Volvo XC90

Class-leading premium SUV with room for seven adults

9.0
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 13 reviews
  • Smart exterior
  • Luxurious interior
  • Seven full-sized seats
  • Uncomfortable ride on bigger wheels
  • Engines lack rivals' smoothness
  • Size might intimidate some
 

£47,350 - £64,555 Price range

 

7 Seats

 

35 - 134 MPG

Review

With competition from the likes of the BMW X5, Range Rover and new Audi Q7, the latest version of the Volvo XC90 has quite a challenge to convince well-healed SUV owners that it is the car for them.

Thankfully it comes well armed to do just that. In terms of luxury appeal, the Volvo gets extremely close to the wow factor offered by a Range Rover.

Possibly the single most impressive part of the new car is its interior. The most obvious feature is the huge touchscreen infotainment system that features a ‘portrait’ display rather the ‘landscape’ setup fitted to most rivals. The dashboard has very few conventional buttons – high-quality trims and soft-touch plastics being left in their place. Families will also be happy to hear the new model comes with seven full-sized seats.

Volvo has fitted the XC90 with a range of four-cylinder engine that aren’t as smooth as the six and eight-cylinder units offered with rivals. They are relatively frugal on fuel, though, something that is well demonstrated by the D5 diesel, which is quick, but also significantly more economical than the diesel fitted to the old XC90. Buyers looking for more performance are catered for by the clever T8 Twin Engine, which combines a turbocharged petrol engine with an electric motor for high fuel economy and low CO2 emissions.

Safety is one of the core appeals of any Volvo and the XC90 features new technology that will in time filter down to the rest of the range. That includes a side-on automatic emergency braking system and a system that can help you maintain control if the car inadvertently drifts on to the motorway siding.

Equipment levels are strong even on basic models, so all cars come with a leather interior and satellite navigation, but a lack of front parking sensors on such a large (and expensive) SUV is hard to forgive. Adaptive dampers, a premium sound system and active cruise control are all on the options list.

Aside from an excellent safety record, Volvo’s real unique selling point is comfort.

Picking up the baton and running with it, the new XC90 seamlessly walks the line of Swedish good taste and luxury with none of the flashy touches of the German and (dare we say) British luxury SUVs.

Simplicity is key here and a huge 9.0-inch touchscreen lets Volvo serve up a dashboard that’s intuitive to use – with just eight buttons – and made from high-quality materials. Even basic Momentum trim comes with leather seats and metal inlays, but high-end models get treated to softer Nappa leather and bare wood trims.

Volvo XC90 passenger space

One thing that made the old XC90 a family favourite was the fact it provided seven seats. The new version keeps this feature but now all the seats can comfortably accommodate adults. They are some of the best in the business, too – critics say they’re ergonomically friendly with support in all the right places and none of the pointless love-handle clamping nonsense you’ll get in an M-Sport BMW X5

Volvo XC90 boot space

Even with all the seats up, the Volvo offers 451 litres of luggage space – a figure that will make many an MPV weep. Stick all the seats down and the resulting 1,951 litre boot will leave some vans feeling sheepish and the flat load bay makes it easily to slide things in the back. Unlike in some rivals, opting for the hybrid T8 model doesn’t affect boot space.

It’s clear that the majority of XC90s sold will spend their lives on the roads. One reviewer even said of the car’s launch: “During an entire two-day spiel and through all the data and info that Volvo threw at us, not once did it bring up the subject of going off-road.” Instead, Volvo has focused on comfort.

Reviews report that the optional air suspension system isolates the interior well, highlighting only the odd imperfection in the road. The more conventional standard steel-spring setup is arguably even better with one journalist saying “it [the XC90] rides poor surfaces with control and aplomb”. The car’s significant 2,030kg weight no doubt helps hammer out any bumps that have the audacity to threaten the interior’s serenity.

Reviewers say noise is kept to a bare minimum (once up to speed at least) making the new XC90 a consummate mile muncher, much like the model it replaces. Its four-cylinder engines lack the silky-smooth soundtrack of the six-cylinder units fitted to the likes of the BMW X5, but it’s a very minor flaw and it is said to be barely audible at a cruise.

Unlike the old model, the new car’s sophisticated double-wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup means it can tackle corners confidently and with minimal body lean. For the ultimate comfort, reviewers recommend giving the 21-inch wheels a miss.

Nothing highlighted the old Volvo XC90’s age quite like its 2.4-litre diesel engine. It received significant improvements throughout the model’s life, but none masked how much fuel it drank and its relatively ponderous pace in the face of six- and eight-cylinder diesel rivals.

Volvo XC90 diesel engines

Volvo’s stuck to its guns on the four-cylinder front, but the new engine produces 222hp compared to the old model’s 200hp. Out goes the old six-speed automatic gearbox and in comes a high-tech (and standard-fit) eight-speed unit that means there’s a perfect gear for all road speeds. The ‘box feeds torque to the standard-fit all-wheel-drive system.

