2024 Volvo XC90 Recharge: Will It Dog?

The 2024 Volvo XC90 still looks good despite the design being about a decade old. The Recharge plug-in hybrid variant, which we tested, gets a little more power and should drive better than its predecessors but its pet-carrying performance applies even if you’re considering a used one.

Every time I drive a new Volvo, I have basically the same experience. First I think it’s pretty, then I gripe about how soft and numb it feels, and by the end of a road test and I’m singing its praises as a bastion of comfort. The XC90 Recharge is not a driver’s car, and it’s not quite as smooth as some of the Swedish automaker’s other offerings. But it’s super classy and the seats are very comfy. It is a decent dog hauler, but you can skip the OEM pet accessories.

Andrew P. Collins

Interior Materials and Layout

If you appreciate nice interior materials and cabin design, you’ve come to the right car. Volvo has been absolutely elite in designing car cockpits that look luxurious without being bawdy, sleek without being sterile, and comfortable without being fragile.

This is not my style personally—I prefer more flourishes, switches, and depth in a dashboard. But I can recognize an objectively exceptional design when I’m sitting in one and I definitely get that feeling inside the current XC90.

I tested a seven-seat variant, which has two thrones up front, a bench in the middle, and two smaller seats in the way back for kids or occasional designated driver duty. The second-row bench is really more like two bucket seats with an extra seat between—there are good bolsters for rear passengers on the left and right sides. Like most SUVs, it’s got four doors, an upwardly opening rear hatch, and a high roofline. The third row was displaced by a Volvo dog cage, which we’ll talk about later.

We typically carry Bramble in the second row of seating anyway, and this car’s proud center console and generous rear-seat legroom put a good amount of distance between the dog and the front seats.

Climbing In and Out

The XC90 seats and floor are not as intimidatingly tall as they are in some other trucks and SUVs, but it’s still a pretty decent jump to or from the ground. If your pet’s not athletic, you will be doing some lifting or carrying a ramp for them.

Our spry shepherd Bramble had to really use her springs, and it took a bit of coaxing to get her into the rear cargo area.

The second-row footwell is big enough for small to medium-sized dogs to clamber into without too much trouble, and from there they can scramble up to the passenger bench depending on your seat-cover setup.

Volvo Dog Accessories

Our test vehicle was equipped with an OEM dog kennel that looked like a Jurassic Park prop. It’s actually a combination of three accessories you can spec separately; a steel cargo divider that goes right behind the back seats, a cargo bay bisector that divides the rear area, and a lockable dog gate with a gas shock-supported door.

  • Dog Gate (P/N 31470139) MSRP $418.16
  • Protective Steel Grille (P/N 31470448) MSRP: $521.25
  • Load Compartment Divider—Longitudinal (P/N 32204732) MSRP: $437.62

It’s a decent setup for cargo management but a poor one for animal transportation. There’s no padding between the thick, unflexible steel bars and your animal. In a panic stop or sudden swerve, a dog riding back there would be thrown into hard metal. The cage design itself is also inadequate for animals. The grates are wide enough to fit a limb, or even a neck, through. That could easily lead to leg breakage if a paw protrudes or gets caught between the slats.

On top of all that, the welds, including very prominent ones right up front, looked like boogers. Just an all-around weak and un-Volvolike execution on this accessory—deeply disappointing, especially considering the list price.

I asked Volvo what the deal was and promised to print the company’s response, so here’s what I got from Thomas Broberg, Sr. Technical Advisor, Volvo Car Safety Center:

“Volvo Cars is and always will be about people and we of course understand the importance of their pets, which is why the Volvo Dog Cage accessory has been assessed and tested by the Volvo Cars Safety Center with the main objective to contain the dog both during travel and in case of a collision.

In the design of the Volvo Dog Cage, we define the space and comfort needed for medium- to large-size dogs.

Decades of data gathered from real-world crashes by our Accident Investigation Team provide us evidence that dogs are best protected when secured in cages located in the cargo area of an SUV or wagon.

During a crash—which is very rapid, over in less than a blink—a body moves as one entity, whereby the loads will be evenly distributed when stopped by a distributing surface such as the sides of the dog cage.

This also helps protect other passengers from a potential impact by a loose dog and emergency responders from a stressed dog trying to protect itself or its family post-crash.”

Bramble’s contract now states she gets one picture without the car if she’s good on our photoshoot day. Andrew P. Collins

I don’t see how the sides of that cage could be considered a “distributing surface,” the bars are thin and widely spaced. I can’t say I have “decades of data” on the subject, but I’ve never seen a dog kennel that you could reach a paw through and would strongly recommend running a quality, better-enclosed unit like the inflatable Diggs kennel we use in testing or something like a Gunner kennel if you want something hard-sided. 

