Volvo introduced the XC90 back in 2003, and it was a near-instant favorite among luxury sport utility buyers. After more than a decade without significant changes, however, the XC90 was becoming aged. For 2016, the company has introduced a completely new version of the XC90 that jumps ahead of the curve with great styling, class-leading safety, and the kind of interior luxury that only masters of the crafts can build.

The exterior of the new 2016 XC90 is much more dominant than before, with a larger grille flanked by peering headlamps to stare down competitors in the parking lot. Body lines and a more contemporary shape give this new SUV a strong look without losing its immediate identification as a Volvo to those who intuitively know the Swedish make's style. It's a look whose facets are not as alluring individually as they are in sum.

On the inside, the 2016 XC90 has undergone a complete redesign as well, moving higher into luxury with beautifully-designed space adorned with excellent materials. Leather, wood and crystal glass (no kidding) come together in an elegant way despite the materials being quite ostentatious individually. Those familiar with the Volvo nuances in controls placement will feel right at home in the XC90 and those new to that will learn them quickly.

Dominating the dashboard space is the huge 9-inch touchscreen oriented like a vertical tablet. Most will be almost immediately familiar with its use thanks to that familiar appearance. Menu items are clear and easy to follow and responses from the system are fast and uncluttered. There are some quirks, though, such as the long nest of controls to wade through to find seat heating and a few of the more advanced navigation options. With time, these can all be learned.

Seating is very comfortable in the first and second rows. The usual Volvo options such as a built-in child booster (available by lifting the seat bottom in the rear, center seat to lock in a higher position) and dealer-added built-ins for four-legged friends are also there. In the second row, legroom and headroom are very good and the optional panoramic sunroof opens the top visually to give a more airy feel. The third row is good for children and small adults. It's roomier than many in this class.

Cargo space in the 2016 Volvo XC90 is accessible and large. With all rows up, there are about 15.8 cubic feet (447 liters) of capacity. This expands to a maximum of 85.7 cubic feet (2,427 liters) with the second and third rows folded. This is made all the more accessible thanks to the power tailgate (standard equipment) that opens with the wave of a foot under the bumper. The two-stage opening process means a flat loading floor from tail forward – no lip to maneuver items over.

Powering this big SUV is a surprisingly astute four-cylinder engine. The 2016 XC90 T6 sports a 2.0-liter supercharged four-cylinder that outputs 316 horsepower (236 kW) and 295 pound-feet (400 Nm) of torque. This runs through an eight-speed automatic transmission with all-wheel drive as standard. The EPA rates this configuration at 22 mpg combined (10.7 l/100km), with 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway (11.8 l/100km, 9.4 l/100km). In our week with the T6 model, we saw lower than those estimates at just over 20 mpg as an average. A plug-in hybrid model of the XC90 is coming soon for the 2016 model year.

Safety features are a big focus for Volvo in every model it makes, and the XC90 debuts two new safety systems that add forward-thinking mitigation to the SUV. One is a radar system enhancement that detects other vehicles moving through an intersection when the vehicle has stopped and is beginning to move forward again. The system detects cross-lane traffic, most notably oncoming vehicles that are turning into the XC90's lane, and applies the brakes automatically to avoid a collision.

The other feature is a more advanced lane-keeping system that adds torque to the steering wheel when the SUV's cameras detect an unintentional lane departure. This is a more active version of the usual lane-keeping found in many vehicles and is intended primarily to keep the XC90 and its occupants on the road.

Both of these features were in our test model and Gizmag found the former to be well-done and unobtrusive, activating only when real danger might be imminent. The lane-keeping, however, was a little overzealous at times, especially if you have a habit of crossing highway lines a bit in order to give plenty of room to a big rig or other vehicle you're passing. It was doing its job, we note.

The whole package offered by the 2016 Volvo XC90 comes together in a stylish, well-mannered, family-oriented drive. This SUV offers
top shelf safety (it is a Volvo, after all) in a good all-around package that is as comfortable on long road trips to grandma's as it is at the valet for the opera. Whether you sing "99 bottles of beer" or Wagner, the XC90 is definitely a top pick.

Product Page: 2016 XC90

View gallery - 18 images