The 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge Was a Serene Escape From Stress and Struggle

Life has a funny way of presenting things as you need them. Call it karma, link it to religion, or blame it on my Libra’s moon being in Virgo (or whatever you say with horoscopes). The 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge showed up at my house based on the schedule of loans I’d made a month prior, but it ended up being just the car for my life that week.

To the surprise of dozens, I do indeed have a day job. This whole reviewing gig isn’t at bill-paying levels (yet) and as of writing, Chase Bank doesn’t accept payments in Instagram views. I lead teams of people who implement software for clients that hire us; a sort of air traffic controller for whatever project I’m on. Some projects are nice and easy, others are… challenging.

This one’s been tough, for a variety of reasons. And as air traffic control, it was on me to work with our market’s senior leadership to share what was going on and figure out how to resolve it all. The “hey, this thing’s entirely off the rails” conversation is, naturally, a hard one to have. It’s even harder when it involves a few of your own people.

Between the struggles and the basic requirement to just get through my work days, I was having a really rough week. I sent an invite for an in-person meeting, typed up an email with that ran nearly three pages in length, and steeled myself for a conversation I didn’t really want to have, that needed to happen.

As is the case for many of us, driving is a temporary escape from the world, a bit of solitude among the noise. Sports cars and personality-laden SUVs have their place, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I wasn’t having a Corvette week. I wasn’t having a Bronco week. I just needed a comfortable, serene place to escape from the world. In that sense, the XC90 Recharge delivered in spades.

The Basics of the 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge

Volvo first released this generation of XC90 for the 2016 model year after showing the design about a year prior. It’s aging, but gracefully; proof that clean lines go a long way in keeping a design timeless. Volvo’s made updates over the years, of course, but the basic vehicle is what it is. And I don’t know how I’d change it, really.

My 2024 XC90 Recharge was a fully-loaded Ultimate trim, with other packages added to make it doubly ultimate. Being a Recharge, power came from the same plug-in hybrid setup as I experienced in the Volvo XC60 Recharge last year. Starting with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four driving the front wheels, Volvo adds an 18.8 kWh battery and electric motor on the rear axle. The electric motor is strong enough to do its own thing, or both will work in tandem when full power is requested or the battery is depleted.

Using solely electricity, the XC90 Recharge is motivated by 143 horsepower and 228 lb-ft of torque. It’s enough for city driving and steady-state highway driving, but will feel tapped out when merging or passing. Burying the throttle in the kickdown or using either Power or Hybrid drive modes will result in that gas engine and its eight-speed automatic joining the party. In that case, total output jumps to 455 horsepower and 523 lb-ft.

Choosing that Ultimate trim adds extra comfort in the form of laminated side window glass and power-operated thigh bolsters and side bolsters for both front seats. My tester also featured the Lounge package, adding massagers to those front seats. The Ultimate’s Harman/Kardon sound system was eschewed for the $3,200 Bowers & Wilkins premium system, and regular steel springs were replaced by the $1,800 air suspension with adaptive dampers.

The sticker price wasn’t cheap, at $87,495, but despite the XC90’s general age, it still feels competitive where it’s priced.

Serenity Now

Being a plug-in hybrid, I took advantage of Level 2 charging where I could. The battery is good for about 35 miles on a charge in ideal conditions and I did drive most of my week on battery power alone. Washington, DC is not the best city for charging (right now) but there are street-side chargers near my apartment and near the one gym I frequent. Why not top off for pennies?

Keeping the battery charged was worth it. You don’t realize how chaotic combustion engines can be until you take the noise and vibration away, and operating on electricity only was a treat. When the combustion power was added in, it transitioned to hybrid operation seamlessly and quietly. Only at most- or full-throttle did I notice the turbo four churning away, but even then, it wasn’t particularly obtrusive.

The excellent drivetrain paired to a cabin quieter than an awkward Teams call and front seats more supportive than even the best of leadership. Ride quality was generally good, despite the huge 21-inch wheels and tiny tires, a benefit of the air suspension and adaptive dampers working behind the scenes to manage the outside world against the big Volvo’s 5,100 pounds.

Volvo Vibes Validate, not Vilify

Toward the end of my week with the XC90 Recharge, it was time to head in to the office and have that hard conversation. Despite laying out the current problems, how I believed each had developed, and offering solutions to avoid this whole mess happening again, I was still in a lousy mood – a mix of stressed and upset and general invalidation.

I put on a nice shirt, walked out to the Volvo and sank in to the chocolate brown leather seat. Turning the weird start/stop knob brought the welcome chime and… complete silence. Foot on the brake, click the Orrefors crystal shifter to Drive, and ease on out of the neighborhood. I hit the seat massager controls, because they were there, and as I made my way out of the city I felt more and more ready to say what should’ve been said months prior.

A few miles clicked by, electric driving gave way to hybrid operation, and I finally turned on some music. Using the XC90’s infotainment reveals the sole complaint I have with the car, in that the center screen needs higher pixel density. It doesn’t need to be bigger, but higher density would make it sharper and feel more modern. The Google-based software powering the whole car is otherwise fine.

That Bowers & Wilkins audio, while still not my absolute favorite in “super expensive car audio solutions,” is right up there in its quality. I like it far more here in the XC90 than I did in last year’s XC60 Recharge. Blame the cabin shape and location or number of speakers. In any case, I started with some more relaxing music and worked my way up to bangers like Gaslighter by The Chicks, rolling in to the parking garage with the B&W system at full tilt in full “conquer the world” mode.

I parked, locked the doors with Volvo’s signature little “eep” sound, and proceeded to have a few remarkably productive meetings with people who – thankfully – heard me and heard the team.

At the end of the day, I got back in the XC90 Recharge, turned the start/stop knob once more, and exhaled fully for the first time in a while.

Final Thoughts

I know you can play loud music and find some inner peace in just about any car. But I’m such a fan of vehicles that have one singular focus and execute on it so perfectly, and the 2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge is on that list. Abundance is luxury and in this case, the XC90 delivers in its abundance of torque, sound deadening, ride quality, audio clarity, and seat comfort.

The third row seat is kinda small. That infotainment screen could look a little newer. Otherwise, though, the 2024 XC90 Recharge stands strong in a segment that is constantly evolving and innovating. I know it’ll be time for a new model soon enough – perhaps to stand next to the electric EX90 – and I hope Volvo doesn’t lose sight of what’s made this one so compelling.

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