REVIEW – Volvo XC90 B5 Diesel R-Design

Volvo XC90 2.0 B5 Diesel AWD R-Design
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money


Although this generation Volvo XC90 has been around for 6 years, it’s still our stand-out choice in the 7-seat premium SUV segment. It is stylish both inside and out. A range of engines – including both mild and plug-in hybrids – blend performance and efficiency. But what really makes the XC90 stand out is how easy it is to live with. There are 7 usable seats, a cavernous boot, and heaps of tech. This is the only car you need.

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Exterior Styling

It’s hard to believe that the latest generation Volvo XC90 has been around since 2014. You’d hardly know by looking at it, that’s for sure. It still looks right at home at the head of the current Volvo line-up.

It has had a few visual tweaks along the way. The R-Design trim you see here now has gloss black door mirrors, roof rails and window surrounds, replacing the matt silver of old. It’s just a shame Volvo left the front grill silver; having this in gloss black would have completed the theme.

The Volvo XC90 embraces the big, boxy shape that lends itself to being a good 7-seat SUV. The result is a car that has a sizeable presence, filling other motorists’ rear-view mirrors. And with signature Thor hammer LED daytime running lights, there’s no mistaking that this is a Volvo.

The R-Design model has 20-inch alloy wheels as standard, with a larger 22-inch option available. Both are a new design and feature a two-tone silver and black colour combination. Despite the Volvo XC90’s size, even the 20-inch alloys fill the arches well.

At the back, the Volvo XC90 R-Design is defined by a not-so-subtle roof spoiler and twin chrome tailpipes nestled into the rear bumper, which also features gloss black accenting. The tail lights also have a distinct shape; especially when illuminated.

Interior Finish

Little has changed inside the Volvo XC90. But, if truth be told, little needed to. It remains one of our all-time favourite places to be. It’s not the most glitzy or glamourous cabin – that can be left to the likes of the Mercedes-Benz GLE – but it is luxurious, and elegant.

The R-Design model gets sumptuous bucket seats, with ample side and leg bolstering. There’s even an adjustable knee cushion, enabling you to find the perfect driving position. As standard they are finished in half Nappa leather and Nubuck, but our test car had the optional full Nappa leather trim.

Personally we prefer the standard trim; the Nubuck adds a sense of sportiness which is perfect for the R-Design, and the extra leather isn’t needed on the seats due to its extensive use throughout the cabin.

From the dashboard and door cards to the centre console and arm rest, there is an abundance of fine leather with contrast stitching. Coupled to some high-quality plastics and aluminium mesh inlays, there is a perfect blend of colour and texture in the Volvo XC90. It is simple design, executed masterfully.

There are few physical buttons, with the majority of functions being accessible through the portrait-oriented 9-inch touchscreen display. This creates a clean centre console, without the need for a hundred different buttons cluttering things up.

Keeping with the digital theme, the Volvo XC90 comes as standard with a digital instrument cluster. It may not be as sophisticated as a Virtual Cockpit, but does allow for some customisation in terms of theming/colours.


Volvo is a company committed to sustainable motoring through reducing carbon emissions. But it is also a premium brand and, as such, customers expect a certain level of power and performance. It may sound like those two things are different ends of the spectrum, but Volvo has somehow managed it.

Take the Volvo XC90 we tested – the B5 Diesel – which has a 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel unit. That may not sound a lot for a large 7-seat SUV, but power of 235PS and torque of 480Nm is not unreasonable.

Despite a considerable frame the Volvo XC90 is actually quite slender at 2,103kg. That’s some 150kg lighter than the Mercedes-Benz GLE 400d. This, and an 8-speed automatic gearbox, allows for a 0-62mph dash of 7.6 seconds and a top speed of 137mph.

Considering that’s only a second slower than hot hatches like the Ford Fiesta ST, there’s just enough performance to keep you happy.

The B5 Diesel has 48V mild hybrid assistance, but you don’t really notice much difference in performance terms. That being said, this is one of the more pleasant 4-cylinder diesel engines. It is smooth even as you climb past 3,000rpm.

The Volvo XC90 is also well-insulated, such that engine noise never really intrudes in the cabin. That makes the Volvo an excellent motorway cruiser; eating up mile after mile with little care in the world.

Other engines are available. There’s the B5 Petrol, with 250PS. Then there’s the B6 Petrol, with 300PS. The T8 twin-engine hybrid – with 303PS petrol engine and 87PS electric motor – tops the range.


We were pleasantly surprised with how the Volvo XC90 handled. With such a large frame the expectation is a significant amount of lean and unnerving weight transfer in the corners. Whilst the lean is there to some degree, it’s not nearly as bad as we’d expected.

That’s even more impressive because our XC90 came with the standard suspension setup, and it is remarkably well-balanced. On the motorway, it is supple and relaxing; cruising over bumps in the road with a shrug of the shoulders.

And yet, on an undulating B-Road, the XC90 controls its bulk enough to be composed and give you the confidence to push on. The standard 20-inch wheels have sufficient depth of tyre on them to aid this composure.

If you go for the optional 22-inch alloys, then you’ll most likely want the Active Four-C Chassis too. The four-corner adaptive damping system with electronic air suspension alters the ride height and damping depending on the drive mode and road conditions. It is therefore softer in Comfort mode, and firmer in Dynamic mode.

Steering dynamics also change with different drive modes. Although lacking in feel, the heavier setting does have a nice weight to it.

Braking power is sufficient to pull the XC90 up in a hurry if need be. With the B5 Diesel having a 48-Volt mild hybrid system, there is a degree of regenerative braking to help keep the battery topped up. It’s certainly not an intrusive system; you barely even notice it after a short while.


