Since naming the XC90 the 2003 Sport/Utility of the Year, we've added a T5 to our fleet for long-term evaluation and testing. Opting for Volvo's Versatility Package ($1675) gave us a third row and movable, separate second-row seats. We also ordered our rig with AWD ($1750) to get us safely to and from our favorite Sierra winter resorts. The options raised the MSRP to a hefty $42,170, a price that could go up with the addition of the more powerful inline-six or a rear-seat entertainment system.

So far, the Crystal Green XC has seen duty as a beach shuttle during numerous holiday weekends, an airport taxi for out-of-town relatives, and a photographer-support vehicle for various road tests, such as our recent Truck of the Year evaluation (also in this issue). Our staff has found all sorts of ways to make the most of the XC's flexible interior, including collapsing all seats, except for the driver's, to load the flat floor with what seemed like half of Costco's inventory. The easiest way to carry seven adults is to slide the second row forward, allowing for more legroom in the third row.

A recent trip to a local off-highway- vehicle area proved that the Volvo's all-wheel-drive system doesn't mind getting dirty, although the suspension is on-pavement biased. With that said, we pushed the suspension during a few photo shoots, and our staff remained impressed with its off-camber agility.

The XC made its first trip to the dealer for a scheduled 7500-mile service ($165.50), but has been problem-free thus far. Big family trips are this vehicle's forte, and we plan to use that to our advantage.