Aside from cargo-hauling duties, the XC90's third-row seats got a workout, too. Adults can slide back there in a pinch, although the rearmost seats seem best suited to children. Luckily, the second-row seats can be slid forward to give the third-row occupants more legroom. Rear-seat air-conditioning controls also minimize griping. One editor noted that some sixth-grade kids he was chauffeuring around had difficulty figuring out the sequence of handles and tabs that need to be pulled and lifted to fold and flip forward the second-row seats to gain access to the back row.

The XC90 seemed at its best when used as a roomy luxury vehicle with extra storage capacity. The logbook filled up with praise for the vehicle's capable suspension (despite the Volvo's size and 4550-pound weight), luxury-car ride, and effective brakes.

The XC90 shares a number of its underpinnings and major components with Volvo's top-of-the-line S80 flagship sedan. Motor Trend tests showed that the XC90's 127-foot stopping distance from 60 mph was among the best in the SUV category. Volvo routinely uses soft brake-pad material to enhance stopping performance at the expense of wear; our XC90's front pads had to be replaced at just 15,815 miles, although more conservative drivers may see longer pad life.

The rest of our long-term XC90's service proved uneventful. Volvo rolls free routine maintenance into the price of the XC90, and although an overzealous service manager charged us $169.50 for the scheduled inspection, oil and filter change, and tire rotation at the 7500-mile service, that sum was later credited to cover the cost of replacing the front brake pads at the 15,000-mile service. Along the way, Volvo performed free updates to the vehicle to improve the functions of transmission-shift quality, headlamp washer pump, keyless-entry keyfob, infotainment system, tailgate cable, third-row seat catches, air-conditioning, and seatbelt guides.