Volvo XC90 road test

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Large and luxurious is the first impression you get of Volvo’s new XC90. But it doesn’t take long to discover this premium AWD seven-seat SUV is packed with innovative design features, the latest safety equipment and advanced technology.

Volvo has had time to work on the package. This second-generation XC90 replaces the model that’s been a steady seller on the Australian market since 2003, but along with the added sophistication comes a hefty price increase of at least $20,000 over the superseded range.

This aims XC90 squarely at the luxury German SUVs – Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Mercedes GLE – plus the British-built Range Rover. It starts at $89,950 for the Momentum diesel through to $122,950 for the R-Design T8 plug-in petrol/electric hybrid which is scheduled to round-out the line-up shortly. And like its competitors, XC90’s option packs and extras can send your drive-away price soaring.

For the Australian market, Volvo has three sophisticated four cylinder engines: the D5, a 2.0L twin-turbo diesel with 165kW and 470Nm; the T6 2.0L petrol which combines a supercharger and a turbo to pump out 235kW and 400Nm; and the T8 hybrid which augments the 2.0L petrol engine with a 65kW/240Nm electric motor. All are backed by an eight-speed automatic transmission and a Haldex AWD system.

Our test vehicle was the mid-level D5 Inscription for $96,950 plus on-road costs, but with a huge array of comfort, convenience and safety options fitted, it’s listed at $121,445 plus on road costs.

Volvo has built its reputation on safety, so XC90 achieved an excellent EuroNCAP result, including being the first car to score full points in the autonomous emergency braking car-to-car rear-end test. Just one example of its safety credentials is seats with an energy-absorbing function to help prevent/reduce spine injuries. It is a little disappointing, however, to find some of the advanced safety features are extra-cost options. While Volvo’s Blind Spot Information System is standard on the Inscription grade, it’s $1275 on the entry-level Momentum, and the IntelliSafe Assist pack, with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping aid, distance alert etc, is a $2600 option across the range.

The high-quality cabin presentation and attention to detail in our test car was first class. It started with superbly comfortable leather seats that are multi-adjustable, including (optional) power-adjustable side-supports. The tablet-style touch and swipe screen reduces the number of buttons and provides full connectivity, plus it’s compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

While space is plentiful in the first two rows of seats, the third row is best left for children. Two adults can squeeze in but probably only once the second row is slid forward. Yet it’s better than most.

Dynamically, the reborn XC90 does not set any class standards but it is competitive. The diesel is a very easy-going cruiser. A handy option is selectable drive modes – economy, comfort, off-road and dynamic – to control the response of engine, transmission, 4WD, suspension, brakes, air-conditioning and more.

Although the 2.0L engine is relatively small for such a large vehicle, the performance is surprisingly responsive, with the smooth-changing eight speed automatic making good use of the strong torque. The acceleration might not seem breathtaking but it is deceptively good, as our performance figures show. Official fuel consumption is an excellent 6.2L/100km but on test we found the vehicle’s weight and the type of work it was doing played around with this figure. On a country run, we returned a respectable 8.2L/100 km but around town, with a lot more stop/start driving, it climbed to 10.8. Overall, our D5 averaged 9.5.

Likewise, the handling and ride is at its best on the open road. The electric power steering is light but still provides sufficient road feel. And for $160, there’s a mode to personalise the steering settings. XC90 is well planted on the road and corners securely, displaying just a touch of body roll. Our vehicle, with the optional air suspension and 20-inch wheels, tended to thump a little over bigger bumps but otherwise the ride was quite compliant. Despite being a big wagon, it handles stop/start traffic with little fuss and is a relatively easy drive around town. Suburban shopping centres, on the other hand, are where you really become aware of the vehicle’s size.

Towing is often a high priority for large SUV buyers. XC90 can pull a respectable 2250kg but it is not enough to play with the big boys when it comes to hauling a tandem horse float or large caravan.

The verdict

Anyone considering a luxury seven-seat SUV should have the new Volvo XC90 on their short list. It is not cheap, particularly when some of the highly desirable options are added, but it is a sophisticated, high-quality vehicle.

Open boot view of the Volvo XC90
Seating layout of the Volvo XC90
front view of the Volvo XC90
Front seats and dashboard view of the Volvo XC90
Front light view of the Volvo XC90
Written by Greg Hill
November 02, 2015