Volvo XC90 D5 PowerPulse AWD R-Design Pro
Despite being 5 years old now, the Volvo XC90 is aging tremendously well. It still looks fresh and modern, helped largely by the R-Design Pro’s athletic styling. The interior is one of the nicest of any ‘mainstream’ car currently on sale, and with seven seats it’s a practical place too. The D5 PowerPulse engine is a capable performer, yet remains economical. There isn’t anything to knock the Volvo XC90 on: it’s still the 7-seat SUV to beat.
It’s hard to believe that the ‘new’ Volvo XC90 has been around since 2014. Not least because it still looks fresh, and at home in the current Volvo line-up. It really is a credit to the design team.
The model you see in this review is the R-Design Pro, which is the sportiest-looking XC90 available. Park this next to another XC90 and there’s a noticeable difference.
Thor’s hammer LED daytime running lights create a silhouette that’s instantly recognisable as Volvo. Look a little closer and you’ll see the detail in the pixel-style full-led headlights.
At the front, a prominent bodykit extends the bumper to give a more imposing stance. Matt silver door mirrors are an R-Design tradition, while the ‘Pro’ model gets enormous 22-inch alloy wheels.
They more than fill the enormous arches of the Volvo XC90. That being said, and as much as they add kerb appeal, they are potential kerb magnets. Caution when parking is advised.
The bodykit continues down the side of the car, with wheel arch extenders and bold side skirts.
Privacy glass is nicely contrasted against a window surround that is finished in the same matt silver as the mirrors. Roof rails complete the matt silver colour coordination.
At the back, the bumper incorporates two large silver exhaust tips and a rear spoiler completes the sporty outfit.
Our test car was finished in dark, sophisticated Saville Grey. Should you wish to make a big visual impact, you could always choose the bright and bold Passion Red or Bursting Blue. The amount of subtlety is up to you.
Also standing the test of time is the cabin which, five years on, is still one of my all-time favourites. In terms of what I’d call ‘mainstream’ cars – the likes of Rolls Royce and Bentley excepted – you’ll do well to find a nicer cabin than the one in the Volvo XC90.
High-quality leather is in abundance. Our test car featured black leather with contrast stitching. Found on the seats, door cards, dashboard and centre console it creates a luxurious atmosphere.
Complementing the leather is a blend of mesh aluminium inlays and gloss black finisher. The variety of materials, textures and colours works harmoniously in the cabin. All plastics are soft touch, with no dodgy materials anywhere to be found.
Behind the perforated leather steering wheel sits a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. It’s nowhere near as customisable as an Audi Virtual Cockpit, but still looks nicer than traditional dials.
For the R-Design models, the Volvo XC90 features wonderful contoured sports seats. Heavily bolstered, they are as muscular as the exterior bodykit, enticing you to clamber in and get comfortable.
The centre console is reasonably minimalist. There is no switchgear to clutter it up. Instead, a 9.0-inch portrait infotainment system is a focal point. This looks really slick – like somebody embedded an iPad in the dashboard.
Other subtle, yet effective, touches include the engine on/off twist knob (instead of a simple button) and the drive mode crystal-pattern scroller.
There are several engines available in the Volvo XC90. All of them 2.0-litres in size, but a mixture of petrol and diesel, with a variety of power outputs. There’s even the T8 twin-engine plug-in hybrid.
Our test car featured the D5 PowerPulse diesel. Power output is a healthy 235PS and 480Nm of torque. The XC90 has an AWD system and 8-speed automatic gearbox.
Despite a reasonably-hefty 2,103kg kerb weight, this big SUV will dash from 0-62mph in 7.6 seconds and the top speed is 137mph. Rewind a few years, and these would be figures from a hot hatch, so there can be no complaints.
If I had to make one complaint, it would have to be the engine note. That’s true for all in the range actually, and is simply a by-product of the downsizing to 4-cylinder engines. The old Volvo 5-pots used to have such a charismatic warble. It was always going to be missed.
In truth, the engine noise isn’t that relevant, because in the cabin things are quiet and refined. The 8-speed automatic may not be DSG-level for slickness, but its changes are smooth. The 8 ratios allow for more eager acceleration, while keeping revs to a minimum when trundling along.
You needn’t worry about getting the power down either, because the AWD system ensures that none of the 235PS is ever wasted.
The XC90 R-Design Pro has an adaptive air suspension system. The ride height and handling characteristics can change depending on the drive mode selected.
In Comfort mode, the XC90 rises up to give more clearance and to allow the air suspension to do its thing. In Dynamic mode it hunkers down to minimise body roll.
You’ll be glad of the soft air suspension too, because those 22-inch wheels try their hardest to ruin the ride. With 275/35/22 tyres there isn’t a great deal of rubber between the wheels and the road, so you can certainly tell when you come across potholes and other large lumps and bumps.
For me, the XC90 R-Design Pro is just the right side of comfortable. Supple seats and the air suspension do enough to combat those low-profile tyres, although there is no doubt that the models with smaller wheels ride smoother.
The drive modes also affect the steering weight and throttle response. There isn’t a great deal of steering feel, but the weight in Dynamic mode is nice. The XC90 has an ‘Individual’ mode where you can customise the various settings for things like the suspension, steering, engine and air conditioning.
Ultimately, the Volvo XC90 is a composed cruiser. It can attack corners with vigour if you are so inclined, but this does not come naturally. There is a degree of lean and body roll, to be expected on such a large car.
One of the main reasons Volvo created the range of 2.0-litre engines was to improve economy across its model line-up.
