Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly…

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD Road Test

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Volvo’s V90 Cross Country is a handsome crossover wagon that might just be ideal for those not wanting to move up to a taller SUV.

Back in early 2017, Volvo asked us to “rediscover [our] passion in life” in a then new V90 Cross Country, yet while the Swedish automaker’s overall sales grew impressively thanks to plenty of freshly redesigned models and some entirely new entries as well, Canadian buyers flocked to its full lineup of SUVs instead of this tall mid-size luxury crossover wagon.

The result is the V90 Cross Country’s cancellation in our market as of 2020, this 2019 model year being its last after just three years. Along with the V90 Cross Country’s demise is the end of the regular V90 wagon too, while the beautiful and highly competent mid-size S90 luxury sedan remains in the lineup for at least another year and hopefully longer.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country has unmistakable Volvo design cues, plus beefier black bumpers, wheel arches and side sills than the regular V90 wagon.

The choice to forgo a crossover wagon for a big flagship luxury sedan flies in the face of convention, with some brands, particularly Volvo’s previous parent Ford (and it’s Lincoln luxury division), eliminating cars almost entirely, but the continuation of the S90 is probably more about maintaining a premium image than adding to the bottom line, because with only 835 combined S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country sales in its peak calendar year of 2018, and merely 295 after a 65-percent plunge in 2019, none of these cars would’ve made much of a difference to Volvo Canada’s profitability.

Standard styling elements include satin-silver bumper garnishes and Volvo’s trademark Thor’s Hammer LED headlamps.

For a bit of background, the V90 Cross Country replaced two generations of XC70 from 2000 through 2016 (it was dubbed V70 XC for the first three years), and by doing so once again brought Volvo’s renowned style, respected quality, sensible pragmatism and turbocharged, supercharged four-cylinder performance to the crossover wagon segment, while upping its luxury quotient to an entirely new level of opulence.

Anyone who’s spent time in a modern-day Volvo knows exactly what I mean, especially when equipped in one of its top R-Design or Inscription trims. The V90 Cross Country doesn’t use the usual trim nomenclatures for the Canadian market, but my tester was nicely outfitted with its Premium package and therefore, together with its generous list of standard features, is quite possibly (or should I say, was quite possibly) the most luxurious crossover wagon available today.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country comes standard with this attractive 19-inch alloys.

Then again, Audi may have something to say about that. The German brand now offers Canadian urban adventurers their all-new 2020 A6 Allroad in the same rather uncompetitive class, and while the four-ringed contender from Ingolstadt is impressive, Gothenburg’s outgoing alternative looks and feels richer inside despite costing $12,700 less.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Sharply angled LED taillights are standard too.

The 2019 V90 Cross Country starts at a very reasonable $62,500 compared to the A6 Allroad’s lofty $75,200 price tag, and while Audi’s brand image is certainly more upscale than Volvo’s, and its turbocharged 3.0-litre V6 makes an additional 19 horsepower and 74 more lb-ft of torque than Volvo’s turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, the Swede is slightly more pragmatic from a fuel economy perspective, with a claimed Transport Canada rating of 11.6 L/100km in the city, 8.1 on the highway and 10.0 combined compared to 11.8 city, 9.1 highway and 10.6 combined.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Nice silver detailing and “CROSS COUNTRY” inscribed into the black bumper are just some of this model’s unique details.

The 250 horsepower V90 Cross Country T5 AWD was discontinued at the end of model year 2018, by the way, this previously the base model at $59,500, while the $84,900 Ocean Race T6 AWD also said goodbye to the market for 2019.  Now for 2019 there’s just one T6 AWD trim level, but the noted $3,900 Premium package does a good job of making it Inscription-like, thanks to features such as heated windshield washer nozzles, auto-dimming and power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, aluminum treadplates, a heated steering wheel rim, front and rear parking sensors with graphical warnings, Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self-parking, a 360-degree Surround View camera system, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, four-zone automatic climate control, a cooled glove box, heatable rear outboard seats, power-folding rear seatbacks and outer head restraints, a really innovative semi-automatic cargo cover, an integrated soft safety net to separate cargo from passengers, blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, and more.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The base V90 Cross Country’s interior is truly upscale, even for a premium luxury car.

The aforementioned $62,500 base price for the 2019 V90 Cross Country T6 AWD doesn’t include $900 for metallic paint, which is included with the Audi incidentally, but the A6 Allroad only provides black and beige leather options inside, and it’s not plush Nappa leather like Volvo’s, which can be had in four no-cost optional hues including Charcoal (black), Amber (dark beige), Maroon Brown (dark reddish brown) and Blond (light grey).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The dash and controls layout is superb, with everything falling ideally to hand.

It should be noted that despite appearing richly appointed my tester was far from fully loaded, as it was missing the $3,600 Luxury package with its gorgeous tailored instrument panel, sensational upgraded front seats with power-adjustable side bolsters, power-extendable lower cushions, multi-technique massage function, and cooling ventilation, plus manually retractable side window curtains in back. My test model didn’t have the $2,350 optional rear air suspension and Four-C Active Chassis upgrade either, and only had 19-inch alloys instead of $1,000 enhanced 20-inch rims, or for that matter body-colour bumpers, wheel arches and sills, $425 Metal Mesh decor inlays (although the hardwood was lovely), $250 black headliner, $1,500 graphical head-up display, $3,750 Bowers & Wilkins premium audio system (with fabulous aluminum speaker grilles), and $600 dual two-stage child booster seats integrated within the rear outboard positions, with all of the above potentially increasing the 2019 V90 Cross Country’s price by $18,375 to $80,875.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s standard digital instrument cluster is very impressive.

While that might sound like a lot for a mid-size luxury crossover wagon, consider for a moment that the 2020 Audi A6 Allroad Technik starts at $83,100 without a massage, and while it includes that brand’s fabulous “Virtual Cockpit” digital gauge package (the V90 gets a digital instrument cluster too, just not quite as configurable as the A6 Allroad’s), getting said massage, along with upgraded Valcona leather will set you back another $4,050, while adding on all of the V90’s advanced driver assistive systems will cost another $2,400. You can also add the $2,500 Dynamic package with Dynamic Steering and Dynamic All-Wheel Steering, $2,500 for Night Vision Assistant, $500 for quieter dual-pane glass, $350 for Audi Phonebox with wireless charging, another $350 for rear side airbags (some impressive stuff), and $1,000 for full body paint (already priced in to the top-tier Volvo), bringing the German model’s total to $102,650, less an expected $1,000 in additional incentives if you choose to sign up for a CarCostCanada account in order to learn everything you can before speaking to an Audi dealer (see CarCostCanada’s 2020 Audi A6 allroad Canada Prices page).

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen is easy to use and full of features.

That’s $1,000 less than a Volvo dealer is prepared to slice off of the V90 Cross Country, or so says CarCostCanada on their 2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country Canada Prices page, but considerable savings aside the Volvo should really impress anyone considering either of these two fine vehicles. They’re both unquestionably handsome from the outside, and come equipped standard with all expected LED lighting tech and brushed metal accents to dazzle owners and onlookers alike. The minimalist Audi cabin is sublime, as is Volvo’s ritzier interior, their materials and build quality never in question, the only differences being a desire to appeal to varying tastes.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The optional overhead parking monitor is excellent.

Even before sliding into the V90 Cross Country’s enveloping driver’s seat, its high-quality gleaming metal- and leather-wrapped key fob sets the tone. This said its proximity-sensing access means it will most likely remain in your purse or pocket and not be touched at all—such a shame. Once inside, Volvo covers most surfaces with premium soft-touch synthetic or optional contrasting French-stitched leather, plus gorgeous dark oak inlays across the entire instrument panel and all doors. The fancier version gets the previously noted metal inlays instead, but truly there’s enough satin-finish aluminum trim elsewhere that more metal is hardly necessary.   

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Those who want to row their own gears will need to do so via the V90 Cross Country’s shift lever.

Key areas below the waist are soft to the touch, not so with many premium brands such as Lexus (although they sell nothing in this class), while all pillars are nicely wrapped in the same high-quality woven material as the roof liner. The ritzy details spoken of earlier include much of the switchgear that’s downright jewellery-like. Seriously, the exquisite diamond-patterned edging around the main audio knob, plus the twisting ignition controller and scrolling drive mode selector, not to mention the beautifully formed vent knobs, are gorgeous bits of metalwork, while the digital displays are some of the best in the industry.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The V90 Cross Country’s interior detailing is exquisite.

