The XC90 is a fairly comfortable cruiser, providing you avoid the optional 22-inch alloy wheels
You can get the XC90 with three four-cylinder engines – a petrol, a diesel and a hybrid.
The D5 diesel is the best all-rounder. Volvo claims it’ll return 48mpg but, in the real world, you’ll achieve around 35mpg. It’s powerful enough to cruise happily at speed but it’s neither more efficient, nor any quieter than the more powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel offered in the Audi Q7.
The 2.0-litre T6 petrol is a sprightlier performer than the diesel, but it costs more and has higher running costs. Volvo claims it’ll return 35mpg but you’ll more likely see a figure in the high twenties. It’s smoother and grumbles less than the diesel when you accelerate hard, but it’s noticeably thirstier at motorway speeds.
The petrol hybrid T8 costs significantly more than either the D5 or T6 models but it offers a more tempting blend of performance and economy. It uses both a 2.0-litre petrol engine – boosted by a turbo and a supercharger – and an electric motor to deliver an impressive 407hp and claimed fuel economy of 134.5mpg. You’ll have to drive with the patience of a saint to get anywhere near half this rather optimistic figure, however, but it is exempt from paying London’s Congestion Charge – food for thought if you commute into London.
You don’t feel like you’re rolling about on a rough sea like you do in some SUVs, but its suspension feels slightly firm
Go easy on the accelerator and the T8 will travel in near-silent electric-only mode for as many as 27 miles before its batteries need to be recharged – ideal if you live a short distance from work.
All models come with four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox as standard. As a result, the XC90 is quite happy to tackle a spot of light off-roading but it’ll get quickly left behind by a Land Rover Discovery when the going gets tough.
Despite its size, the XC90 is relatively easy to drive around town. Its raised driving position and large windows offer good visibility and the blind spots caused by the door pillars are less significant than in some equally large SUVs.
The optional £700 360-degree camera will help you thread it through tight spaces and width restrictors without worrying about scratching the paintwork or scraping a wheel. For complete peace of mind, pick the £325 park assist system – it’ll automatically steer you into parallel and bay parking spaces.
Unfortunately, there’s noticeably more wind and tyre noise in the XC90 at speed than you’ll get in an Audi Q7 and it doesn’t iron out bumps quite as comfortable as its German counterpart. The £2,150 air suspension improves things a little but it’ll still fidget slightly over rough roads and bounce across big potholes – especially if you pick the optional £1,000 22-inch alloy wheels.
On twisty country roads the XC90 has plenty of grip and doesn’t lean excessively, even through tight corners. It’s no sportscar, but hybrid T8 are surprisingly quick and far more fun on an empty backroad than the floaty Land Rover Discovery.
The XC90 received a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in 2015. Testing procedures have been made significantly stricter since then but the Volvo’s vast array of active safety features mean it’ll still be one of the safest cars on sale. Alongside active cruise control, automatic emergency city braking and lane-keeping assist it comes with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection and is even offered with a Pilot Assist system than can drive the car autonomously for brief periods.