New BMW X5 45e vs Volvo XC90 T8: practicality

Want a luxury SUV but can’t stomach the fuel and tax bills? One of these plug-in hybrids from BMW and Volvo might be the answer...

BMW X5 45e rear seats - 69-plate car

Space and practicality

Front space, rear space, seating flexibility, boot

This is where the XC90 really comes into its own. For a start, as we’ve said, it’s the only plug-in hybrid that’s available with seven seats, whereas in the X5 there’s no option to add a third row like you can with other versions. The XC90 also comes with a much more flexible middle-row seat layout, giving it a clear advantage when it comes to practicality.

The XC90’s three individual middle-row seats – split fairly evenly in a 35/30/35 arrangement – not only slide fore and aft, allowing you to prioritise boot space or rear leg room, but also recline. As for the X5, its rear seats are fixed, although the 40/20/40 rear seatback split is still convenient.

When it comes to interior space, both of our contenders are well endowed; even taller folk will be able to stretch out in comfort in the front. Behind them, the XC90 has more leg room when its middle-row seats are slid all the way back, while the X5 offers more head room. But whichever car you pick, a six-footer will be able to fit behind another and still remain perfectly comfortable. Middle-seat passengers will prefer the X5, due to its almost flat rear floor; there’s a hump to straddle in the XC90.

Volvo XC90 T8 rear seats - 69-plate car

While the X5 rules itself out as a seven-seater, there’s decent room in the XC90’s third row; even average-sized adults will be fine on shorter journeys. Our only grumble is that access to the these seats is a little tight.

The XC90’s boot is barely compromised in hybrid form, either, with the T8 losing only 40 litres of space compared with regular versions – roughly equivalent to a carry-on suitcase. The hybrid X5 is hit harder, losing 150 litres of space compared with other versions, with a higher boot floor and less underfloor storage space. The result is that while the X5 can swallow a still-decent nine carry-on cases, the XC90 can hold an even more impressive 10.

For convenience, the X5’s rear seatbacks can be folded down via levers inside the boot. The XC90 only has release levers on the tops of the seatbacks, requiring you to go around to the side doors to operate them, unless you’re exceptionally tall.


BMW X5 45e boot - 69-plate car

Boot 500-1720 litres Suitcases 9

X5 has useful 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, but there’s no option to slide or recline them. Nearly flat rear floor is good for three in the back, while there’s room under the boot floor for your charging cables.

Volvo XC90

Volvo XC90 T8 boot - 69-plate car

Boot 262-640-1816 litres Suitcases 10

XC90 allows you to stretch out the most in the back, helped by the three sliding and reclining individual rear seats. It has a larger boot in five-seat mode, while its party trick is that it also has two decent third-row seats.