The XC90 delivers sporting muscle, tasteful design, luxury features, wonderful interior execution, and awesome load-carrying and passenger utility for a really good price. The 2.5T variant, particularly, nukes the value mark relative to other premium midsize sport/utility vehicles. (Later in 2003, Volvo promises a price-leader front-drive version of the 2.5T that should nestle in the mid-$30,000 range.) Even the more luxurious and pricey T6 model, fully equipped for about $45,000, is a strong value relative to like-equipped competition.

"A tremendously well-thought-out vehicle," wrote John Matthius, Motor Trend feature editor and television producer/ host, "and as much SUV as most buyers need."

Competition was fierce again this year. And no model, including the XC, dominated any area of our review. But in this strong and diverse field, the XC ran at the top of the pack throughout the weeks of evaluation, miles of asphalt, and stretches of roadless sand and rock.

Having arrived late to the SUV party, Volvo obviously has studied its competitors closely and now offers a winning combination of sporty fun, high style, practical space, and seating flexibility. And for that it deserves to be named Motor Trend's Sport/Utility of the Year.