Driving With the Dog

A few things stood out while I was doing dog-taxi duty with this XC90. The depth of the rear seats and their distance from the fronts kept Bramble from wanting to climb ahead into the flight deck, er, driver’s area, which I liked. The rear windows roll all the way down, another plus for sticking snouts into the wind (at low speeds only, of course). This Ultimate model also has retractable rear-window sunshades, which are excellent on longer trips to keep a pet (or human passenger) from getting too much direct sunlight.

The vehicle’s interior height also retained good rear visibility while a lot of fluff was flying around the back seat. I could typically see right over my canine passenger and out the back window.

The seat bolsters weren’t quite enough to keep Bramble in place, though they looked like they might. Cars with really deep butt wells in their back seats do a nice job giving a dog a natural place to park, but the rear bench didn’t quite seem to have that effect here.

Ride is good, but, maybe not categorically excellent. There’s a little more stiffness than I expected over things like speed bumps and road corrugations, which I noticed a few other reviewers have also complained about in XC90s equipped with the $1,800 air suspension package my test car had.

It’s almost like the car vibrated a little longer than I would have expected after rolling over something rough. Definitely not a dealbreaker, however, and if Bramble noticed, she didn’t bark about it.

Driving in General

This is not a car one would drive for pleasure, but it is pleasant to drive. The supremely comfortable seats are lovely and the steering wheel wrap feels great. This test car also had a $1,700 Lounge Package that unlocks a backrest massage feature and Nubuck headliner.

Andrew P. Collins

The Ultimate trim level includes a nice head-up display, high-rez 360-degree parking cameras, a nicely dressed (Volvo calls it “tailored”) dashboard, and of course an Orrefors crystal shifter that Volvo loves to put in its high-end models.

The turbocharged four-cylinder and electric motor claim 455 horsepower and 523 lb-ft of torque when working together. Even in an all-wheel-drive vehicle weighing north of 5,000 pounds, power is more than adequate to scoot up to highway speed.

You can run the car in electric-only mode if you like, for about 30 miles, but that drops you down to 143 hp. It’s viable for parking-lot maneuvering and maybe for sneaking through your neighborhood. But if you’re plunking down this kind of coin for a luxury car, I doubt you’re the type to tolerate sluggish performance on your way to work to save a little gas. In other words, even if all your errands are within the XC90 Recharge’s electric-only range, don’t count on using it as a full EV too often.

Pack Hauling—Multiple Dogs On Board

Unfortunately, we were not able to load the pack into the XC90 while we had it, but you could carry four large grown male Golden Retrievers in this if you only had two humans on board. You could even fit two Newfoundlands, one in the rear and one in the second row.

The roof is high, the back seat has a lot of legroom, and the cargo area’s deep with the third row dropped. That gives you a lot of room for pooches if you’re not using a crate or kennel.

Carrying Kennels

While I already complained about the Volvo-branded dog gate, there is still plenty of room to fit medium-sized kennels in the XC90 when you don’t have metal bars taking up most of your cargo area.

Our medium-sized inflatable kennel was easy to get into the second row with just a touch of deflation but was a little tougher to squeeze into the back with the bisecting metal piece. Again, that’s a simple bolt-in accessory you could simply not order.

Andrew P. Collins

The third-row seats (when there’s no metal cargo structure on top of them) can be stowed separately, so certain kennels might even fit next to a seat giving you carrying capacity for six people and one well-secured dog.

Volvo XC90 Dog-Friendliness Verdict

The 2024 Volvo XC90 has comfort and spaciousness, two key elements for dogworthiness. There’s also a robustness to its interior materials that makes me feel confident it’d take more than an errant claw to mar a seat or console.

Andrew P. Collins

The main detractor is the vehicle’s height. It’s not the tallest SUV on the road, but it’s still a much bigger leap in or out than it’d be for a wagon.

Still, cruising around at a low speed in electric mode with the windows open is very pleasant for pooches. And once you let the gas-powered turbo engine into the mix, the ride is mostly pretty pleasant up front too. Just don’t waste your time with the Volvo dog gate.

2024 Volvo XC90 Specs for Dog Owners
Base Price (as tested)$76,600 ($89,145)
Seating Capacity (people)7
Seating Capacity (dogs)4 decent-sized ones
EPA Fuel Economy27 mpg combined | 58 mpge with electricity + gas
Cargo Volume15.8 cubic feet behind third row | 41.8 cu. ft. behind second row | 85.7 cu. ft. behind first row
Quick TakeStill feels refined among modern SUVs, especially when driven gently.
Will It Dog Score7.5/10
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