Before I continue, I must say that most everything I’m talking about is standard in Canada. Volvo even includes an impressive vertical tablet-style touchscreen on the centre stack, which in my opinion is one of the best in the business. Not only is it brilliantly clear and high-definition, with nice deep and rich colours, plus as easy use of a regular smartphone or tablet, with familiar tap, swipe and pinch functions, but it’s filled with loads of capability, making it one of the most versatile infotainment systems around. I also like that it mostly doesn’t change from one Volvo model to the next, so when you’re stepping up from an XC40 to this V90 or an XC90, you’ll enjoy the same impressive infotainment experience.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
These sport seats really hold the torso and behind in place during hard cornering.

The fully configurable digital gauge cluster is standard too, and provides a nice clear display with a slight matte finish so there’s not much glare. While configurable, I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s as versatile as Audi’s aforementioned Virtual Cockpit, being that you can’t maximize infotainment system features to turn the entire cluster into a map, for instance. Audi’s cluster reduces the primary gauges into tiny dials at each corner, whereas Volvo’s dials remain mostly full-size all the time. Still, the V90’s gauge cluster offers excellent usability in other ways, the gauges shrinking slightly when using some features in the centre-mounted multi-info display, and that area quite large and appealing with plenty of attractive graphics and most features from the infotainment system, including a detailed, colourful navigation map.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
This massive panoramic sunroof comes standard.

As impressive as its interior is, one of the V90 Cross Country’s best attributes is the superb drivetrain noted earlier. Its 315 horsepower and 279 pound-feet of torque provide spirited V6-like performance off the line and quick response for passing manoeuvres. It’s mated to a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic with manual mode, but unfortunately no paddles to keep the fingers busy in the more comfort-oriented V90 Cross Country. Rather, those wanting to row through the gears must do so via the shift lever, which is no problem yet not as easy as leaving both hands on the wheel for maximum control. Then again, I almost never bothered to shift the autobox anyway, as it went about its duty with effortlessly quick gear changes needing no prompting.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The rear seating area is spacious and wholly comfortable, plus refinement is above par.

The Cross Country doesn’t provide the same level of handling sharpness as the regular V90 T6 AWD R-Design tested last year, but it certainly comes within a hair’s width of matching it. It’s 58 millimetres (2.3 inches) taller, causing its centre of gravity to raise upwards somewhat, so naturally it can’t provide the same lateral grip as the more hunkered down sport wagon, but you likely won’t notice much difference unless pushing it extremely hard, and that’s not really what the Cross Country is all about. It’s better at getting you out from within a snow-filled ski resort parking lot, or allowing for greater ease and confidence inspiring control while trekking through a muddy cottage country back road.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The removable cargo cover automatically lifts out of the way when opening the tailgate.

The V90 Cross Country is equipped with standard all-wheel drive, but no off-road mode, yet it manages slippery conditions well. I’d even be willing to venture into some light off-roading situations, such as overcoming small stumps and rocks on a logging road, for example, or wading through a shallow river bed, because that’s exactly what Volvo has promised is possible with this all-weather, all-season, multi-activity vehicle.

With standard roof rails on top, plus available cross-members, bike racks, overhead storage containers and more, the V90 Cross Country becomes an ideal companion for outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking, camping, and more. Volvo provides plenty of other accessories too, such a $1,345 trailer hitch package with electronic monitoring and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA), allowing owners to take full advantage of this crossover’s capabilities.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A cargo divider lifts out from the floor, complete with hooks for grocery bags.

While trekking through the wilderness, or merely overcoming the unkempt lanes in most of Canada’s inner cities, you’ll enjoy a wonderful ride, the V90 Cross Country providing even more comfort than the already impressive V90 wagon. This is a car I could drive all day long and never tire of. Together with its fabulous front seats, which are superbly comfortable and provide excellent support, there’s no real reason to spend more for the fancier massaging buckets unless money is no object.

Even more importantly for me, the driver’s position is ultra-adjustable and therefore should be perfect for the majority of body types. I’m a bit shorter than average at five-feet-eight, but my legs are longer than my torso, which can cause a problem if the steering column doesn’t provide enough reach. No such issues with the V90 Cross Country, however, that provides an ideal setup for both comfort and control.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
A webbed divider protects passengers from loose cargo that could become dangerous in an accident.

There as an incredible amount of room in back, too, with almost 10 inches in front of my knees when the driver’s seat was set up for my long-legged frame, plus five inches remained from my shoulder to the door panel, another four or so next to my hips, and about three and a half above my head. Stretching out my legs was easy, with my shoes placed underneath the driver’s seat, while comfort was increased yet more via my tester’s four-zone auto climate control that provided a useful panel for controlling each rear outboard passenger’s temperature. The heated rear seats would no doubt be appreciated for winter ski trips with the family, as would the massive standard panoramic sunroof overhead, this completely eliminating any feelings of claustrophobia that can happen for some when seated in back, but then again it seems bizarre to imagine someone feeling closed in while seated anywhere in the spacious V90 Cross Country. Aiding the V90’s open, airy experience are HVAC vents on the backside of that centre console, and more at the midpoint of each B-pillar, while LED reading lamps hover overhead. A complex centre armrest flips down between outboard passengers, complete with pop-out dual cupholders, a shallow tray, plus a lidded and lined stowage container.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
Thin items, such as floor mats, can be stowed below the cargo floor.

The V90 Cross Country’s powered liftgate lets you into the spacious cargo area, while the aforementioned retractable cargo cover automatically lifts up and out of the way. The cargo compartment, which measures 560 litres (19.8 cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks and about 1,530 litres (54 cu ft) when the rear row is lowered, is luxuriously finished with plush carpets all the way up the sidewalls and rear seatbacks, plus of course the floor, while below an accessorized rubber all-weather cargo mat (part of a $355 Protection package that includes floor trays for four seating positions, a centre tunnel cover, and the just-noted cargo tray), my tester’s floor included a flip-up cargo divider featuring integrated grocery bag hooks. The floor can be lifted further, exposing a shallow carpeted compartment for storing very thin items, such as the carpeted floor mats while the all-season ones are in place.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The centre pass-through is small, but certainly better than nothing.

Aiding versatility, the V90’s 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks include a small, narrow centre pass-through that’s ideal for a couple of pairs of skis, or alternatively each portion of the seatback can be dropped down flat via powered release buttons attached to the cargo sidewall. These automatically flip the headrests forward too, which incidentally can be lowered from the front to aid rear visibility as well.

2019 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
With the rear seats lower there’s plenty of cargo space available.

If you’re currently driving a four-door sedan or wagon and not quite sure if a tall, SUV-like crossover such as Volvo’s XC90 is the right way to go, this V90 Cross Country is a good alternative. All said, I’m not going to recommend it over Audi’s new A6 Allroad mentioned throughout this review, but I will go so far as say that it measures up in all ways other than high-speed performance, and possibly prestige. Then again, Volvo has been reviving its respectability as of late, and has long enjoyed its own diehard following that would consider nothing less. Comfort is arguably better in the Volvo too, and as noted earlier this V90 Cross Country is a bit stingier on fuel. In the end it will come down to personal taste, and the ability of your local Volvo dealer to find a new one still available. If your interest is piqued, I recommend calling now before it’s too late.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Despite being well into its fourth model year, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautifully finished, or more luxuriously appointed mid-size luxury SUV. The Volvo XC90 is exquisitely detailed,…

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription Road Test

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
This second-generation 2016-2019 XC90 has been very good to Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Despite being well into its fourth model year, you’ll have a hard time finding a more beautifully finished, or more luxuriously appointed mid-size luxury SUV. The Volvo XC90 is exquisitely detailed, particularly when outfitted in its most opulent Inscription trim, which is exactly how I most recently drove it.

