"The Volvo XC90 helped define the modern, family oriented 4x4 when it was launched in 2002, and even today it's still a very appealing car."
Volvo launched the XC90 to great fanfare in 2002. It was the brand's first full-sized SUV and impressed with its family friendly seven-seat interior, chunky body and go-anywhere 4x4 system. Its large boot is extremely practical, with a split tailgate making loading heavy items easy, while the three rows of seats offer plenty of space. There are also lots of storage cubbies inside. But the V8 is thirsty and the D5 diesel is loud at high revs. Plus, modern rivals are more responsive and better to drive.
There's no doubt that the XC90 is comfortable on the open road. It's just that its raised ride height and supple suspension dulls the car's handling. It's not as responsive or as composed on winding, bumpy roads as newer rivals like the Land Rover Discovery 4 and BMW X5. However, it's quick in a straight line, with the D5 diesel engine offering impressive acceleration.
You can’t beat the comfort offered by the XC90's armchair-like front seats. This, combined with the high ride height and commanding driving position, makes the car a brilliant long distance cruiser. The D5 diesel engine is noisy at high revs and under hard acceleration, but wind and road noise are well contained by the cabin's generous insulation. Front and middle seats are spacious, but rear chairs are only really big enough for children.
Volvo founded its reputation on the safety of its cars and the robustness of their engineering. And the XC90 lives up to that. There's an innovative roll over protection system, plus anti-whiplash head restraints and a side impact protection system. The cabin is not the most modern offering in this sector, but it's well built and there have been no major recalls since 2006.
When it comes to packing for a weekend away, the XC90 is tough to beat. Its spacious boot offers 615 litres of space with the rearmost seats folded away, and is easy to access, thanks to a split tailgate. With the interior converted to offer seven seats, there's still 249 litres of space on offer, and this is complemented by lots of storage cubbies dotted through the cabin.
Value for money
No version of the XC90 is cheap, and resale values are disappointing – the car is no longer modern enough to command top prices on the second-hand car forecourt. However, the seven-seat model is cheaper than a Land Rover Discovery 4 or Audi Q7, and feels every inch a premium off-roader.
All the engines in the range are thirsty – even the D5 diesel struggles to serve up official combined fuel consumption of 28mpg. Servicing costs are relatively steep, too.