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Many manufacturers’ sport utility vehicles have morphed into the same automobile. Names and badges and marketing slogans are different but not much else. Volvo is an exception.

he Swedish carmaker, particularly in its XC90 flagship three-row SUV, epitomizes the Latin definition of its name—“I roll.” Volvo vehicles roll with the unique allure of sturdiness, modern design, technology, comfort, safety and practicality.

For 2020, the XC90 is refreshed with design updates, new front and rear grilles and T-shaped LED running lights. Optional six-passenger seating, instead of seven, with second-row captain’s chairs, is also available.

Powered by a two-liter, turbo and supercharged engine, the XC90 offers a combined 400 horsepower. It’s a 313 direct-injected horsepower with an 87-horsepower electric motor. The T8 E-AWD Inscription trim (the review vehicle), is a plug-in hybrid with 18 miles of electric-only range.

The electric motor helps the XC90 accelerate from 0-to-60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds. The 9.2-kWh battery pack takes 2.5 hours to fully charge with a 240-volt outlet or seven hours with 110 volts. The plug-in hybrid is eligible for more than $4,500 in federal tax credits.

Despite recent ownership by Ford and current Chinese manufacturer Geely, Volvo remains manufactured in Gothenburg, Sweden, and primarily with Swedish resources. The Scandinavian design features stand out via clean lines inside and outside. Color schemes are handsome.

Swedish minimalism rules. The Nap- pa leather and light gray wood trim are perfectly matched with chrome accents inlaid with a designer’s best work. The restyled shifter adds another touch of rugged elegance. It’s made from Orrefors, a Swedish-made crystal. The XC90’s shifting requires flicks of finesse and little shifting. It’s Euro-styling coolness.

Interior treatments exude Euro-styling coolness and offer different seating options.

Volvo heavily markets its safety-first approach, which the XC90 defines. Forward- collision warning and automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning are all standards. Pilot Assist combines adaptive cruise control and active steering. It keeps the vehicle within lanes, resulting in a semi-autonomous driving system.

Euro-forward technology is centered on the vertically oriented infotainment touchscreen. It controls the majority of the XC90’s systems and settings in a 12.3-inch driver-facing screen. Touchscreen controls aren’t for everyone and the learning curve can be annoying.

Volvo is renowned for offering a stable, firm ride. With its optional air suspension, Eco, Comfort, Off-Road and Dynamic drive modes, the XC90 complies. The Bowers and Wilkins sound system has 1,400 watts and 19 speakers, and it costs $3,200. It’s splurge-worthy for audiophiles who like their music loud and clear while driving along the open road in their well-appointed luxury apartment on wheels.

James Raia, a syndicated automotive columnist in Sacramento, publishes the website and its corresponding podcast.


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