I have never hidden my affection for Volvo. And I can honestly say that the car I have been most eager to drive this year is the XC90. I have heard nothing but good about it, and couldn’t wait to form my own opinion. By the time I had a space in the diary to test one, the R-Design had launched. Given that this is the trim I’d go for (once I’ve robbed a bank or won the lottery that is) it made sense to test it in this guise. Soon enough a rather nice XC90 was sat on my driveway and, after staring at it for a while, I thought it would be best to get out and drive it…
Looks – 10/10
After looking at the previous XC90 for 12 years, it was time for a change. And just look at the result. It’s breath-taking. It’s a big ol’ beast, make no mistake about it. Yet with R-Design styling it’s also sleek and poised. Up front you notice the ‘Thor’ LED daytime running lights, the vast grille and a sleek bonnet. The bumper is angular and echoes the running lights. As has always been the case, R-Design models get silver mirrors, and 20-inch two-tone alloy wheels are standard. At the rear, a subtle roof spoiler and twin exhausts pipes give some sporty character. The rear lights are somewhat reminiscent of the curves seen on an XC60. The XC90 is eye-catching with broad shoulders, and turns heads in a car park or parked up outside the local shops.
On the inside Volvo have used the highest quality materials to make the cabin a wonderful place to be. The R-Design has beautifully sculpted seats, with bucketed side bolsters and an adjustable knee cushion. The touchscreen infotainment unit looks like somebody has mounted an iPad in the dashboard; having a portrait oriented screen is just one way Volvo has stepped outside the norm. To start the engine you turn a knob as opposed to pushing a button, whilst drive mode is selected by a rolling wheel just below. The cabin is finished with a meshed aluminium, and even the plastics are textured and soft to the touch. The instrument cluster is a full TFT display, which is crisp and clear. The blue tint to the dials is typical R-Design, as is the chunky leather steering wheel.
There are a host of engines available with the XC90, and my test car had the 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder Power Pulse diesel. It’s an impressive unit, offering up 235PS and 480Nm of torque. This is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed automatic gearbox. 0-62mph is dealt with in 7.8 seconds and the top speed is 137mph. That’s not sluggish at all for a car with a kerb weight of just over 2-tonnes. The engine itself is smooth, which is uncharacteristic for a 4-cylinder unit. There’s always a burst of acceleration if you need it, but to cruise on the motorway the engine barely has to work at all. If you want some extra oomph there’s a 2.0-litre petrol unit producing 320PS, or a T8 hybrid (which I am due to test shortly) which has said 320PS petrol engine as well as an 87PS electric motor. But expect the D5 to be the most popular choice, with good reason.
For a large vehicle the XC90 rides well. Body roll is present but nowhere near the amount you would expect. My test car came with the optional Four Corner Electronic Air Suspension (£2,150) and this makes for a much more dynamic drive. In Power or Dynamic mode the car is lowered 20mm and optimised for handling, and yet in Comfort mode it feels like you are riding on a cloud. I think this is worth every penny, and makes the XC90 a very versatile car indeed. In Off-Road mode the car is raised by 40mm at low speeds, to make sure it can clear the necessary obstacles. Steering is direct, and there is plenty of stopping power. This is a very nice car to drive, and not just for motorway hauls; this can appease the keen drivers amongst us too.
For a large, 7-seat SUV I was rather impressed with the fuel consumption in the XC90. On a combined cycle, it will return 59.6mpg. That’s thanks to Volvo opting for 4-cylinder Drive-E engines to maintain power and performance whilst improving efficiency. With start/stop technology CO2 emissions are a respectable 149g/km, meaning road tax is £145 in the first and subsequent years. For me that’s plenty efficient, but if you want a bit more then check back here in a few months, when I’ll have reviewed the T8 hybrid model…
Practicality – 10/10
The XC90 is a 7-seat SUV, and as a 5ft7in adult I could actually sit in the rearmost seats. I’m not sure it would be the most comfortable on a long drive, but I did fit. For everyone else the cabin is spacious, and the boot vast. As you would expect it’s also a safe car. Every XC90 is fitted with City Safety as standard- including pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection as well as front collision warning with fully automated braking. It even works at junctions, which is a world first. The XC90 is also equipped with Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control. This can be activated up to speeds of 80mph on the motorway and is semi-autonomous; the car takes care of the steering, accelerator and brake inputs. You could drive across Europe in an XC90, and it is a really easy car to live with.
Fun – 10/10
There really is a lot to like about the XC90. It’s a looker, and the R-Design sporty touches make it especially easy on the eye. The drive is involving and engaging for the lucky person behind the wheel, and the gadgetry will keep you interested. I think it would take a year to figure out everything the XC90 is capable of. Options such as the premium sound by Bowers and Wilkins (£3,000) make any drive entertaining; with acoustics to replicate the Gothenburg Concert Hall. Apple CarPlay makes connecting and operating your iPhone effortless, and just as a general point the Sensus Connect system used by Volvo for multimedia is one of the best on the market. So from its looks to its stereo, the Volvo XC90 will make you smile.
After spending just a week with the Volvo XC90, it was difficult to hand it back. I had read great things about the car before, but getting up close and personal with it was even better. The previous XC90 was a success story; living on for 12 years. The new one is even better, and as family cars go is sheer perfection. Prices for the XC90 start at £46,850. The D5 R-Design starts at £50,450 but after a few option boxes ticked my test car came in at £58,100. That’s still a fair chunk less than the equivalent Range Rover Sport, and early indications suggest residual values will be good too. So for more information head over to your local dealer or visit the Volvo website. The Volvo XC90; safe, stylish, uncompromised.
Total score – 50/50