Take the D5 PowerPulse in this particular XC90. It achieved 37.7mpg on the combined cycle under WLTP testing. These are achievable figures, and you can’t have any complaints for a 2.1-tonne, 7-seat SUV with AWD to be returning in the high 30s.
CO2 emissions, in NEDC-equivalent terms, are 156g/km. VED is £530 on vehicle registration, and £145 thereafter.
With a price starting far above £40,000 the VED surcharge applies, adding £320 for five years from the second time the vehicle is taxed.
Company car drivers may find the diesel isn’t the best option, with a BIK % of 39%. In this regard the T8 twin-engine hybrid will be more appealing – 49g/km equates to 16% BIK.
But in the real world the XC90 diesel may be more economical – the T8 isn’t really designed for those doing high mileage whereas the D5 is.
A host of economy-improving tech – from auto start/stop to ‘Eco’ drive mode – helps to make this big Volvo cost you less at the pumps.
And you shouldn’t be at the petrol station as often anyway. Thanks to a 71 litre fuel tank the XC90 D5 has a theoretical range of almost 600 miles.
If practicality is a big factor for you, then look no further than the Volvo XC90. The first generation was praised for being a great family car, and the second generation builds on this.
For starters, it has seven seats. And there is a ridiculous amount of space in just about every seat. Even the rear-most pair – the ones usually reserved for small children – are relatively spacious.
Although they wouldn’t be comfortable for a really long drive, I would have no issue sat there for a shorter drive. I’m not the tallest – 5ft7in to be precise – but the fact I fit in the back of the XC90 is a plus point.
Middle row and front seat passengers have acres of leg and head room, allowing them to sit in complete comfort for even the longest of journeys.
The downside to having so much space is that the XC90 is a pretty sizeable car. Coupled to those enormous 22-inch alloy wheels you have to pay close attention when parking. That being said the wing mirrors are big and can tilt in reverse to allow you to keep an eye on the kerb.
Quite often with seven-seat SUVs, the rearmost seats are where the boot should be. Not in the XC90. Even with all seats in use, the Volvo has a boot space of 314 litres. Fold the third row away and that rises to 692 litres.
The Volvo XC90 has plenty of cabin storage for kids’ toys and other bits and bobs. Air suspension allows for an ‘access height’ making it easier to clamber in and out of.
All the seat folding, sliding and other adjustment is effortless. Which is especially useful when the kids are kicking off and you have arms full of shopping bags.
The ‘90’ series cars in the Volvo range are the most luxurious. They also carry an especially-generous standard specification.
The multimedia offering is fronted by the 9-inch, portrait-oriented touch screen. It includes Sensus Navigation with European mapping, in case you fancy an especially long drive.
The Sensus Connect system allows you access to a host of apps and an internet browser, providing you have a mobile data sim installed. The XC90 can even book its own services at a Volvo retailer of your choice. Swish.
Safety is a significant part of Volvo’s reputation and brand association. All XC90s come as standard with City Safety, Pilot Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control, Oncoming Lane Mitigation and Run-off Road Protection.
City safety is the forward collision mitigation system with autonomous emergency braking. It has the ability to detect cyclists and large animals. Its ability to work even at junctions is a world first, showcasing Volvo’s ongoing commitment to leading the way in safety tech.
Pilot Assist is especially clever. It makes the XC90 semi-autonomous up to speeds of 80mph. The car will maintain a distance to the car in front, bringing you to a complete halt if necessary, and centre you in your lane. It just won’t change lanes for you.
Other standard equipment includes a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, power tailgate with hands-free opening, dual-zone climate control and heated front seats.
The R-Design model features mostly visual updates, with the body styling kit, contour sports seats and privacy glass. ‘Pro’ models get the air suspension, heated steering wheel and washer nozzles, head-up display and those enormous 22-inch alloys.
Options are available to bolster the standard specification, but in all honesty you don’t need any of them, the XC90 is perfectly adequate just as it is.
Value For Money
Being the biggest, most luxurious SUV in the Volvo line-up comes at a price. Not as high as you might expect though.
The XC90 T5 AWD Momentum is the cheapest model, at £52,235 on the road. Considering the standard equipment on offer across the range, you get a lot of car for your money even on the ‘entry level’ XC90.
But if you want that bit more kerb appeal, and wish to explore the sportier R-Design trim, you’ll pay a little bit more. T5 and T6 petrol engines offer up 250PS and 310PS respectively. The T5 is £59,785 and the T6 is £63,710.
It’s worth noting that the D5 we tested cost £58,735. However that engine is no longer available. In its place is the B5, which is essentially the same engine with added 48-Volt mild-hybrid technology. It retails at £60,835 on the road in R-Design Pro guise.
There are a few option packs and extra bits of equipment to enhance your XC90. One of the most impressive, and best value, is the Xenium Pack. Comprising Park Assist Pilot – which is automatic parallel and perpendicular parking – 360-degree parking camera with top-down view and a panoramic sunroof it costs a very reasonable £1,600.
If you want Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto, you’re looking at £300. If we were to be super critical, this should be standard.
To upgrade the sound quality a Harmon Kardon audio system is available for £850. Or if that simply won’t do there’s a Bowers & Wilkins system for £3,000.
But when all is said and done the Volvo XC90 is exceptional value for money. The level of craftsmanship is sublime. The technology is plentiful and current. Safety credentials are unrivalled. And, above all, it’s just a car you’d be thrilled to live with.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel|
|Max power||235PS at 4,000rpm|
|Max torque||480Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm|
|Drivetrain||8-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||71 litres|
|Fuel consumption||37.7 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||156 g/km NEDC equivalent|
|Towing capacity||2,700kg braked / 750kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||314 litres [7-seat] / 692 [5-seat]|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£65,460|