2020 vs. 2021 Volvo XC90: What’s the Difference?

The Volvo XC90 is the only three-row SUV from Volvo. This midsize luxury crossover offers plenty of tech and safety features, although its performance isn’t that engaging. Both the 2020 and 2021 model years are excellent options, but what are their differences? Are they important ones, and should you buy the 2020 or 2021 Volvo XC90?

2020 vs. 2021 Volvo XC90: what’s changed?

A view of a black Volvo Zenseact autonomous driving XC90 T8 SUV at the third China International Import Expo (CIIE)
The Volvo XC90 | Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

While the starting price of the 2021 Volvo XC90 has gone up to $49,000 from 2020’s starting price of $48,350, the U.S. News overall ratings have gone up as well. The 2021 XC90 has an overall score of 8.1, beating the 2020 XC90’s score of 7.6.

Most of the changes between the two model years are pretty minor. The 2021 XC90 has a few additional standard features, including adaptive LED headlights that aim with the steering wheel, front parking sensors, and wireless device charging, says U.S. News. Additional newly standard features include two USB-C ports for the rear seats, high-pressure headlight washers, and Care Key, which lets the owner limit the maximum speed.

The 2021 XC90 plug-in-hybrid T8 is now called the Recharge. Also new for 2021 are a Savile Grey metallic paint option and, for the R-Design trim, a gloss-black grille, explains Car and Driver. The Bowers & Wilkins sound system now has updated speaker cones. Running boards are an available option for 2021 as are wheel locks and a trailer hitch receiver.

2020 and 2021 Volvo XC90: what stays the same?

The dimensions of the XC90 stay the same. Both model years offer plenty of room for passengers and cargo along with good fuel efficiency and plenty of standard safety features. There are 103.8 cubic feet of passenger volume for seven people. The cargo area has 12.6 cubic feet behind the third row, 35.6 cubic feet behind the second row, and 65.5 cubic feet behind the first row.

While the Volvo XC90 can go off-road driving, it’s tuned for streets. Both model years offer nice ground clearance, though. Car and Driver says the 2020 has 9.4 inches of ground clearance, and the 2021 model has 9.4 inches as well.

The XC90 has a choice among two four-cylinder engines and a plug-in hybrid. The T5 engine produces 250 hp, and the T6 engine produces 316 hp. The plug-in hybrid T8 Recharge does have 400 hp but a short range of just 18 miles on electric only. Both model years have a bit of a rough ride when equipped with larger wheels.

The interior of the XC90 is very attractive with high-quality materials. Seating is available for either six or seven. Synthetic leather upholstery and power-adjustable front seats come standard. Leather upholstery is available as are heated and massaging front seats and heated second-row seats. A heated steering wheel is also an option.

Both model years come standard with a 9-inch tablet-style touchscreen and a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. The XC90 also offers a semi-autonomous drive mode. Volvo is known for its safety, and the XC90 has plenty of advanced safety features. The 2021 XC90 has a few more standard ones, as mentioned earlier.

Which model is a better buy?

With only a $650 difference in starting prices between the 2020 and 2021 Volvo XC90, it may be worth buying the newer option. However, Consumer Reports does point out that a used 2020 Volvo XC90 now has an average starting price of $45,800, which is a $3,200 difference. The updates between the two model years are minor enough not to make that extra amount worth it. Unless one of the new standard features sounds really exciting (like wireless device charging), a used 2020 XC90 is the better buy.

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