Downside: In a period of high fuel prices, some people may be tempted to short-circuit the XC90 V-8's good intentions by buying regular unleaded gasoline. Don't do it. The catalytic converter and other emissions control equipment on this one are expressly designed to work with premium unleaded fuel.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories. People who claim that SUVs have inherently bad handling have not driven this one, or any other performance-oriented sport-utility vehicle. All SUVs are not the same.
Head-turning quotient: Looks more like a station wagon than it does anything else. Volvo is staying away from the traditional, aggressive SUV stance with the XC90. That styling technique does not appeal to its customers.
Vehicle layout: The XC90 V-8 is a big all-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle with a crosswise-mounted front engine. It has four doors and a rear hatch.
Engines/transmissions: The XC90 is available in two engines and two transmissions. The 4.4-liter, 32-valve V-8 develops 311 horsepower at 5,850 revolutions per minute and 325 foot-pounds of torque at 3,900 rpm. That engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be shifted manually. A 2.5-liter, five-cylinder XC90 develops 208 hp at 5,000 rpm and 236 foot-pounds of torque between 1,500 and 4,500 rpm. It is mated to a five-speed automatic that also can be shifted manually.
Cargo and fuel capacities: There is seating for up to seven people. Maximum cargo capacity is 93.2 cubic feet with all passenger seats folded. But with all seats up, cargo capacity behind the third row is 8.8 cubic feet. The XC90 can be equipped to tow up to 5,000 pounds. The fuel tank holds 21.1 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.
Mileage: I averaged 20 miles per gallon.
Safety: Side and head air bags; traction and stability control; anti-rollover protection.
Price: Base price on the tested Volvo XC90 V-8 is $45,840. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $43,125. Price as tested is $49,955, including $3,420 in options and a $695 destination charge. Prices sourced from Volvo and Edmunds.com.
Purse-strings note: High-priced common sense. You want it all? Dig deeply into your pockets.