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#12

in 2009 Luxury Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $16,916 - $26,101
Original MSRP: $37,000 - $47,550
MPG: 14 City / 20 Hwy
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2009 Volvo XC90 Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The majority of reviewers found the 2009 XC90 to be fairly nimble, although most of its competitors offer more power coupled with better fuel economy.

  • "A comfortable seat and a panoramic view of the road are accompanied by a relatively quiet experience. Sport models have a stiffer and often jittery ride. The V-8 is the way to go, as it is smoother and quicker." -- Car and Driver
  • "XC90s move like the tall, heavy wagons they are. The steering is numb and rather slow at any speed, and body lean is marked in quick changes of direction. Straightline stability is fine, though gusty highway crosswinds cause mild wander. Stopping control is good, but the brakes feel touchy on initial application, a bit spongy when depressed quickly." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Underneath its unmistakable Volvo styling, the XC90 packs enough performance to please the average driver." -- Forbes
  • "After all, the XC90 is based on Volvo's S80 car platform and isn't all that far removed from a Volvo wagon. It even drives much like a Volvo sedan or wagon." -- MSN

Acceleration and Power

Reviewers said the 2009 Volvo XC90's power is adequate, though some wish the V6 had more power. Since there's not much of a fuel economy penalty to go along with the larger engine, the V8 and its extra horsepower may be the better choice. The XC90's base 3.2-liter six-cylinder produces 235 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque, while the 4.4-liter V8 makes 311 horsepower and 325 pound-feet of torque. While most reviewers liked the six-cylinder, they loved the V8. According to the EPA, six-cylinder models achieve 14/20 mpg city/highway, while V8 models achieve 13/19 mpg.

  • "The smooth 6-cylinder engine provides adequate acceleration from a stop and for passing and merging. The V8 delivers brisk takeoffs and fine midrange passing power. With either engine, the transmission is smooth, but some testers complained of slow downshifts with the 3.2." -- Consumer Guide
  • "[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." -- Edmunds
  • "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." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 4.4-liter 311-horsepower V8 is outstanding, being smooth and strong." -- MSN
  • "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." -- CNET
  • "With the XC90's 4,464 lb curb weight hovering over a 112.6" wheelbase, XC90 surprised me with languid acceleration. There's a 4.4 liter V8 available that will crank out 311 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque. Considering that the six-cylinder version is rated at 14 mpg city/20 mpg highway and the V8 estimates are 13 mpg city/19 mpg highway, the EPA knock of 1 mpg seems like a reasonable price to pay for the improved performance." -- About.com

Handling and Braking

Though the Volvo XC90 is a large vehicle, most reviewers were impressed with its steering and handling capabilities. 

  • "XC90s tested rode firmly but were comfortable and composed. The 18-inch tires react somewhat abruptly on sharp ridges and pavement breaks. Little pitching or bounding is noticeable over large humps and dips." -- Consumer Guide
  • "[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." -- Road and Track
  • "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." -- Cars.com
  • "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." -- Automotive.com

All-Wheel Drive

The majority of reviewers agreed that the Volvo XC90's all-wheel drive system (standard on V8 models, an option on the six-cylinder model) is excellent. They were particularly impressed with the fact that the system does not require wheels to spin before transferring power.

  • "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." -- USA Today
  • "It operates seamlessly, and the driver will almost never know when it's working." -- Cars.com

Next Steps: 2009 Volvo XC90

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