Volvo XC90 – Review


By Liam Bird

Let’s just cut straight to the chase with this one shall we? Volvo’s XC90 is beginning to feel its age. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise. After all, besides the odd nip here and a little tuck or two there, the Volvo XC90 has been with us virtually un-changed since 2002. And, think about this too; if you’ve just found this review via either Twitter or Facebook it might just be worth pointing out that neither was around back then. The smart-phone or tablet you might be reading it on wasn’t either. But, Volvo must have been doing something right, right? How else do you explain the XC90’s longevity, not to mention its popularity amongst the more well-heeled of the chattering classes?

volvo xc90 rearWell, for starters the XC90, with its subtle and sophisticated styling, has always been a handsome old thing, plus there’s the kudos and aspirational associations of the Volvo badge to consider too. Even now, 12-years after we first saw one, in the right colour, an XC90 still looks good enough to steal the scene in any of the Scandinavian drama series that we Brits seem so hooked on, and it’s still capable of drawing more than its fair share of admiring glances. In a week spent driving a particularly fetching looking metallic black example, complete with matching black (optional) Thalia alloys, I’ve heard more favourable comments about my choice of motor than I ever did say when driving anything made in Bavaria, or even perhaps even when I sampled Land Rover’s latest Discovery.

“Hesitant gearbox”

Funny that. Because when it comes to the XC90’s direct competition it’s the Discovery that first springs to mind. It’s probably fair to say that should the going get really tough it would be the Disco that I’d put my money on to pull me out the other side with a lot less fuss. But nevertheless, the XC90 would probably be more than up the task of fulfilling most of its core audience’s off-road or load lugging needs; it’ll seat seven in relative comfort, with everyone getting a three-point seat belt, and it still has room for a generous amount of luggage. How many SUV’s can you think of that’ll do that? With the third row of seats folded the boot is simply cavernous.

volvo xc90 interiorIt’s the way the XC90 feels these days that lets it down a little. Power comes from the only engine choice available which is Volvo’s venerable five cylinder 2.4 diesel. Coupled to the six-speed automatic gearbox it sounds more like a marine engine than a road-going one, and the gearbox’s hesitancy, together with a delayed throttle response only adds to the mix. Try pulling out in to the morning traffic at a roundabout and a lot of under bonnet stirring and whirring takes place before drive is sent to the front wheels and any progress is made. Four-wheel drive, just in case you were wondering, kicks in automatically if any slip is detected.

“Worth your attention”

Once rolling though, despite some woefully dated dot matrix displays on the radio and on the button-festooned centre console, the XC90’s cabin isn’t such a bad place to be. The high driving position offers brilliant views, it’s quite quiet and relaxed at motorway speeds, and although the steering can only be best described as vague, Volvo’s flagship 4×4 feels makes you feel pretty invincible and as if it could go on forever. Well, until you empty the 15 gallon fuel tank at least – Volvo say the XC90 will do 34.4 on the combined cycle so you should be good for 500 miles or so.

For all its faults, it’s hard not to like the XC90 – it somehow oozes an old-world charm. Plus, being a Volvo of course, it feels virtually indestructible. There’s a new XC90 out next year boasting power from Volvo’s new and altogether more economical 4 cylinder diesel engine – an interesting proposition if ever there was one. It promises to bring things right back up to date. If turns out to be half as good as the existing XC90 and you’re looking for a slightly less showy but equally stylish SUV in the same vein as the Mercedes M-Class or BMW’s X5 it should be well worth your attention.

Volvo XC90 D5 AWD SE LUX
Engine: 2400cc 5Cyl 20V diesel
Transmission: 6 speed Auto, Four wheel drive.
Power: 200 bhp @ 3900 rpm
Torque: 310 lbft @ 2000 – 2750 rpm
0-62MPH: 9.7 Sec
Max Speed: 127 mph
CO2: 215g/km
MPG: 34.4 combined
Price: from £43,265 (as tested £47,015)


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