The Volvo XC90 Is a Better Range Rover

You don’t need to spend $200k to get an off-road-capable Range Rover. However, even the more expensive trims struggle with reliability issues. Even if they rarely range further than a gravel drive. Famously, YouTuber Doug Demuro’s used Range Rover’s repair bill added up almost to the cost of the SUV itself. A Toyota Land Cruiser is just as good off-road, but its interior has been dinged for being somewhat dated. However, according to The Smoking Tire, if a luxury SUV experience is what you’re after, a Volvo XC90 is much better than a Range Rover.

Volvo XC90 specs and features

2020 Volvo XC90
2020 Volvo XC90 | Volvo

The Volvo XC90 is available in 3 trims: $48,350 Momentum, $50,850 R-Design, and $63,100 Inscription. The R-Design and Inscription both come standard with all-wheel drive; on the Momentum, it’s an option.

Volvo offers the XC90 with 3 different powertrains. There’s the T5, which is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, which makes 250 hp and 258 lb-ft. The T6 option is a 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged four-cylinder, putting out 316 hp and 295 lb-ft. The T8 powertrain turns the Volvo XC90 into a plug-in hybrid, combining the T6’s engine with 2 electric motors and a lithium-ion battery pack. Combined, this puts out 400 hp and 472 lb-ft.

2020 Volvo XC90 6-seat layout
2020 Volvo XC90 6-seat layout | Volvo

On top of that, the 3-row Volvo XC90 offers a wide variety of other features. For one, it can be equipped as either a 6- or 7-seater. All trims come standard with a 9” touchscreen, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The Volvo XC90 is also a 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick and has many standard driver-assistance features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic emergency braking.

2020 Volvo XC90 interior front
2020 Volvo XC90 interior front | Volvo

Car and Driver recommends the Volvo XC90 Inscription T6, although TST’s Matt Farah tested one in T8 guise. The Inscription trim adds ventilation to the heated front seats, Harmon/Kardon audio system, and can also be equipped with adjustable air suspension. The air suspension also adds the ability to lower the rear ride height from the trunk, to make loading and unloading cargo easier.

How the Volvo XC90 out-shines the Range Rover

Firstly, the Volvo XC90, even in range-topping Inscription T8 trim, is less expensive than a Range Rover. The example Farah drove stickered at $82,000. And, although the Range Rover Sport is cheaper, it’s also significantly less luxurious, Car and Driver reports. The cheapest ‘real’ Range Rover, meanwhile, starts at $90,900.

Even so, the Volvo XC90’s interior quality and comfort places it at least at the more-expensive Range Rover’s level. Farah claims the seats are some of the most comfortable he’s ever sat in. Everything, from the metal knobs to the wood trim, to the leather (even on the built-in power cord) looks and feels expensive. Meanwhile, when Car and Driver compared a Range Rover Sport to a $20,000-cheaper Volvo XC90 Inscription T6, some of the Range Rover’s trim came off in testers’ hands.

2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400 HST mild hybrid
2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport P400 HST mild-hybrid | Land Rover

Furthermore, the plug-in hybrid T8 is more fuel-efficient than the Range Rover Sport mild-hybrid. In mixed driving, Roadshow was never able to see above 18 mpg with the Range Rover. However, Farah reports in similar mixed driving, the XC90 got roughly 25 mpg.

Finally, although the Volvo XC90 had past quality issues, and 2019-2020 models are part of a recall, Consumer Reports still ranked it higher than either the Range Rover or Range Rover Sport. In addition, CR found the XC90 had higher owner satisfaction than the latter two.

What still needs work, and is it worth considering?

2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo
2019 Maserati Levante Trofeo | Maserati

The Volvo XC90 isn’t perfect. Farah notes Audi SUVs have slightly better digital display. In addition, he notes the Maserati Levante Trofeo has a more-responsive infotainment system.

A blue 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR speeding down on a dessert highway.
2020 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR | Land Rover

In addition, although the Volvo XC90 T8 does make 400 hp, its electric motors cut out at higher speeds. It’s also not exactly a sporty SUV, despite the improvement the optional air suspension makes. In that regard, the Range Rover SVR and Porsche Cayenne Turbo beat it out. The Range Rover is also likely more capable off-road than the XC90.

2020 Porsche Cayenne
2020 Porsche Cayenne | Porsche

However, Farah points out that very few people genuinely need a 575-hp supercharged SUV like the SVR. And Volvo isn’t chasing after the SVR with the XC90. Instead, the T8 powertrain makes the SUV very quick in the 25-70 mph range, which is where most people spend most of their time. Ditto with the off-road technology: how often does it really get used?

If you honestly don’t need a high-end off-roader but want a comfortable luxurious SUV, the Volvo XC90 should be on your list.

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