Volvo XC90 SUV review
"The second-generation Volvo XC90 is an impressive SUV, with lots of space and style as well as incredible safety technology"
- Very comfortable and quiet inside
- Advanced safety and in-car tech
- Luxurious, yet also practical
- Pretty expensive to buy
- Petrol engine is noisy and thirsty
- Hybrid can’t match economy claims
The XC90 has been around for well over a decade and a half, so it's becoming hard to imagine a time before Volvo made SUVs. Now into its second generation, the Volvo XC90 offers all the sensible safety features that the brand is famous for wrapped up in one of the most handsome shapes on the road.
Larger than its predecessor, the latest XC90 appeals to buyers who would also consider the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery. The XC90 is family friendly at the same time as offering genuine luxury and innovation inside. The exterior is simple yet stylish, and all the better for it – those distinctive ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED daytime running lights and vertical grille have real presence, while its bumpers and flanks avoid the brash sculpture of many rivals. It's modern yet still recognisably a Volvo, and has proven so successful that designers left the car’s looks virtually unchanged during a mid-life refresh.
The same is true on the inside thanks to attractive materials in combination with visual reminders of Volvo's Swedish heritage; there are Swedish flag tags on the seat upholstery, and the seatbelts bear the inscription 'Since 1959'; the year Volvo introduced the three-point seatbelt.
There's plenty of technology amid all the heritage, too. It's hard to miss the huge Sensus high-definition infotainment screen in the centre of the dashboard. Portrait-orientated, it becomes the interior's focal point and controls many of the XC90's sophisticated features. Gadgetry doesn't get in the way of practicality, though, and you'll find three rows of seats – even the rearmost of which are suited to adults – to allow seven to travel in comfort. The ride is smooth, too, with little road, wind or engine noise to disturb passengers.
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Considering its bulk, the XC90's 2.0-litre mild-hybrid petrol and diesel engines might seem a little on the small size, but they prove capable of endowing the big SUV with respectable performance, as well as impressive fuel economy. The Recharge T8 petrol plug-in hybrid makes particular sense for company car users and those who live in crowded, urban areas. All models use an eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Our favourite is the B5 (D) diesel which offers up to 41.5mpg fuel economy. The B5 (P) and B6 petrols are faster but rather more costly to run, and although the Recharge T8 plug-in hybrid offers impressive economy on paper, not all motorists will achieve it in the real world. While the grippy XC90 is happy to carve through corners, the high degree of body lean and light steering don't encourage the spirited driving that a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X5 allows. The XC90 is far better suited to quiet, relaxed cruising.
The XC90 is very well equipped as standard, with features like the Sensus infotainment system, LED headlights, leather seats, a powered tailgate and 19-inch alloy wheels. You can choose from Momentum, R-Design and Inscription trim levels, the two offering enhanced sportiness and luxury respectively. Our pick of the line-up is the XC90 B5 diesel in R-Design Pro trim.
Volvo is regarded as something of a pioneer when it comes to safety and the XC90 is its flagship model, so there’s a long list of technology to keep you safe. This resulted in a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, with an impressive 97% score for adult occupant protection. The XC90 is designed to keep other road users safe, too, with pedestrian and cyclist detection to help avoid collisions.