The 2019 XC90 on this page is fourth on my list of second-generation testers, and the second to wear Inscription badging, the other two outfitted in sportier R-Design trim, while two have utilized the 316 horsepower mid-range engine with the other duo bridled to the much more potent 400 horsepower plug-in hybrid drivetrain. This in mind, the last non-electrified XC90 I drove was way back in 2016 when this wholly reimagined luxury utility ushered in an entirely new look and much higher level of luxury for the Swedish brand, and by so doing turned Volvo’s fortunes completely around.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 looks fabulous from all angles, especially in top-line Inscription trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo more than doubled its Canadian sales toward the end of calendar year 2015 when the 2016 XC90 was introduced, from 10,964 units in Q4 of 2014 to 22,507 in the final three months of 2015, while the XC90’s sales volume grew from 427 units throughout all of 2014 to 957 in 2015 and a stellar 2,951 in calendar year 2016. This said the growth hasn’t stopped, verified by the XC90 hitting a new record of 3,059 deliveries last year, making it the most popular model in Volvo’s lineup.

Yes, the XC90 sells even better than the completely redesigned XC60, the smaller two-row compact luxury model having consistently outsold this three-row mid-size contender prior to both models’ redesign. This is the complete opposite of most others in the class, incidentally, which are consistently outsold by their smaller, more affordable compact luxury SUV siblings.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 introduced Volvo’s signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights to the Swedish brand’s lineup, now standard on all models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I could only hazard to guess why this occurs, because the XC60 comes closer to matching the XC90’s materials quality, refinement, electronic interfaces and powertrain options as any rival brand, and would save its would-be buyer nearly $13,000 at the bottom end and almost $12k in top-line Inscription T8 eAWD Plug-In Hybrid trim, but either way it appears Volvo SUV buyers are generally wealthier than the class average, or prefer larger, roomier, more substantive machinery.

The XC90 is a true mid-size three-row luxury crossover SUV, measuring 4,950 mm (194.9 inches) from front to rear bumpers with a 2,984-mm (117.5-inch) wheelbase in between, plus 2,140 mm (84.3 inches) wide including its side mirrors, and 1,775 mm (69.9 inches) tall including its roof rails, while providing a considerable 237 mm (9.3 inches) of ground clearance, which helps it trudge through deep snow easily.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Inscription trim gets some extra chrome and more outside. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That size makes it more than just accommodating. Its superbly comfortable front and rear seats confirm this just as notably upon first climbing inside as after a long road trip, a particularly elegant Magic Blue Metallic painted 2017 XC90 T8 Twin Engine eAWD Inscription tester having taken my partner and I out of Greater Vancouver, up the steeply inclined Coquihalla Highway and then over the 97C connector to Kelowna, BC’s wine country during the particularly warm fall of 2016, and while we took no passengers in back we hauled a fair bit of gear (including wine) in the 1,183 litres (41.8 cubic feet) of cargo space available when laying the third row flat.

That’s how I’d leave the seats more often than not if this were my personal ride, as I’d have little need for a third row now that my kids are grown, despite the nicely separated buckets in the very back accommodating my five-foot-eight frame comfortably. Volvo provides a reasonably large 447 litres (15.8 cubic feet) of dedicated cargo volume behind that third row, and trips to the hardware store for building materials are doable thanks to 2,427 litres (85.6 cubic feet) of available space when both rear rows are lowered. As good as all this is, I’m even more impressed by its overall passenger/cargo flexibility, the XC90’s second row divided into thirds so that everyone’s skis can be laid down the middle, thus mitigating potential whining about who gets the three-way-warming window seats.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 Inscription’s cabin is hard to fault, wth some of the finest detailing and highest quality materials in the industry. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Yes, this Inscription model comes well packed with features, second-row seat heaters just one of many upgrades included after choosing to move past base Momentum trim. For 2019 the Momentum starts at $59,750 plus freight and fees, with the more sport-oriented R-Design coming in at $69,800, and the Inscription starting at $71,450. All three Volvo powertrains are offered in the XC90, the Momentum’s exclusive T5 displacing 2.0-litres in four cylinders and using a turbocharger to make 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, the as-tested T6 adding a supercharger to the same powertrain for 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, and the T8 plug-in hybrid combining a 60-kW electric motor for a grand total of 400 net horsepower and 472 net lb-ft of torque. The T6 powertrain adds $4,250 to Momentum trim, whereas the T8 will set Momentum buyers back another $10,950, while the increase from T6 to T8 will cost you $12,650 in either R-Design or Inscription trims. 

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90 Inscription is the epitome of elegance and sophistication, although it provides a highly technical, minimalist approach to luxury. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

By the way, the 2020 XC90, which will start arriving at Volvo Canada retailers when this review gets published, continues to be available with the same three trim lines as the outgoing 2019 model, although a new six-passenger variant, available solely with T6 AWD Momentum and Inscription trims, provides a more luxuriously-appointed second row and easier access to the very back thanks to captain’s chairs and an aisle down the middle. The 2020 update includes a stylish new concave grille design as well, plus some less noticeable changes, all for a $1,500 hike in base price, less $1,000 in potential incentives at the time of writing. If personal savings matter more to you than getting the latest, greatest model, consider this 2019 XC90 that can provide up to $5,000 in additional incentives. Just visit the 2019 Volvo XC90 Canada Prices page at CarCostCanada, where you can also peruse through trim, package and individual option pricing, as well as find manufacturer rebate info and dealer invoice pricing.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90’s fully digital gauge cluster allows for plenty of functions within its multi-info display, including navigational mapping. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

An eight-speed Geartronic automatic with auto start-stop plus all-wheel drive comes standard across the line, although the transmission and AWD systems are unique to both conventional and electrified powertrains, the latter dubbed eAWD for sourcing all of its rear-wheel power from its electric motor.

While a person could theoretically drive their XC90 T8 on electric power alone, its approximate 30-km EV range would necessitate a very short commute with very little highway time, and after that it’s merely a very potent hybrid. Still, as long as you’re not attempting to utilize its full 400 horsepower all the time, this model’s fuel economy improves over both the base T5 and mid-range T6 powertrain from 11.3 L/100km in the city, 8.5 on the highway and 10.0 combined for the T5 AWD, 12.1 city, 8.9 highway and 10.7 combined for the as-tested T6 AWD, to 10.1, 8.8 and 9.5 respectively for the T8.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The XC90’s overhead camera is one of the best in the business. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Despite the vehicle I tested being thirstiest on this list, it’s only worst amongst a very efficient lineup of Volvo mid-size luxury SUV trims. Comparatively the segment sales-leading Lexus RX now offers an extended three-row variant that’s nowhere near as roomy in back as the XC90, but can be had in 450h L hybrid form that’s good for the best fuel economy in this class at 8.1 L/100km city, 8.4 highway and 8.1 combined, while the same model in 350 L trim only manages a rating of 13.1 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.1 combined. Likewise, the next most popular Acura MDX does a bit better than the conventionally powered Lexus with a respective 12.2, 9.0 and 10.8, while its hybrid variant achieves 9.1 city, 9.0 highway and 9.0 combined.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Truly, the XC90’s jewel-like details are exquisite. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Both Infiniti’s QX60 and Audi’s Q7 split the conventionally powered MDX and RX 350 L results with respective ratings of 12.5 city, 9.0 highway and 10.9 combined and 12.2, 9.5 and 11.0, while, again in order of popularity, Buick’s Enclave rating doesn’t measure up to the XC90 T6 either at 13.8 city, 9.5 highway and 11.9 combined (while also not measuring up in luxury, but I included it because it represents entry-level luxury in this class).

