Volvo XC90 SUV review
"The Volvo XC90 looks smart, is very safe and it’s incredibly comfortable and practical"
- 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 Volvo XC90 is the Swedish brand’s most well-known model and, depending on who you ask, also its best. It features everything that Volvo is known for, including practicality, safety, comfort and a high-quality interior.
The XC90 is quite expensive, so its closest rivals are other ‘premium’ cars including the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery. All feature plenty of tech and an upmarket interior, though the XC90’s cabin has a different feel to these models; it’s more minimalist, yet with all the high-quality materials and tech you would expect.
On the outside you get what Volvo calls its ‘Thor’s Hammer’ LED lights and a smart if undramatic body. If you want a large, seven-seat SUV but don’t want to look like you’re showing off to the neighbours, then the XC90 is definitely worth considering.
Volvo knows its customers appreciate the little things, so it’s included some neat touches including small Swedish flags stitched into the seats, plus a small inscription on the seatbelts that reads 'Since 1959' - the year Volvo introduced the three-point seatbelt.
Tech is a strong point despite the minimalist-looking dash. The focal point is the portrait-oriented touchscreen display, which houses all the key features. You control it like you would a smartphone, by swiping, pinching and tapping.
There’s lots of room inside and even the sixth and seventh seats are roomy enough for adults. The comfortable ride means that, even on bumpy roads, the whole family will stay settled and it’s a very smooth car on the motorway.
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 40.3mpg fuel economy. The B5 (P) and (now discontinued) 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.