Stamp on the accelerator pedal and it seamlessly shuffles down the gears punting the XC90 from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds – roughly two seconds quicker than the outgoing car could manage and within touching distance of the much sportier Porsche Cayenne diesel. The XC90’s not only quick, but also effortless and sprinting into the middle lane from a red is easy thanks to the car’s quick-shifting gearbox and dependable traction of its four-wheel drive system.

Although the performance improvements are most welcome, it’s fuel economy that will matter to most and big strides have been made in this department. While the old model claimed 34.3mpg, this new car nudges 50mpg and with CO2 emissions of 149g/km costs £140 a year to tax.

Volvo XC90 hybrid engine

While the D5 is set to be the most popular XC90 in the UK it’s the T8 that is the most interesting proposition and one we’ve yet to sample for ourselves.

It’s 2.0-litre petrol engine is small for a car like this, but to compensate it is boosted by a supercharger (for low down grunt) and a turbocharger that ups performance at the top end, meanwhile a powerful electric motor turns the back wheels (thus achieving four-wheel drive) and its batteries are housed in the centre tunnel that hosts the propshaft in conventional models. The combined result is 406hp, an impressively rapid 0-62mph time of 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 140mph.

Despite having one of the most complex powertrains currently on sale, the XC90 propels its self smoothly, with no jerkiness as the car switches from petrol to electric power. The only complaint is that it can sound a little strained in a way that rivals with six or eight cylinders never do.

It will be nigh on impossible to get the 134.5mpg fuel economy that Volvo claims for the T8, but its free-to-tax status (thanks to CO2 emissions of 49g/km) is sure to appeal. What is likely to hold even more sway, and something that made the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV so irresistible to many, is the XC90’s ability to travel up to 27 miles on battery power alone – meaning short morning commutes cost pennies and the car’s energy supplies can be replenished straight from the plug, before the journey home. The T8 in Momentum trim (being priced under £60,000) is also eligible for the Government’s £2,500 grant.

Volvo XC90 Petrol engines

With the performance and cheap running costs of the D5 and T8, it’s hard to imagine many people opting for the T6 petrol. It costs a few thousands pounds more than the diesel and, although it is slightly quicker (0-62mph takes 6.1 seconds), most will be put off by fuel economy of just 35.3mpg and an annual tax bill of £225 resulting from relatively high CO2 emissions of 179g/km. It’s also noisier on the motorway than the diesel model.

Volvo XC90 towing capacity

Those looking to tow are well catered for because the D5 XC90 can haul 2,400kg, though that’s some way short of the 3500kg the Land Rover Discovery can manage.

Volvo has built a reputation for safety that few can equal. Not content with mere NCAP scores (although this XC90 scored five stars in Euro NCAP tests in 2015), the company set about building its own world-leading Safety Centre in Gothenburg that allows for a wider range of test conditions than NCAP can recreate. It comes as no surprise, then, that the XC90 was named the safest large off-roader of 2015 by Euro NCAP. 

“The world’s safest SUV” features the latest automatic braking system, which not only guards against front-end shunts but also side-on collisions. It applies full braking power if it senses the car crossing the path of another vehicle.

Radar and infrared sensors mean the XC90 can guard against everything from driver drowsiness to rear-end smashes, absent-minded lane departure, and low-speed traffic shunts. Strangely though, active cruise control, lane assist and rear collision alert are included as part of a £1,500 pack, rather than being standard.

With an entry-level sticker price of about £46,000, the Volvo XC90 D5 costs about the same as a BMW X5 25d, but is quicker and should cost no more to run.

The huge popularity of the old XC90, not to mention Volvo’s relentless PR drive, means there will be a queue of Volvo fans itching to get their hands on the new model. The result? Expect residual values of about 50 per cent over three-years/36,000 miles – we’ll have a confirmed figure in the coming months.

All cars get seven seats and leather upholstery. Kit levels available on the XC90 will be generous, though, and available equipment includes items such as four-zone climate control, auto park, and a 19-speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system.

Volvo XC90 R-Design

In the old Volvo XC90 R-Design proved a popular trim level and it is likely to remain a favourite in the new model. Thanks to 20-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, a gloss-mesh grille and integrated exhaust pipes it makes the XC90 look sportier, while inside there’s a premium leather interior and metal trim inlays.

For a full breakdown of the options on the Volvo XC90, check out our review of its equipment list.

Conclusion

It has been close to 12 years in the making, but the XC90 really has been worth the wait, as its impressive aggregate wowscore attests.

Rather than follow the crowd, Volvo has forged its own road with quite brilliant results. The new XC90 is subtly good looking on the outside and beautifully put together on the inside. It can whisk seven passengers (and a decent amount of luggage) across huge distances with ease – and with fewer fuel stops than the old model ever could dream of.

If this is the first glimpse into Volvo’s future, then we really like what we see.

Looking for great Volvo XC90 offers?

On carwow you can easily compare the best new car offers from local and national dealers. Get a great Volvo XC90 deal without any of the usual hassle!

Compare XC90 offers Save on average £3,900