Tempting as the $105,895 XC90 Excellence is, the best all-around XC90 is the mid-range Inscription with the standard 2.0-liter, twincharged (that means there's a supercharger for low-end power and a turbocharger for high-rpm performance) four-cylinder. The available plug-in hybrid T8 is an entertaining choice – it has 400 horsepower, after all –and features an impressive all-electric range, but it adds nearly $11,000 to the XC90 Inscription's price tag. The base T6 engine is fine, though, with 316 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque.
Volvo offers a trio of option packages, a host of premium paints (only one, Ice White, is available as a no-cost option), and five useful standalone extras, but the reality is that you don't need any of them. The XC90 Inscription adds heated leather upholstery, Volvo's excellent Sensus infotainment system with navigation, LED headlights, a digital instrument cluster, 20-inch wheels, and the Pilot Assist semi-autonomous driving assistance system, which marries adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist with steering assist, forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking into a single package that drivers can activate at the press of a button.
If you need optional goodies or simply have money to burn, the $1,800 air suspension is a fine choice. It improves the XC90's already plush ride and offers a range of height adjustments, including a park setting that makes ingress and egress into this high-riding SUV a breeze. It does require the $1,950 Convenience Package, raising the real-world price to $2,750, but a 360-degree camera system, front and rear parking assist, and heated windshield washer nozzles soften the blow. The $900 head-up display is a reasonably priced feature, too, although wearers of polarized sunglasses will have a hard time using it during the day.
Here's how we'd build our XC90.
- Model: 2018 Subaru WRX Limited
- Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-4 engine
- Output: 268 hp/258 lb. ft.
- Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission
- Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
- MPG: 21 City / 27 Highway
- Options: N/A
- Base Price: $32,455 (including $860 destination charge)
- Best Value Price: $32,455