The XC90 is next in the sales hierarchy, followed by Mercedes’ three-row GLS 450 4Matic that only manages an estimated 14.9 city, 11.2 highway and 13.2 combined (how I wish they still offered their diesel), while BMW’s new X7 is rated at 12.0, 9.4 and 10.8, which isn’t too bad for this elongated three-row X5. Land Rover’s Discovery is the only non-hybrid model to beat the XC90, but not with its base V6 that can only manage 14.8, 11.4 and 13.0, this model’s diesel just sneaking below the least stingy XC90 at 11.3, 9.2 and 10.4, while the new 2020 Cadillac XT6 (the more luxurious version of the Buick Enclave) gets an estimated rating of 13.5 city, 9.7 highway and 11.5, and the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator achieves a slightly less efficient 13.7, 9.7 and 11.6 rating.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Easily two of the most comfortable front seats in the class. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such incredible efficiency and the XC90 also outhustles many of the just-noted utilities in the base trims used to compare fuel economy (including the two hybrids, which incidentally the T8 eAWD model annihilates), its mid-range T6 AWD powertrain surprisingly strong for a small displacement four-cylinder thanks to the aforementioned turbo and supercharger combination, its zero to 100 km/h acceleration time being a very spirited 6.5 seconds, which is 1.4 seconds quicker than the base XC90 T5 AWD that manages the feat in 7.9 seconds, and only 0.9 seconds slower than the ultra-advanced T8 eAWD powertrain that scoots the big Volvo from standstill to 100km/h in just 5.6 seconds.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The second row is spacious and comfortable. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My T6 AWD tester not only looks quick on paper, but it really felt strong off the line and even more confidence inspiring when passing slower moving vehicles on the highway, while it takes to the curves effectively too. No, it doesn’t track through quick corners or feel as generally hooked up as the sportiest of Germans in this elite pack, but it can certainly hold its own against all the rest, while it delivers one of the smoothest rides in its class combined with seat comfort that’s hard to beat.

I will refrain from itemizing every feature offered in each trim level as that would be a dreadful bore for both of us and hours of painstaking work for yours truly to endure, although those wanting all the info are free to check out my 2018 XC90 R-Design review in which you can pour over all this insufferable data to your heart’s content, and for those of us who’d rather not, suffice to say the XC90 represents good value for what’s being offered, which as a reminder includes one of, if not the most opulently attired interior in its class this side of a Bentley Bentayga, and honestly much of this Volvo’s switchgear is a helluvalot better than the big winged Brit, while all of its electronic interfaces are miles more advanced.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
Adults can fit comfortably into the rearmost seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Ahead of the driver is a fully digital instrument cluster with the ability to add navigation mapping and route guidance to its centre-mounted multi-information display, amongst most other functions from the vertical, tablet-style Sensus infotainment touchscreen on the centre stack. This is one of my favourite centre displays and it’s packed full with every key feature currently offered by competitors, plus one of the best overhead cameras in existence.

My tester included the awesome sounding $3,250 1,400-watt 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins optional audio system, complete with its lovely drilled aluminum speaker grilles including a tiny centre dash-mounted tweeter, but this particular XC90 didn’t include the jewel-like Orrefors crystal and polished metal shifter found in last year’s R-Design tester, c’est la vie.

2019 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Inscription
The middle portion of the second row folds down to load in longer items like skis. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The glittering diamond-pattern metal-edged rotating dial on the centre stack was exquisitely detailed, however, as were the twisting engine start/stop switch and cylindrical drive mode selector on the lower console, while the open-pore hardwood used for the scrolling bin lids around the latter switchgear and shifter, which was also found on the instrument panel and doors was absolutely stunning, not to mention the superbly crafted contrast stitched padded leather covering almost every other surface, which was backed up elsewhere by more high-quality soft-touch composite surfacing than you’ll find on most competitors.

So next time you see someone drive by in a Volvo XC90 you may want to show a similar deference offered to Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Range Rover Autobiography owners, because they’re rolling in a similar level of luxury while doing a lot more to limit fuel usage and mitigate local emissions, plus they’re obviously intelligent enough to get all of the above for hundreds of thousands less than the ultra-utilities just noted.

As you can probably tell I continue to like the XC90 very much, and therefore highly recommend it.

I must admit… I really like Volvo. Particularly new, reinvented Volvo, since the Swedish luxury brand completely reimagined its place within the luxury sector in 2015 with the launch of the 2016 XC90,…

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The new XC40 provides a funkier alternative to Volvo’s normally elegant design language, but this fun attitude fits within the subcompact luxury SUV segment perfectly. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I must admit… I really like Volvo. Particularly new, reinvented Volvo, since the Swedish luxury brand completely reimagined its place within the luxury sector in 2015 with the launch of the 2016 XC90, from its styling, interior design and quality, to its electronics, advanced drivetrains, performance, and of course safety. Volvo is leading its more commercially relevant competitors in almost every respect, and it’s seeing success because of it. 

I’m not going to pretend that all of its new models are enjoying the fruits of its labours in abundance, mind you, but lacklustre market response to its 90-series cars is hardly an isolated phenomenon within the ebbing sedan and wagon market. After all, where the S90, V90 and V90 Cross Country only managed a collective 835 sales in Canada last year, they beat Genesis (Hyundai’s new luxury brand), Maserati, Jaguar, Acura and Infiniti in the mid-size luxury E-segment, and repeated the feat over the first three months of 2019 too. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
R-Design trim means the roof gets painted black and other trim bits are blackened too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo is stronger when it comes to sales numbers in crossover SUV territory, but its XC60 only trounced Lincoln, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and Cadillac last year, while getting extremely close to one-upping Infiniti, a performance it couldn’t quite repeat over Q1 of 2019 due to losing ground against Cadillac, Infiniti and Lincoln, while gaining market share on Porsche. The XC90 is stronger in the mid-size luxury SUV class, having overpowered Jaguar, Porsche, Tesla, Range Rover, Land Rover, and Maserati throughout 2018, although it only outsold Range Rover, Tesla, Land Rover, and Maserati as of March 31, 2019. This said the XC90 is doing pretty well for a vehicle that’s four years into its lifecycle. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
R-Design trim adds a unique grille with a glossy black surround. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

And how about the new XC40? This subcompact luxury SUV, winner of the 2018 European Car of the Year, opens up totally new opportunities for Volvo, and does so in a market segment that’s hardly filled out with competitors. Despite arriving just partway through the year, the XC40 outpaced Jaguar’s E-Pace and Infiniti’s QX30 (the latter discontinued for 2019), and did so by a very wide margin, more than doubling deliveries of the former and tripling the latter. It was actually nudging up against Range Rover’s Evoque as well, but stayed far from contention when compared to Audi’s Q3, Mercedes’ GLA, and BMW’s class-leading X1/X2 combination. Still, it was a worthy effort from a new entry that was only on the market for the latter half of the year. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Like with all new Volvos, the XC40 sports standard “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps, upgraded with active-bending ability in R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

How about 2019? Over the first three months of this year the XC40 has found five and a half times more buyers than the Infiniti QX30 (again, a model being phased out), almost five times as many as the Jaguar E-Pace, hundreds more than the Range Rover Evoque, has surpassed BMW’s X2 sales, and is within shooting range of Mercedes’ GLA. We’ll have to watch and see if Volvo’s upward trajectory in this class continues, but I believe if more people learn about this impressive little SUV, the more chance it has of succeeding. 

So let’s run down the list of attributes I mentioned at the beginning of this review, starting with styling. Other than looking a bit too much like Jeep’s arguably handsome new Compass, the XC40 offers up a standout design, especially in its two-tone colour combinations. I tested a base Momentum model that I’ll cover in a future review, dipped in a lovely light pastel Amazon Blue paint with a white roof, and it caused more rubbernecking than anything else I’ve driven in this class. My Crystal White Pearl Metallic painted R-Design, showing off a standard black roof like all R-Design models, drew nearly as much attention, and would be my choice due to its slightly more masculine, sportier look. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40 R-Design’s lower front fascia details are nicely executed. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Inside, the XC40 provides all of the upscale luxury expected in a premium-labeled entry SUV, no matter the trim. The front roof pillars are fabric-wrapped, the dash-top and top halves of the door skins are finished in soft-touch composite, the armrests are padded with stitched leatherette, while the insides of the door pockets are actually carpeted, plus they’re large enough to accept a 15-inch laptop and a drink bottle. Back to the soft pliable surfacing, there’s none below the waistline, including the centre console that gets some soft paint for consolation, this above carpeting that wraps around the lower portion, while overhead there’s a high-quality woven roofliner framing a massive panoramic glass sunroof with a powered translucent sunshade. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
These 20-inch alloys are optional, with the standard R-Design wheels measuring 19 inches, and base and Inscription models equipped with 18s. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The dash design is typical modern Volvo, which means tasteful with minimal clutter, although it’s been given a funky twist including cool retro-like vertical satin silver metal vents next to the centre stack and each corner, adorned by attractive textured aluminum inlays across the instrument panel and doors. All of the satin silver trim is exquisitely crafted, particularly the knurled metal grips on the rotating vent actuators, and the similar treatment given to the audio system’s main volume control knob, while all of the switchgear is easily up to others in this class and surpasses some. 

