311-horsepower V8 is outstanding, being smooth and strong." The 4.4-liter V8 engine gets an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 13 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on the highway.

No matter which engine they tested, reviewers are unanimous in liking the 2008 XC90's transmission. Automotive.com says "the 6-speed automatic transmission is a slick piece of work, always ready with a downshift to send the engine zinging happily into its powerband, where the variable valve timing (and lift) turns up the heat." CNET likes the transmission's ability to adjust to driving conditions and the driver's preference. "The six-speed automatic transmission also did what we wanted it to during our test period. It uses Volvo's Adaptive Shift Logic system to set itself for the current driving style. We found it had no problem figuring out which gears to hold when we wanted acceleration."

Handling and Braking

Though the 2008 Volvo XC90 is a large vehicle, most reviewers are impressed with its steering and handling capabilities. Road and Track says, "[T]he XC90 is hardly a beast through the twisty stuff. Steering is very light in parking lots, but tightens up as the speed increases. You'll notice understeer in the tightest sections, but it is never excessive. Mostly you will find that the XC90 tracks well through corners, belying both its weight and its tall stature."

A few reviewers, however, find that the steering in the XC90 isn't as good as the steering in some of the SUV's competitors. Cars.com says, "Steering, too, could use improvement. Off center, the steering builds excessive heft and pressure, requiring muscle to hold a line through a sweeping curve, or to parallel park. Luxury vehicles should feel light and lively at the fingertips, but our Volvo XC90 V8 felt ponderous and heavy."

The 2008 Volvo XC90 has a fully independent suspension, with a multilink setup in the rear and MacPherson struts in the front. Road and Track says, "knowing that most owners will drive to the woods and not through the woods, Volvo set the suspension accordingly. It gives an excellent highway ride that coddles occupants with comfort and quiet, soaking up small bumps effortlessly, rarely transmitting any harsh jolts to the occupants." Reviewers are particularly fond of the self-leveling suspension, which allows the XC90 to adjust the suspension depending on how the vehicle is loaded. The self-leveling suspension is standard on the V8 model but comes as part of the Versatility Package option on the six-cylinder. Cars.com says, "We did, however, appreciate the self-leveling rear suspension when driving with a full load of passengers and cargo."

With four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes--12 inches in front, 12.1 inches in the rear--coupled with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution, reviewers agree that the 2008 Volvo XC90 has competent stopping abilities. Automotive.com says, "You'll find that the XC90 brakes better than many sports sedans, such as the Acura 3.2 TL Type-S, Audi A4 3.0 Quattro and the Cadillac CTS." MSN notes, "The brake pedal is rather touchy, but stopping distances are short."

All-Wheel Drive

The majority of reviewers agree that the Volvo XC90's all-wheel drive system (standard on V8 models, an option on the six-cylinder model) is excellent. They are particularly impressed with the fact that the system does not require wheels to spin before transferring power. USA Today says, "Effective all-wheel-drive system that, on the V-8, does not require front wheelspin to begin shifting power to the rear wheels. Worked flawlessly in heavy rain on slick asphalt." Cars.com adds, "It operates seamlessly, and the driver will almost never know when it's working."

Still, the AWD system is not suited for rugged off-roading. U.S. News' Rick Newman says, "If there's a compromise, it's the all-wheel drive, which isn't as rugged as the off-road-capable four-wheel drive available on an Explorer or Trailblazer. But most families don't need that anyway."

Performance Options

3.2-Liter Model

The 3.2 liter XC90 comes standard with a 3.2-liter six cylinder engine, front-wheel drive and fully independent suspension. Consider the All Wheel Drive package if you are concerned with slippery conditions or drive in winter weather.

V8 Base Model

The V8 base model of the 2008 Volvo XC90 comes with a 4.4-liter V8 engine and includes all-wheel drive.

V8 Sport Model

The Volvo XC90 V8 Sport model comes with the same features as the V8 base model, including all-wheel drive, but adds a sport-tuned suspension as well as several exterior upgrades.

Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

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