In-depth Reviews

Volvo XC90 SUV (2003-2014)

"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."

Carbuyer Rating

2.4 out of 5

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Owners Rating

4.2 out of 5

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Pros

  • Classy design
  • Spacious boot
  • Very safe

Cons

  • Handling no match for rivals
  • Thirsty diesel engine
  • Engine is noisy

The Volvo XC90 is due to be replaced soon, with the new model unveiled at the Paris Motor Show last October. The current model is still a good car even if it's not as fun to drive as rivals such as the BMW X5. The Volvo focuses more on comfort and it has an interior that is extremely relaxing to sit in. It also offers the convenience of a spare pair of seats in the boot, which is one of the reasons the car has proved so popular with families.

At launch, the XC90 was offered with a range of petrol and diesel engines, but as Volvo scales down production in preparation for the new model it is now only available with the 2.5-litre diesel engine. It has always been the most popular option thanks to offering respectable performance and reasonable economy. All XC90s also get four-wheel-drive, although the Volvo is not as rugged an off-roader as a Land Rover Discovery.

You can choose from six trim levels – ES, SE, SE Lux, Executive, and R-Design. The latter gives the Volvo big wheels and stainless steel exhaust pipes for a sportier look than the other trim levels.

MPG, running costs & CO2

Engines are thirsty and CO2 emissions are high

The diesel engine fitted to the XC90 isn’t seriously uneconomic in terms of fuel consumotion, but it is starting to look dated compared to the best in class. Combining it with a fuel-sucking automatic gearbox means that you’re not going to see better than 34mpg, while CO2 emissions of 219g/km mean that road tax will be quite expensive at £290 every year. Volvo’s maintenance costs for the XC90 won’t be very affordable either, but the company does offer a three-year service plan, which means you can pay for the car’s maintenance in cheap monthly instalments.

Engines, drive & performance

Raised ride height compromises agility

The Volvo is a pleasant car to drive, but it never feels much fun. Its soft suspension does a good job of making journeys comfortable but it also serves up plenty of body lean in the corners and the Volvo feels its size if you ever try to corner quickly. This is somewhere the BMW X5 easily excels over the Volvo.

Straight line performance isn’t as bad as you would think and the Volvo gets from 0-60mph in just 9.7 seconds, while the 197bhp 2.4-litre diesel engine means that there’s a decent amount of power for overtaking.

Interior & comfort

Front seats are extremely comfortable

Comfort is an area the Volvo XC90 excels in and it begins with the car’s high-driving position, which gives you an excellent view of the road and also makes you feel safer. Volvo’s seats are legendary for being comfortable and the XC90s are just as you would expect – firm, but very pleasant.

The one fly in the ointment is the engine, which can get noisy when accelerating, although it settles down once you get on the motorway, making the XC90 an excellent motorway cruiser.Although the extra row of seats in the boot are handy, they are really only suitable for children so bear that in mind if you’re considering buying an XC90 for the extra passenger space.

Practicality & boot space

The spacious boot is easy to access

With the back row of seats up the Volvo offers just 249 litres of boot space, but fold those spare seats down and capacity increases to 615 litres. The boot has also been well designed and has a flat floor, as well as a split-folding tailgate that means sliding heavy items in shouldn’t be a problem.

Although the seats in the boot are cramped, the front and second-row have plenty of space for even tall adults and it should be easy to get comfortable. Volvo has also made sure the XC90 gets plenty of storage areas and cupholders.

Reliability & safety

There are plenty of safety features

Our 2014 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey scored the Volvo XC90 surprisingly poorly and it came a lowly 128th out of 150 cars, although a lot of this can be attributed to the model’s dated design and poor fuel economy. As a manufacturer, Volvo did much better coming 11th out of 32 firms in our rankings, and it came first for seat comfort.

We would expect the XC90 to score well for safety and its five-star rating from Euro NCAP means it doesn’t disappoint. It gets ISOFIX child seat mounts, plenty of airbags, a side impact protection system, ant-whiplash head restraints and even an anti-rollover system.

Price, value for money & options

Cheaper than rivals but feels dated now

Prices for the Volvo XC90 make it look quite competitive when compared to models such as the BMW X5, the Land Rover Discovery, and the Audi Q7. However, the launch of the new model is likely to mean second-hand values for the old car will fall sharply. It’s also worth haggling to see if you can get some money knocked off the car new for the same reason.

All XC90 models get a leather interior, alloy wheels, rear park assist, climate control, roll stability control and a powerful sound system. However, R-Design models do a better job of hiding the car’s age and get sportier suspension, huge 19-inch alloy wheels, a body kit, tinted rear windows, a Bluetooth phone connection and a sporty interior.

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