Likewise, the R-Design’s exclusive contrast stitched perforated leather-wrapped and metal adorned sport steering wheel is beautifully finished, while a similar treatment is given to the electronic shift lever, not to mention the stunning leather and suede-like Nubuck upholstered seats, which are joined by sporty metal foot pedals to make this the obvious choice for those who want to flex a little muscle while running their urban errands. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
These trademark L-shaped LED taillights could only come from Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Those seats are extremely comfortable and feature good side bolstering as well as extendable lower cushions that cup nicely under the knees, plus the rear seating area is ultra-generous, even fitting in large six-foot-plus passengers with room to spare. Volvo provides rear occupants with a flip-down armrest in the middle, which doubles as a centre pass-through when the otherwise 60/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat to accommodate longer cargo in the equally sizeable and wonderfully flexible cargo area, which incidentally measures 586 litres (20.7 cubic feet) when the rear seats are in use, and 917 litres (32.4 cubic feet) when lowered. 

Making matters easier, they lower via a control panel of powered release switches on the passenger’s side cargo wall, while adding yet more utility is a cargo floor that folds in half and sits vertically with three handy grocery bag hooks on top, or alternatively can be swiveled into a small parcel shelf. I tested the former out on the way home from shopping and they worked fabulously. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40’s doors close with the solidity of a much larger luxury SUV, while Volvo’s smallest also gets an impressively finished interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Speaking of handy, the XC40 also includes a foldout hook from the glove box, a removable waste bin within the centre console, an available storage box under the driver’s seat cushion, a parking pass holder on the left side of the inner windshield, plus gas card slots to the left of the driver’s knee. Additionally, ahead of the centre console is a large compartment for stowing a big smartphone with sunglasses or what-have-you to each side, the base of which optionally doubles as an inductive device charger, plus sidled up beside a 12-volt charger there are two USB ports within the compartment as well, one solely for charging and the other for connecting to the Apple CarPlay- and Android Auto-infused infotainment system just above (there are three USB ports altogether). Yes, this little SUV is as convenient as they come, and really should win an award for thoughtfulness. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Like the exterior, the XC40’s interior offers up a funkier take on the brand’s normally well-executed design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such hidden standard items might go unnoticed unless your Volvo sales or service rep points them out, but it’ll be difficult to miss the configurable colour TFT digital gauge cluster staring you in the face upon climbing inside. It’s large and bright at 12.3-inches in diameter, high in definition, and filled with features including an available navigation map that expands to fill most of the multi-information display portion in the middle. No direct competitor delivers anything anywhere near as good in standard trim, with most not even offering the a digital gauge option at all, giving Volvo the lead in electronic interfaces. 

This said, I haven’t even mentioned the brand’s award-winning nine-inch vertical centre touchscreen, which comes closer to resembling an iPad- or Samsung-style tablet than anything else in the category. No matter whether you’re purchasing this entry-level SUV or the full-tilt XC90, Volvo doesn’t differentiate between its Sensus systems, meaning you get the best they have to offer, and it’s truly superb. Like a tablet it ideally responds to touch gestures such as tap, swipe and pinch, and does so for many more functions than the usual navigation map. In fact, adjusting the temperature settings for the as-tested upgraded dual-zone automatic climate control system results in tall readouts popping onto either side of the display, letting you slide your finger up and down to choose your individual comfort zone. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
A standard 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, with the ability to display full navigation mapping at centre, sets the XC40 apart from all challengers. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The Sensus touchscreen also allows control of all audio functions including streaming Bluetooth, satellite radio, 4G LTE Wi-Fi, and more, while it’s easy to connect your phone, whether doing so by Bluetooth or plugging it in for the aforementioned Apple and Android apps. It’s an elegantly designed interface that’s easily one of the best in its class, and should be easy to operate for anyone used to a modern-day smartphone. 

Also on the centre stack, a narrow row of high-quality switchgear can be found just below the main touchscreen for quick access to key HVAC controls, a couple of audio controls including the aforementioned metal-edged volume knob, plus the hazard lights, and to the very right a drive mode selector with Eco, Comfort, Dynamic, Off-road and Individual settings, the Off-road setting incidentally not available with base Momentum trim. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Volvo’s 9-inch Sensus touchscreen is the most tablet-like infotainment system in the industry, shown here with its temperature setting panel expanded. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

As noted just before, navigation isn’t standard, but rather a standalone $1,000 add-on, yet the standard list is nevertheless long and includes most everything already mentioned plus LED headlamps, roof rails, remote engine start, pushbutton ignition, a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, an electromechanical parking brake, rain-sensing wipers, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic climate control, voice activation, heated front seats, a powered driver’s seat with four-way lumbar support and memory, genuine aluminum inlays, plus a host of active safety gear like forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and mitigation, etcetera, enough to earn it a best-possible Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS (the only SUV in its subcompact segment to do so), all for just $39,500 plus freight and fees, which makes it one of the most affordable vehicles in its luxury class with standard all-wheel drive. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The overhead camera is superb. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The as-tested R-Design, which starts at $44,100, includes all items noted previously as well as a one-inch larger set of 19-inch alloy wheels (although my tester wore optional 20s) attached to a sport suspension, plus a unique grille treatment, black skid plates, black mirror caps, gloss-black exterior trim, and the aforementioned black roof top, as well as active bending headlights, fog lamps, a rectangular set of exposed dual tailpipes (the base model’s are hidden), special aluminum front treadplates, upgraded carpets, better interior illumination, dual-zone auto climate control, a powered front passenger’s seat, cushion extensions for both front seats, a panoramic glass sunroof, black fabric pillars and roofliner (instead of light beige), an aluminum cargo sill protector, etcetera. 

My tester also had a $1,750 Premium Package featuring the inductive phone charger, the underseat storage box and grocery bag holders mentioned earlier, plus headlight washers, auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, heated wiper blades, a heatable steering wheel, heated rear outboard seats, a powered tailgate, and Blind Spot Information System with Cross Traffic Alert. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The centre pad within a cubby on the lower console doubles as a wireless charger. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

On top of this was a $2,000 Premium Plus Package including a 360-degree overhead Surround View parking camera, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, adaptive cruise control, Volvo’s Pilot Assist semi-autonomous Driver Assistance System, semi-autonomous Park Assist Pilot with Park Assist Front and Rear (a hands-on self-driving system that helps to ease highway driving quite well), and a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area; plus Volvo added the previously noted $1,000 navigation system, as well as $950 worth of great sounding 600-watt, 14-speaker Harmon-Kardon audio. 

Prior to its brand-wide revamp initiated in 2015, Volvo started to upgrade past models with a new lineup of innovative powertrains. Unlike any other luxury brand, or any other major automaker for that matter, the Chinese-owned Swedish company chose to base its entire model line on one 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine using turbocharging in base form, both turbocharging and supercharging in mid-range trims, and, debuting with the XC90 for 2016, a turbocharged, supercharged and plug-in electric version boasting 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The eight-speed automatic transmission’s shift knob is a nicely sculpted array of leather and metal. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

While a 400-horsepower XC40 sounds like a barrel of fun, a February 2019 announcement stated the plug-in variant slated for Volvo’s smallest SUV would in fact be the completely new 184-net-kW (247-net-hp) T5 Twin Engine with 328 net-lb-ft of torque thanks to an electric motor and a 1.5-litre three-cylinder gasoline-powered engine driving the front wheels. This should be followed closely by a version of the XC40 incorporating an even thriftier T4 Twin Engine, although we’ll likely only receive the more potent PHEV in North America. Additionally, Volvo announced in March that it will reveal a full-electric version of the XC40 before the end of 2019, as part of a push toward having half of its global sales made up of full-electric vehicles by 2025. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
Comfortable and accommodating, the XC40’s driving position is excellent, and the R-Design’s seat upholstery plush and luxurious. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

For the time being, Volvo’s second-most popular model worldwide (behind the XC60) receives a standard 2.0-litre turbocharged engine making 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, which drives all wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. This said a new 2.0-litre turbo-four designated T4, capable of 187 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque and coming standard with the same eight-speed auto and AWD, will be the base powerplant in Momentum trim for 2020, with R-Design and Inscription trims including the T5 engine, featuring 248 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, as standard kit. 

I can’t speak for the upcoming T4, but my tester’s T5 powertrain is an ideal match for the lightweight XC40, resulting in a fast-paced, fun-to-drive subcompact crossover SUV. Of course, it’s hardly the most formidable in its class, Jaguar’s E-Pace and Range Rover’s Evoque R-Dynamic models bringing 296 horsepower apiece to the segment, BMW’s X2 M35i stepping up with 302 horsepower, and Mercedes’ blisteringly quick AMG GLA 45 holding the category title with 375 horsepower. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The R-Design gets a large panoramic sunroof, that really opens up the interior. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Still, the XC40 immediately jumps off the line, its eight-speed autobox a bit annoying when moving into Drive or Reverse as it needs two taps to do so, but once underway it shifts with nice, snappy increments, especially when its sportiest “Dynamic” drive mode is selected and my R-Design model’s paddle shifters are engaged, and it feels nice and planted while doing so. 

No doubt my tester’s lower profile 20-inch tires played a role where rubber meets the road, not to mention its sport-tuned suspension setup, which otherwise is fully independent with aluminium double wishbones up front and a unique integral-link design that includes a lightweight composite transverse leaf spring at the rear. Hence it hooked up well enough through the corners, something I enjoyed when making up for lost time around town, as well as during a couple of fully engaged test sessions in the countryside. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The rear seating compartment is spacious and comfortable too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

You sit up nice and high, which is ideal for visibility, and while this should negate at-the-limit handling it’s not destabilizing at all, but rather my XC40 R-Design felt confidence-inspiring when pushed hard, only leaning slightly when asking more from it than most owners ever would. Fortunately braking is quite good, whether feathering the front discs to set up a corner or jamming down hard on all four during a panic situation, it responded with poise. 

Its ride quality is very good for such a small SUV, the XC40 feeling more substantive overall than its size should allow, and I don’t believe there’s much if any difference in suspension comfort from models with 18-inch wheels and a regular “Dynamic” suspension than the sport setup wearing 20s. Volvo offers an adaptive Four-C Chassis for $1,000, but honestly I don’t think it’s needed. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40’s cargo compartment should be large enough for most peoples’ needs, plus th rear seats include a handy pass-through in the middle. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

All in all the XC40 feels like a bigger and more substantive SUV than it really is, its doors and hatch closing with impressive solidity, plus it’s quiet and feels well-built when encountering road imperfections such as broken pavement, potholes, bumps, etcetera. 

Fuel economy, rated at 10.3 L/100km in the city, 7.5 on the highway and 9.0 combined, only looks poor if putting it up against something much less powerful and front-wheel drive like Lexus’ new UX (only 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque) that gets 7.2 combined in non-hybrid form. In fact, the XC40’s combined city/highway rating is identical to the Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic, better than the BMW X1 that can only manage 9.3 combined, noticeably ahead of the base Jaguar E-Pace P250’s rating of 9.8 combined, and a big improvement over Audi’s new Q3 that’s rated at just 10.6 combined. If anyone cares, the XC40 is even thriftier than the comparatively anemic yet still most capable (153-hp) full-load Buick Encore AWD that can only manage 9.1 L/100km combined. Of note, most of those above, including the XC40, benefit from auto start/stop technology that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, especially helpful in improving air quality. 

2019 Volvo XC40 T5 AWD R-Design
The XC40 has plenty of thoughtful convenience touches, including this folding floor that doubles as a grocery bag holder. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I don’t think Volvo will mind if I end this review on such a positive note. The fact is, after a weeklong test I haven’t found much to fault the new XC40 on, but rather I feel it’s one of the better compact luxury SUVs now available. You may have heard me say this before about something different, but keep in mind that most new models improve with each new generation, and in the case of the XC40, which allowed Volvo a completely clean slate to build upon, it’s been extremely well executed. 

Thanks to a quiet, comfortable ride with better than average handling, strong straight-line performance mixed with impressive efficiency, a comfortable, accommodating, and superbly crafted cabin filled with thoughtful touches that make life more convenient, plus value that’s hard to argue against, the XC40 is a clear winner that should attract plenty of new customers into the Swedish brand’s fold, and that bodes well for Volvo’s long-term future.

An explanation for the uninitiated: “Polestar Engineered” is like Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s M brands, but for Volvo.  Yes, once staid and conservative Volvo has not only become a lot more dynamic…

415 horsepower Polestar Engineered Volvo V60 and XC60 arriving in summer

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Volvo will add two new models to the T8 Polestar Engineered lineup for 2020, with this XC60 crossover SUV likely to be most popular. (Photo: Volvo)

An explanation for the uninitiated: “Polestar Engineered” is like Mercedes’ AMG or BMW’s M brands, but for Volvo. 

Yes, once staid and conservative Volvo has not only become a lot more dynamic in recent years, but also has a performance division. Polestar was born and bread in motorsport, just like its German counterparts, and having already provided an assortment of go-fast models in previous generation S60 and V60 models, is now doing the same with Volvo’s updated lineup. 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
The 2019 S60 T8 Polestar Engineered sold out very quickly. (Photo: Volvo)

“At Volvo Car Canada, we are very excited about the addition of the new Polestar Engineered products in our portfolio,” said Alexander Lvovich, Managing Director, Volvo Car Canada Ltd. “Polestar always played a special role in the Volvo business in Canada, as in the last 2 years we achieved one of the highest levels of Polestar optimized product sales in the world. We plan to fully capitalize on this upcoming opportunity to strengthen both Volvo and Polestar brands in Canada.” 

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
The Polestar Engineered models receive special glossy black grilles and unique lower front fascia designs. (Photo: Volvo)

Its most recent project was based on the 2019 Volvo S60, but the S60 T8 Polestar Engineered (as it was called) sold out before most of us even knew it existed. Now we have word from Volvo Canada’s Richmond Hill, Ontario office that new Polestar Engineered variants of the V60 sport wagon and XC60 compact crossover SUV are on the way for the 2020 model year, which should cause those in the know to get pretty excited. 

2020 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered
Flared wheel arches, gold six-pot Brembo calipers, and unique 19-inch forged alloys come as part of the upgrade. (Photo: Volvo)

For starters, the new Polestar Engineered duo are once again based on Volvo’s turbocharged, supercharged and electrified T8 Twin-Engine Plug-in Hybrid AWD powertrain, which is sport-tuned to make 415 horsepower and 494 lb-ft of torque, 15 horsepower and 22 lb-ft of torque more than the regular T8 powertrain. 

Thanks to software updates, torque arrives earlier making throttle response quicker for more immediate response to input, while more of that twist targets the rear wheels for greater performance feel. To be clear, along with the boosted 2.0-litre four-cylinder, the T8 drivetrain combines an electric motor at each end of the vehicle for a total of two, while its battery pack is fed in both traditional hybrid form and via plug. 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
A specially designed Öhlins strut bar helps to increase body rigidity. (Photo: Volvo)

Along with the handling benefits of a rear-wheel bias, performance will be further enhanced via an Öhlins-produced strut bar under the hood to aid body rigidity and allow for “more precise and responsive control,” says Volvo in a press release, while the Swedish-based suspension technology brand also designed adjustable dampers for the new models, featuring dual flow valves that respond “quickly to road imperfections.” 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
A special leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and shift knob enhance the cockpit. (Photo: Volvo)

Additionally, traditional Polestar gold-coloured six-piston Brembo calipers add stopping power, while lightweight 19-inch forged alloy wheels, unique on all three Polestar Engineered S60, V60 and XC60 models, have been designed to provide freer cooling to those upgraded brakes. 

Polestar Engineered models don’t receive the same level of visual stimulation as their aforementioned German competitors, which may help them slide under the radar both figuratively and literally, with styling enhancements including a high-gloss black grille, extended wheel arches, black chrome tailpipes, plus “discreet” Polestar badges front and back. 

2019 Volvo S60 T8 Polestar Engineered
All Polestar Engineered models, this being the S60, sport unique gold-coloured seatbelts. (Photo: Volvo)

Following a similar theme inside, the two Polestar models will get a special leather-clad sport steering wheel and shifter, metal mesh aluminum inlays, plus signature gold seatbelts over unique charcoal-coloured Nappa leather and “open-grid” textile upholstered seats. 

The V60 T8 Polestar Engineered and XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered will arrive as early 2020 models this summer, so if interested make sure to let your local Volvo retailer know.

The compact luxury sedan market segment is a tough nut to crack. It’s more or less owned by three German makes, including Mercedes-Benz with its C-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, Audi with…

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design Road Test

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The new 2019 Volvo S60 delivers big on style, especially when upgraded to T6 AWD R-Design trim. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The compact luxury sedan market segment is a tough nut to crack. It’s more or less owned by three German makes, including Mercedes-Benz with its C-Class sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible, Audi with its A4 sedan and tall wagon, plus its A5 coupe, convertible and four-door coupe, and BMW with its 3 series sedan and wagon, plus its 4 Series coupe, convertible, and four-door coupe, leaving a bevy of smaller players fighting over scraps. 

To be clear, most in this class are suffering from the success of their own compact luxury crossover SUV making, which means that while year over year sales of the BMW X3, for example, were up by 48.6 percent from calendar year 2017 to 2018, deliveries of the iconic 3 Series were off by 19.5 percent, and much lower volume 4 Series sales down by 5.4 percent. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
While its optional Fusion Red Metallic paint looks great, the S60’s new C-shaped LED taillights are easier to make out in a contrast hue. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Not every car in the D-segment lost ground, mind you, with the aforementioned C-Class gaining 6.5 percent, the Infiniti Q50 up 6.8 percent, and the Audi A5’s take-rate growing by an amazing 25 percent after a long-awaited redesign, but some saw significantly more shrinkage than BMW’s 3, such as Lexus’ RC coupe that dropped a staggering 37.9 percentage points, Jaguar’s XE sedan that lost 27.8 percent, Cadillac’s ATS sedan and coupe collectively down 25.4 percent, Acura’s TLX sedan off by 25.2 percent, Infiniti’s Q60 coupe down by 24.2 percent, and the Audi A4 sedan and tall crossover wagon’s popularity curtailed by a considerable 20.3 percent. 

Such steep sales declines make the Volvo 60-series’ loss of 5.1 percent seem easier to stomach, and to be yet farer to the Swedish automaker, those 60-series cars’ incredible 99.7 percent year over year increase from calendar year 2016 to 2017 made the slight downturn inevitable, the former upsurge directly resulting from years of pent-up demand for this all-new S60 sport sedan and its V60 sport wagon counterpart. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The R-Design gets a unique take on the S60’s new hexagonal grille. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

The aforementioned tough nut to crack comment has less to do with sales volatility and more about actual sales numbers, however, with both 60-series Volvos only managing 1,245 units collectively through 2018, compared to 11,556 for the bevy of C-Class models, 10,173 for the various Audis, and 9,733 for BMW’s offerings—yes, the 3 Series/4Series was once number one in this segment. 

Everything else is much farther down the pecking order, with Infiniti’s sedan and coupe ringing up 3,424 orders, Lexus non-ES offerings (the IS and RC) tallying up to 3,163 deliveries, Acura’s previously noted TLX finding 2,397 buyers, and even Cadillac’s ATS scooping up 1,615 new owners (before it gets axed), while a fair ways below Volvo’s 60-series total was Genesis’ G70 at 967 units, Jaguar’s XE at 571, and Alfa Romeo’s Giulia at 510 deliveries. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Signature “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlamps continue to give Volvo’s latest offerings a totally unique look, and this new design looks particularly good. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Now, before you scurry off to your local Merc, Bimmer or Audi store to sign up for one of their arguably worthy offerings, take note that earning a place in the top three doesn’t necessarily mean the car in question is better than something else on this list, or more specifically, doesn’t mean that something less popular won’t suite your personal style and requirements more agreeably. 

Case in point, this all-new 2019 Volvo S60. Volvo was once most notably known for safety above all, followed closely by bulletproof build quality. The good news here is safety is still high on the marque’s priority list, with its most recent offerings receiving Top Safety Pick and Top Safety Pick Plus ratings from the IIHS, plus its bevy of standard active safety and advanced driver assistance features amongst the most comprehensive in the industry, some including automatic front collision warning with full low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking, Driver Alert Control, steering support, Run-Off Road Mitigation, plus a Lane Keeping Aid and Oncoming Lane Mitigation as part of its standard City Safety package, while Volvo also goes over the top by adding an airbag for the driver’s knees, front seat whiplash protection, and pyrotechnical seatbelt pretensioners in all positions front to rear. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Sportier front fascia detailing, including fog lamps that bend around each corner, is exclusive to the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Also noteworthy, if the S60’s sensors detect an imminent head-on collision, the new oncoming braking system will automatically activate maximum braking force two-tenths of a second before impact. Volvo says this feature reduces vehicle speed by 10 km/h before that impact occurs, which could potentially be a lifesaver, and should certainly help to minimize injury. 

While tempted to do a deep dive into all of the additional standard features found on this 2019 S60, let alone our sporty R-Design trimmed example, I’d better go over some of its other highlights first. Most of the S60’s design details, like its “Thor’s Hammer” LED headlights have been covered in previous Volvo reviews, as have its C- or hook-shaped LED taillights that are similar, at least, to those found on the larger S90. I have to admit to liking the overall shape and design of the S60 best, but this may only be due to its newness, plus the sportiness of this R-Design trim level. In truth, I find both new sedans very attractive, at the very least matching and in many ways surpassing some of their key competitors. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
These 19-inch alloys on Pirelli rubber will add $1,000 to your bill. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I won’t go into detail as to the size difference between these two cars, this S60 clearly fitting into the most popular compact luxury D-segment, and the S90 within the larger luxury mid-size E-segment (going up against the E-Class, 5 Series, A6, et al), but take note this S60 has grown considerably when compared to its 2010–2018 predecessor, now stretching 133 millimetres (5.2 inches) longer from nose to tail at 4,761 mm (187.4 in), with a 96-mm (3.8-in) longer wheelbase measuring 2,872 mm (113.1 in), but strangely it’s 15 mm (0.6 in) narrower at 1,850 mm (72.8 in), while sporting a 53-mm (2.1-in) lower roofline than the outgoing model. 

The longer wheelbase improves rear legroom, which critics charged as a shortcoming on the old S60, and I must say the rear seating area is now much more accommodating with plenty of space to stretch out and get comfortable, plus it provides superbly comfortable outboard positions with excellent lower back support. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Upon closer inspection, it’s easier to see the nice detailing and sharp edges added to the new S60’s taillights. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Such is even truer for the driver’s position, which in R-Design trim receives a six-way powered and wonderfully contoured sport seat with four-way powered lumbar support that allows ideal adjustment for the exact lower back pressure point, providing relief on long trips, or for that matter after a long day’s work, while a power-extendable lower cushion nicely cups below the knees for additional comfort and support. Two-way memory sets a favourite position for instant recall, this standard across the entire S60 line, while R-Design exclusive Fine Nappa leather upholstery with contrast stitching covers all seats from front to back, making for a luxurious look and feel. 

As attractive as they look I highly doubt your eyes will rest upon the seats at first entry, however, as the rest of the S60 R-Design’s interior is so spectacular you’ll likely be swept away by the elegant horizontal dash design and beautifully sculpted details everywhere else, let alone its three-spoke R-design leather-wrapped steering wheel, R-Design metal pedals, R-Design carpeted floor mats, R-Design metal sill mouldings, 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, impressive vertical infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation, four-zone automatic climate control with rear controls, etcetera, while the black headliner is a nice touch too. Still, the S60 R-Design’s special Metal Mesh decor inlays are particularly eye-catching, as is all of the S60’s jewellery-like switchgear, the rotating instrument panel knobs, glittering ignition switch, and equally dazzling drive mode selector appearing as if provided by one of the auto sector’s ultra-luxe brands, such as Bentley. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Slide inside one of the best interiors in the compact luxury D-segment. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Much of this glitz and glamour was initially introduced in the dramatically redesigned 2015 XC90 that formed the basis for most everything we’ve seen from Volvo since, so while the S60’s take on the Swedish automaker’s brand-wide interior design theme is nothing new to me or others familiar with the all things Volvo, the lavish luxury infused into each new 2019 model will likely produce eye-bulging levels of shock and awe amongst those trading up from their second-generation S60s. 