The B5 Diesel is an engine designed with efficiency in mind. First came the D5, which dropped one of its five cylinders in a bid to improve fuel consumption. The D5 has now become the B5, adding a 48-Volt mild hybrid system to the equation.

On paper, the economy figures are respectable for a car this size. On the combined WLTP cycle the XC90 claims 37.7mpg. No complaints there.

CO2 emissions are 154g/km when converted to NEDC-equivalent figures. That means that VED is £530 when purchasing the vehicle. It would be £145 thereafter, but falls foul of the VED surcharge (for cars with list prices over £40,000) which adds £320 in years 2-6 of ownership.

If there is any benefit to the 48V mild hybrid system, you wouldn’t really know from behind the wheel: it drives no differently than our XC60 D5 diesel. But then maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Anything which boosts efficiency in a non-intrusive way has to be a winner.

The B5 Diesel is still not the ideal XC90 for company car users, because this Government is still punishing diesel engines. So a BIK charge of the 37% maximum is an unwelcome one.

We expect that the T8 twin-engine hybrid will remain the engine of choice among company car users. Its 52g/km CO2 result in a BIK charge of 19%, albeit of a slightly higher figure.


After spending a week with the Volvo XC90, we’ve reached the conclusion that there are few things it can’t do. So on a practicality front, it is as near-perfect as any car can be.

For starters, it has seven seats. But don’t think this is an SUV with two unusable seats in the boot. Oh no. I may only be 5ft7in tall, but there was enough head and knee room for me on the third row in the XC90. It wouldn’t be the most comfortable on a long journey, but it is bearable. That’s more than can be said for other similar cars.

Then we come to the boot, which is cavernous to say the least. With the third row folded down, you get a rather spacious 640 litres. Perhaps more impressive is that even with all seats in place the Volvo XC90 still offers 262 litres of space. That’s enough for a few shopping bags, and means that you can carry seven people without having to leave their belongings behind.

Should you have a need to tow something – caravan, boat or hobby race car – the XC90 will oblige; with a braked towing capacity of 2,700kg.

Whatever you throw at it, the Volvo XC90 has an answer. Whether it be a family holiday to the Lake District, taking the kids and their friends to sports practice, or a solo motorway slog for business, the Volvo is the perfect companion.


The 90 Series cars are Volvo’s most executive models and, as such, they are executively equipped. By that we mean you get a lot of standard equipment and, whilst there are optional extras, the Volvo XC90 is more than adequate as it comes.

We shall start with safety; an area in which Volvo is perhaps best known. The XC90 is no exception, with a generous offering which has helped give the car a full five star Euro NCAP rating. You get City Safety; front collision warning and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection.

In addition to adaptive cruise control, the Volvo XC90 features Pilot Assist, which is semi-autonomous motorway driving. Once in a lane the car will correct the steering to keep you central in your lane, and also adjust speed to keep you a safe distance to the car in front. It will even bring you to a complete stop if need be, and set off again once traffic moves.

Last on the safety front is Oncoming Lane Mitigation and Run-off Road Protection; both of which are useful, and both of which you’d hope to never need.

The other creature comforts found on the Volvo XC90 include LED headlights with active high beam, 9.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Sensus Navigation, Sensus Connect internet access, voice activation and Volvo On Call with app; which enables various remote functions and acts as an emergency tracking service.

The Volvo XC90 features dual-zone climate control and heated front seats for passenger comfort. The tailgate is power-operated with handsfree opening. And for parking, you get a rear-view camera with front and rear parking sensors.

Value For Money

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to pricing, because there are several grades of Volvo XC90 available: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription. Each of those also has a ‘Pro’ variant, which adds further technology depending on the model.

The Volvo XC90 range starts from £52,760. The XC90 B5 Diesel R-Design – like we tested – costs from £56,935. I say ‘from’ because there are quite a few options available and our test car had a fair few of them fitted.

Bursting Blue premium metallic paint costs a rather steep £1,000 but it really makes the Volvo XC90 stand out in a crowd. Ice White is the standard, with the majority of others costing £700.

The Xenium Pack adds an opening panoramic sunroof with retractable blind, 360-degree parking camera with top-down view and Park Assist Pilot: automatic parallel and 90-degree parking. This also requires the addition of the Intellisafe Surround pack, at a cost of £500. It comprises blind spot information system with steer assist, cross traffic alert with autobrake and rear collision mitigation.

For anyone who needs to tow, our XC90 features a retractable tow bar at a cost of £1,075. It’s effortless to use; simply push a button inside the boot and it deploys/retracts electronically.

The Harman Kardon pack (£850) adds a premium audio system in addition to Apple CarPlay an Android Auto. The Family Pack (£275) features an integrated booster seat in the second row centre seat, power child rocks and integrated sun blinds on the rear doors.

The final addition on our car was the Winter Pack including Head-up Display (£1,275). It adds heated steering wheel, heated washer nozzles, the head-up display and a headlight cleaning system. A heated windscreen is a notable omission, and for this money we would have hoped for one.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel with 48V mild hybrid system
Max power 235PS at 4,000rpm
Max torque 480Nm at 1,750-2,250rpm
Drivetrain 8-speed manual transmission, all-wheel drive
0-62mph 7.6 seconds
Top speed 137mph
Fuel tank size 71 litres
Fuel consumption 37.7 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 154 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 2,103kg
Towing capacity 2,700kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 640 litres [5 seat] / 262 litres [7 seat]
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £56,935
Price as tested £64,585
Company website www.volvocars.com/uk/cars/new-models/xc90
Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer

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