In-depth reviews

Volvo XC90 SUV - Engines, drive & performance

Powerful petrol, diesel and hybrid engines ensure the big Volvo XC90 isn’t short of power

Carbuyer Rating

4.4 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.2 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

To drive, the Volvo XC90 feels more like a road-biased SUV than a full-on 4x4 off-roader. This means it rides comfortably and grips well on most road surfaces, however it does lean a bit if you go around a corner quickly and we think the steering feels a little too light. If it's driving thrills you want, you might be better off with a BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne.

Volvo XC90 diesel engine

The 232bhp B5 diesel engine was expected to account for around three-quarters of all new XC90 sales when it launched. As we’ve come to expect from Volvo diesels, it’s a smooth and quiet performer capable of getting the XC90 up to speed with relative ease. This makes it our pick of the range for high-mileage drivers, even if the B6 petrol's extra power makes it a bit more fun to drive. Though the B6 is more powerful, the diesel XC90 often feels the more urgent because of its superior pulling power.

Petrol engine

The 2.0-litre B5 (P) petrol packs a 247bhp punch, getting the XC90 from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds. That's almost identical to the B5 diesel, which has less power but considerably more torque.

The 296bhp B6 is impressively economical for a powerful petrol engine but it’s still not as economical as the B5 diesel – not to mention being more expensive to buy in the first place. The engine is punchy and provides a strong turn of speed, taking it from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds, but the strange, whiny noise it makes puts you off using all of its performance. The petrol is therefore hard to recommend unless you really want the livelier performance and can live with the higher fuel bills.

Hybrid engine

The XC90 Recharge T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid pairs a 299bhp petrol engine with an 86bhp electric motor. In theory, it offers an appealing combination of ultra-low emissions, excellent fuel economy and eager performance. We found it just as pleasant to drive as the petrol and diesel models, and by far the quickest – the combined power output of the engine and electric motor makes it the most powerful XC90.

That shows when you accelerate hard with the hybrid model in power mode, where both the petrol engine and electric motor are delivering full power. The car will do 0-62mph in 5.5 seconds in this setting, and is also impressive when you demand thrust on the move for overtaking. While straight-line performance is very good, the hybrid is like the other models in the range as far as cornering is concerned; the relaxed steering and high centre of gravity mean it doesn't handle like a sporty SUV. It's better to think of the XC90 Recharge T8 as a quiet and comfortable cruiser with extra power when you want it.

All the engines are incredibly quiet until you accelerate hard – and even then the diesel sounds reasonably cultured rather than rattly. The petrol is similarly smooth and quiet, but the four-cylinder whine sounds unusual in a car this size. At the moment, the petrol and diesel XC90s available in the UK are four-wheel-drive only.

Recommended

Volvo XC90 SUV review
Volvo XC90 Best Buy cutout
Volvo XC90
21 Sep 2021

Volvo XC90 SUV review

Top 10 best tow cars 2021
Skoda Kodiaq SUV driving
Best cars
21 Jul 2021

Top 10 best tow cars 2021

Most Popular

Electric Citroen Ami to launch in the UK next year
2022 Citroen Ami
Citroen Ami
21 Sep 2021

Electric Citroen Ami to launch in the UK next year

Top 10 best small estates 2021
Skoda Octavia Estate
Skoda Octavia Estate
22 Sep 2021

Top 10 best small estates 2021

New 2022 Toyota RAV4 Adventure revealed
Toyota RAV4 Adventure
Toyota RAV4
14 Sep 2021

New 2022 Toyota RAV4 Adventure revealed

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
10 Aug 2021

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Electric car charging station
Tips and advice
3 Jun 2021

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
15 Jun 2021

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
23 Jul 2021

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors 2021
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021
Volkswagen ID.3
Best cars
12 Aug 2021

Top 10 best electric cars 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021
Toyota Prius front 3/4 cornering
Best cars
10 Jun 2021

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks
Mercedes AMG A45 - rear
Hot hatches
25 Jun 2021

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks