2012 Volvo XC90 Expert Review

3.6 Overall Score
Performance 3.2 Comfort 3.7 Styling 3.3 Value 3.6

You'll Like The 2012 Volvo XC90 If...

If an image of safety, practicality and prestige top your priorities and you only occasionally plan to use the third-row seat, the 2012 Volvo XC90 deserves to be on your shopping list.

You May Not Like The 2012 Volvo XC90 If...

If you need to regularly seat passengers in the third row plus require space for cargo, the XC90 might not fit you, literally. In that regard, the larger Buick Enclave, Dodge Durango or Ford Explorer SUVs would provide more legroom and additional cargo capacity. If you need to tow your toys, the Volvo XC90 is limited to 3,970 pounds in front-wheel-drive (FWD) form and 4,960 with all-wheel drive (AWD).

What's New

Volvo has discontinued the optional V8 engine in the XC90, leaving the 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder as the sole choice. The 2012 XC90 is offered in two forms: 3.2 or R-Design, with additional trim levels for each that are designated Premier Plus and Platinum. Unlike other Volvos available in R-Design form, here the XC90 does not add more horsepower, but instead differentiates itself with a sport-tuned suspension and interior and exterior upgrades.

All 2012 XC90s get Bluetooth music-streaming capability and a new exterior color choice, Caspian Blue. R-Design models receive big 20-inch alloy wheels and xenon headlights.

Interior Features

Standard leather seating and an available wood steering wheel and shift knob give the XC90 a premium feel. A total of 12 – yes, twelve – beverage holders provide enough drink storage for a trip through the Sahara. Innovative and flexible seating arrangements such as a flat-folding front passenger seat allow the XC90 to be a car you could sleep in or fill with surfboards. There is seating for seven, but the third row is cramped for most adults, and when in use, leaves a scant 8.8 cubic feet of storage. The second row is roomy and has a sliding center section that allows a child safety seat to be moved closer to the front passenger.

Exterior Features

“Stylish” and “SUV” are often mutually exclusive terms, yet the XC90 manages to be both with aplomb. With a ground clearance of 8.9 inches, underbody protectors and a bulging hood, the vehicle looks like it doesn’t mind the rough stuff. Yet its contoured lines and elongated taillights give the Volvo XC90 an elegance all its own, especially in the flowing rear.

Driving Impressions

The 2012 Volvo XC90 delivers good on-road performance, wringing the most out of its 6-cylinder engine. Volvo pegs XC90’s 0-60 mph time at 8.7 seconds. That isn’t sports-car fast, but neither is it SUV laggardly. Thanks to a wide track and stability control system, the XC90 performs well in emergency maneuvers. Unlike other SUVs with higher ground clearance, the Volvo doesn’t feel top heavy and takes corners with confidence. Feedback is good from both the steering wheel and brake pedal. Models with the optional all-wheel drive employ a computer-controlled Haldex system that can instantly deliver up to 50 percent more torque to the rear axle when needed for extra traction. When not in use, 95 percent of the engine’s power goes to the front wheels.

Pricing Notes

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2012 Volvo XC90 3.2 starts at just over $39,000, including destination charge. R-Design models begin at just over $42,000. A fully loaded, all-wheel-drive R-Design XC90 can top out at over $50,000. Both of those prices are comparable to competitors in this segment such as the Buick Enclave (with a slightly lower starting price) and Acura MDX (slightly higher).

Notable Equipment

All 2012 Volvo XC90 models come with a 3.2-liter 6-cylinder engine that runs on regular unleaded and is mated to a 6-speed Geartronic automatic transmission. Also standard are a passenger compartment reinforced with high-strength steel, a power moonroof, an integrated child booster cushion, a 160-watt stereo CD system with HD radio, power-adjustable front seats, and dual-zone climate control. R-Design models add xenon headlights, color-coordinated wheel arches and R-Design grille, rear skidplate, and interior badging. A navigation system is standard on Platinum editions of the 3.2 and R-Design models.

Notable Options

All-wheel drive can be had in all versions of the XC90, as can heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and an interior air-quality system. Blind-spot monitoring, heated front seats, a dual-screen rear-entertainment system, walnut steering wheel, and a kayak cradle are further add-ons.

Favorite Features

Sliding Center Child Seat

This parental favorite allows the front-seat passenger to easily reach a child in the second-row safety seat.

Streaming Audio

This new feature enables a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone to stream music to the Volvo’s audio system, plus create playlists using Pandora or Grooveshark.

Under the Hood

The 240-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder is now the sole engine in the 2012 XC90 as Volvo has ceased offering the Yamaha-built V8 in the vehicle. Still, the 6-cylinder gives the XC90 more than adequate power and, though it isn’t exceptionally fuel efficient, does not require premium gasoline.

3.2-liter inline-6

240 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm

236 lb.-ft. of torque @ 3,200 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 mpg (FWD), 16/22 mpg (AWD)

Editors' Notes

Volvo’s XC90 wasn’t the first upscale SUV on the market when it debuted a decade ago, but it intended to be the safest of the bunch while providing a comfortable, car-like ride. Ten years after it made its initial bow, the 2012 XC90 still offers a lot of safety and versatility in a rugged-on-the-outside, refined-on-the-inside SUV. The vehicle also bucks the bigger-is-better trend, with the ability to seat seven in a body smaller than others in this segment such as the Acura MDX, Buick Enclave and Nissan Pathfinder. Throw in XC90’s all-weather ability, semi-luxury cachet and laudable warranty with complimentary scheduled maintenance, and it’s a utility vehicle that appeals to both head and heart.

Road Test Video Reviews

2012 Volvo XC90 Owner Reviews

13 Reviews
77% 8% 8% 2 star 0% 8%
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Great family car- spacious and reliable.

2012 Volvo XC90 3.2

The Volvo xc90 is a perfect car for my large family. I have four children under 7 and can fit them all plus a double stroller in the car with no problems. There's still discs for groceries/shopping. I love how easy it is to move the seats to put extra kids in if I need or more extra space in the trunk. The car has been very reliable and I have had no issues at all in the two years we've had it.

- Ellie W

Good Volvo and excellent safety car.

2012 Volvo XC90 Premier Plus

Super reliable, best safety record, good gas mileage for an SUV. It rides nice and has the features like: heated seats, power windows, power seats, navigation system, and very well built. Good color, leather seats, has the third row of seats. Maintenance is easy to keep.

- Mark L

2012 Volvo xc90. I do not know whatever you want.

2012 Volvo XC90 Base

It is just a little old at this point. Has power windows, heated seats and entertainment system. Very safe car. Safety cage feature is nice. Crash ratings are great. Fuel economy is a little poor. Some of the trim is falling off inside the cab of the vehicle.

- Rob C

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