Expanding further on this line of thought, I previously spent three wonderful weeks in the V60 sport wagon, upgraded to top-line Inscription trim, which while slightly more expensive than the R-Design, in either V60 or S60 guise, is hardly more replete with features. Think of the Inscription as a more elegant take on luxury and the R-Design offering up a sportier edge, while the base Momentum is plenty impressive as well. Volvo should soon be offering the S60 in T8 AWD Polestar trims too, this model boasting the brand’s hybridized plug-in powertrain that ups performance to 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque via the same turbocharged and supercharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder as offered with T6 powered models. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The cabin detailing is superb, especially when uplifted with the optional Bowers & Wilkins audio system. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

That thought segues into currently available powertrains, with both T5 FWD and T6 AWD combinations under the S60’s hood and at its wheels. The T5 FWD is solely available in Momentum trim, featuring the same 2.0-litre four without the supercharger for a healthy 250 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque driving the front wheels, while the T6 AWD is optional with Momentum trim and standard on the R-Design and Inscription, and thanks to the aforementioned supercharger joining the turbo, it makes a much more satisfying 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque while powering all four wheels. 

As is normally the case in this class, both engines come standard with auto engine start/stop that reduces emissions while improving fuel economy by shutting down the engine when it would otherwise be idling, this helping the base T5 FWD to achieve a claimed 9.9 L/100km city, 6.6 highway and 8.4 combined rating, whereas the as-tested T6 AWD is good for an estimated 11.1 city, 7.3 highway and 9.4 combined. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The S60 R-Design’s cockpit is as comfortable as it’s impressively finished. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Possibly more important to you is how the S60 R-Design drives, and to that end it’s even more dynamic than the V60 Inscription I enjoyed over the holiday season. It’s plenty quick off the line, with all four of its optional 235/40R19 Pirellis immediately locking onto asphalt and its formidable little powerplant whipping through its conjoined eight forward gears with effortless ease, both quickly when set to its sportiest Dynamic drive mode, and smoothly no matter which selection is chosen, Comfort and Eco also on the menu, while the R-Design model’s standard paddle shifters thoroughly enhance the hands-on experience. The engine and exhaust makes a nice snarly combination of notes at full throttle as well, but otherwise is as hushed as the car’s ultimately refined interior, the S60 R-Design balancing performance and pleasantries on an equal scale. 

Similar kudos can be attributed to the S60’s underpinnings, the R-Design’s exclusively lowered sport suspension boasting firmer dampers for tauter, flatter handling through fast-paced corners that results in stable, predictable manners even when flung carelessly into tight off-camber curves, while it doesn’t get unsettled when tossed back and forth through serpentine stretches either. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
This stunning 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster comes standard with the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

It rides on the same Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) that Volvo uses for its larger S90 luxury sedan chassis, plus most everything else in the brand’s current lineup, with aluminum double wishbones in front and an exclusive integral link rear suspension design featuring a transverse lightweight composite leaf spring at back. Driver-selectable low, medium and high personal power steering settings combine with the aforementioned driving modes to make the most of any situation, whereas the brakes match handling and acceleration ideally as well, proving strong when called upon and always smoothly progressive, the entire car never forgetting that, while a capable sport sedan, refined luxury, supported by a compliant suspension setup and ultra-comfortable seats, is paramount in the class. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
The Volvo Sensus centre touchscreen is all about big, attractive gesture controlled goodness, that’s easy to use and fully functional. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

To that end the $52,400 S60 R-Design, which normally rides on 18-inch alloys, pulls plenty of as-yet unmentioned features up from the $42,400 base Momentum T5 FWD model, such as Road Sign Information (RSI), an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, a powered panoramic glass sunroof, a Clean Zone Air Quality system and a humidity sensor, rear parking sonar, a rearview camera with dynamic guidelines, voice activation, dual USB ports, Bluetooth phone connectivity with streaming audio, Volvo On-Call with remote start and vehicle tracking, 170-watt 10-speaker audio, satellite radio, heated front seats with driver’s memory, a 120-volt household-style power outlet in the rear console, power-folding rear seat headrests, and more inside, while standard dual chromed tailpipes are joined by a unique R-Design front grille, plus auto high beams and active bending for the aforementioned LED headlamps, fog lamps with active bending, high-gloss black exterior trim including the side mirror caps, door handle puddle lamps, proximity-sensing keyless access, and the list goes on. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Unique Metal Mesh inlays can be found throughout the cabin, including the scrolling lids atop the centre console. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

I loved my tester’s $900 optional Fusion Red Metallic paint, one of five optional colours as well as no-cost standard Black Stone, while all R-Design models get Charcoal black for the interior. If you end up going for Momentum trim you can choose from seven exterior colours and a variety of interior motifs, while Inscription trim provides the choice of eight colours albeit fewer cabin combinations, although the Momentum’s upgradable upholsteries are optional at no cost with the Inscription. 

Those 19-inch alloy wheels mentioned before were a $1,000 upgrade, while additional options included a $1,150 graphical head-up display unit that projected useful information, like navigation directions, onto the windshield for an easy, safe overview, plus the 15-speaker, 1,100-watt Bowers & Wilkins audio system was soundsational, and well worth the $3,750 required, even if you choose it for its gorgeous aluminum speaker grilles alone. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
No competitor does jewel-like metal-edged switchgear as well as Volvo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

Volvo also added a $1,250 Climate Package that features heated Aquablades windshield wipers, a heatable steering wheel, and heated rear seats; plus a $1,500 Convenience Package with Volvo’s really impressive Pilot Assist semi-autonomous drive system featuring Adaptive Cruise Control, plus a Homelink garage door opener and a compass integrated into the rearview mirror; and finally an $1,800 Vision Package with very helpful 360-degree surround parking camera, easy to use Park Assist Pilot semi-autonomous self parking, always welcome front parking sonar, even more appreciated auto-dimming power-retractable side mirrors, and blindspot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert that could potentially save you from backing into oncoming traffic. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
These superb Nappa leather-covered sport seats are exclusive to the R-Design. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In case you were wondering, the $53,900 S60 Inscription includes most everything from the R-Design, other than the sportier features mentioned earlier, while in their place it adds a classy chromed waterfall grille, chromed window trim, unique 10-spoke 18-inch alloy wheels, beautiful matte Driftwood Décor interior inlays, a tailored instrument panel with stitched soft-touch detailing, perforated Nappa leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and more. 

I sourced all 2019 Volvo S60 pricing from CarCostCanada, incidentally, where you can find detailed prices on each trim level, all packages, and every standalone option for the S60 and every other Volvo, not to mention most other new vehicles sold in Canada, plus otherwise hard to get rebate information and money-saving dealer invoice pricing. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Gotta love this massive standard glass sunroof. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

My only S60 complaint is a missing overhead sunglasses holder, plus not enough space on the centre console to place my average-sized Samsung S9 smartphone within easy visibility while driving, which was probably planned from onset by this safety-conscious automaker so as to reduce distracted driving. The most forward of two large cupholders, otherwise hidden below a lovely scrolling console lid, solved that problem, with the latter big enough to hold my ever-present water bottle securely, no matter how aggressively I took to corners. 

The S60’s 391-litre (13.8 cubic-foot) trunk was also large enough for my needs and about average for the class, and while its 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks included a centre pass-through for skis and other long cargo, I would have preferred a larger opening via a 40/20/40 divided seat configuration instead, but this is still a lot better than no pass-through at all, which is how most Japanese offerings come. 

2019 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design
Rear seating is comfortable and plenty accommodating. (Photo: Karen Tuggay)

In closing, anyone considering a car in the compact luxury D-segment should take a close look at this new 2019 Volvo S60, as it’s a serious contender that delivers at an extremely high level in every way, from styling to performance, leading technology to safety, and overall comfort to accommodating spaciousness. Also important, it’s wonderfully different than anything from Germany or Japan, and for that reason the S60 may very well strike a chord with those who especially appreciate uniqueness and exclusivity, let alone a level of opulence few in this class can measure up to.