A glorious place to be. The Scandinavians have long been synonymous with style, and the interior of Volvo’s venerable XC90 SUV is a truly exquisite place to sit. We struggle to think of many interiors this side of high-end British marques that offer comparable elegance. Everywhere you look, there are design elements to delight – the circular tweeter cheekily poking out of the central dash-mounted speaker, or the glossy portrait touchscreen above a single bank of half a dozen buttons.

Minimalist yet user-friendly in any guise, things get even better as you move up the range. Ultimate trim is the most expensive of three revised variants, and the flagship version lives up to its new name with open-pore wooden trim, fantastic woolen seats, and a crystal shift lever. You can tell Volvo’s designers had fun in here, and these design details can make an otherwise mundane Monday morning feel just a little bit more special.

Safety in abundance. Volvos have been stylish for a while but long before that, they were uncompromising boxes of safety. That legacy hasn’t been forgotten, and the XC90 has always performed exceptionally well in crash testing. Volvo has loaded it with driver aids, from adaptive cruise and active lane control to blind-spot monitoring and automatic braking. The Pilot Assist system can even take over steering and power for short periods, though many people may be too frightened to engage it and then lift their hands off the wheel.

It's also worth noting that the XC90 is now exclusively all-wheel-drive. While this improves road-holding and wet weather traction, it has had a detrimental effect on fuel economy. It’s also pushed the price up significantly, with base models now starting at just over $57,000. At the other end of the scale, you could pay $85,000 if you fancy a Recharge hybrid in Ultimate trim with air suspension. If the budget allows, the latter is a fine upgrade, turning an already comfortable car into a true wafter.

Keeping trim. Another change for the 2023 model year is the rebranding of the three-model range into Core, Plus and Ultimate trims. The former should be sufficient for most buyers – it offers a power liftgate and synthetic leather alongside the same nine-inch portrait touchscreen fitted to every XC90.

If you have an extra $4,000, you can move up to mid-range Plus with its heated steering wheel, leather and wood accouterments, and surround-view camera system. Ultimate models are significantly more expensive but you do benefit from massaging front seats and a head-up display, alongside a Harman Kardon sound system and 21-inch wheels that do the best job of filling those huge wheel arches.

2022 Volvo XC90 Interior

A model of understatement. Whichever model you choose, the XC90 remains curiously understated. It’s aged well for an older design, with a simple external shape whose lack of fussiness is very welcome. That air of discretion extends to the three engines, all of which go about their business with little drama.

For our money, the turbocharged two-liter base engine is underpowered; we’d favor the T8 plug-in hybrid, whose 455 hp combined output can take it to 60 in just five seconds. Yet even this prodigious performance feels unflustered in its delivery – it won’t rival a BMW X5 on a winding road, but it'll deliver you to your destination in greater comfort. Hybrid models have an electric-only range on the right side of 30 miles, and electric economy of almost 60 MPGe can be increased with a one-pedal driving mode.

The interior is equally understated, with soft hues that manage to stay the right side of monochromatic. This is a seven-seater, and clever design elements like thin (yet supportive) seating helps to maximize space. You can also replace the middle-row bench seating with two captain’s chairs on most models, while cargo space is adequate (if unremarkable) at 16 cubic feet with every seat in use.

Final thoughts. There’s a confidence to the XC90 that’s quite seductive. Volvo hasn’t felt the need to over-style the exterior, pretty up the cabin or offer garish trim options. Even eight years into its production run, this remains a supremely capable seven-seater SUV, standing out in a market packed with newer Far Eastern and European competitors. For our money, only Jaguar can assemble interiors to rival Volvo in this market – it’s hard to imagine passengers having a word of complaint about a journey in an XC90. And if you specifically want an all-electric vehicle, Volvo’s Polestar subsidiary has you covered.

As well as offering style in abundance, the big Volvo also scores highly on safety, standard equipment, refinement, and ride quality. Our complaints are limited to the increased buying and fueling costs resulting from the adoption of standard AWD, the rather underpowered base engine (which really struggles when fully loaded), and the fact its German rivals tend to out-handle it. Then again, what’s most important? Being able to follow the racing line around a tight bend without understeering, or being transported in comfort and style?

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