The Volvo XC90 is a smart-looking, spacious and safe SUV with a gorgeous interior, but the third row of seats is cramped and there’s no smooth six-cylinder diesel engine
If you’re after a luxurious seven-seater SUV that’s stylish inside and out, packed with safety technology and very practical then it’s well worth checking out the Volvo XC90 – a worthy alternative to the Land Rover Discovery Sport and the Audi Q7.
The XC90 betters these two for looks, thanks to details such as Volvo’s signature ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights and cute Swedish flags stitched into the oh-so-comfy heated front seats. There’s loads of room up front to stretch out, and you get one of the best minimalist dashboards out there, with a cool portrait-style infotainment screen on all models. Okay, it’s not quite as sharp or easy to use as the Audi Q7’s screen, but it’s packed with features such as Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring so you can use your phone’s media streaming and sat-nav apps on the XC90’s screen.
Your middle-row passengers also get plenty of creature comforts, as well as individual seats that recline and slide independently to keep all sizes happy. You’ll even fit three adults abreast in reasonable comfort. The most cramped part of the XC90, however, is the rearmost two seats. They’re only really roomy enough for kids, although adults won’t mind being back there for short trips.
With all seven seats in use, the XC90’s boot is easily capable of holding a big weekly shop. Flip the rear two seats down and you’re left with a five-seater SUV with easily enough room for a two-week family roadtrip. Fold the middle row of seats down too and you’re left which a huge space that’s just screaming out for a no-holds-barred Ikea trip.
The Volvo XC90 is one of Sweden's best exports along with Ikea and, er… herring
You don’t get the same flexibility with the engine choice – you can only get the XC90 with 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engines, so there’s no smooth six-cylinder option like you get in the Mercedes GLE, Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery. The Volvo’s D5 diesel model is your best bet if you do lots of long motorway journeys, while the smoother and quieter T6 petrol is a better bet if you spend more time in town.
There’s also a petrol-hybrid model, but don’t be fooled by its claimed 135mpg fuel economy – you’ll get more like 30mpg if you use the petrol engine regularly or get addicted to the sportscar-like acceleration. It is exempt from the London Congestion Charge, however, so you can save £11.50 per day if you drive in the Capital.
Whichever engine you go for, you’ll get a smooth-shifting – but slightly sluggish to respond – eight-speed automatic gearbox and Volvo’s four-wheel-drive system which will help you get out of a muddy car park – just don’t expect it to go as far off-road as a Land Rover Discovery. The Volvo isn’t as comfy on bumpy roads as the Discovery either thanks to a slightly firm suspension setup.
What you can expect the XC90 to do is keep you and your family safe. It got a five-star score in Euro NCAP’s 2015 tests. The tests are tougher now, but the Volvo’s huge range of active safety systems mean it’s still one of the safest – not to mention most practical and stylish – SUVs on sale.