2007 Volvo XC90 Sport
Sixth Place: Eight Tickets to Paradise
We're drawn to Volvo's SUV because it's not a traditional SUV. More like a big box of Swedish rye crisp on stilts. The XC90's V-8, built by Yamaha, produces 325 pound-feet of torque, the most in this group, and proved the perfect partner between 50 and 70 mph, where most passing is undertaken. Still, this V-8, like the Land Rover's, evinced the sort of thrashiness that is mutually exclusive to anything attached to a $50,000 sticker.
Speaking of which, this Volvo sported a paucity of features and amenities and never felt luxurious, although our test sample did arrive with the optional $595 blind-spot warning system, which clogged with ice and was thereafter useless.
The XC90 also took abuse for its vague steering, a driver's seat that couldn't be lowered far enough, and a back seat that forced the center rider to straddle the transmission hump while resting his boots atop the front seats' enormous inner rails.
What also hurt the Volvo was its behavior in snow, where a lack of low-range gearing, combined with its performance-biased 19-inch Pirelli tires, did damage to its cold-weather rep. When the tires lost grip, the stability control would cut the throttle and grab the brakes so aggressively that forward momentum was often nixed -- not good as we tried to bull our way through 16 inches of powder to the Buck Nekkid Camp. [ No, he did not make that up--Ed. ] What's more, the tires encouraged a high-frequency ride harshness we judged inappropriate to any SUV laying claim to luxury.
The XC90, however, did offer the greatest cargo capacity behind the middle seat, simple HVAC controls, and wipers worthy of an Atlantic trawler. Plus, there's a third-row seat that any child will love as long as he's the size of a bag of groceries.
This Volvo lacked the passion, refinement, and styling of the other tall wagon in the group -- the Cadillac -- and its gotta-have-it factor consequently sank like a sack of Swedish meatballs.