What Car? says...
The original Volvo XC90 was something of a trailblazer. Big, graceful and with seven seats as standard, it was heaven-sent for well-heeled families who’d been crying out for an upmarket way to ferry around people and paraphernalia.
Naturally, it sold by the bucketload. However, there's now a host of rival luxury SUVs aimed at those with large families, including the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Land Rover Discovery and Land Rover Defender. So, to up the ante, the latest Volvo XC90 comes packed with even more features that are designed to make family motoring safer, less stressful and more entertaining.
Is the Volvo XC90 a better all-rounder than its rivals, though? And is the T8 the best version, or would you be better off choosing one of the much cheaper engines? That's what we'll be exploring in this review.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Delivering decent low-rev pull, the B5 diesel is a relaxed performer and makes getting up to motorway speeds an effortless experience. Rivals such as the Audi Q7 45 TDI and BMW X5 30d – which both have larger engines – are ultimately faster, but not by a great deal.
The entry-level petrol is, confusingly, also called the B5 petrol. It needs to be worked harder than the diesel, but when you do so it can manage 0-62mph in 7.7sec (that’s just a tenth of a second slower than the diesel), while the more powerful B6 petrol will manage the same sprint in just 6.7sec. Overall, though, the diesel is a better fit for the XC90 thanks to its extra urgency at low revs.
Suspension and ride comfort
At low speeds, with the standard non-adjustable suspension, the XC90 tends to pick up on cracks, bumps and potholes a fair bit more than its standout rival, the Audi Q7. However, the ride becomes smoother at higher speeds. You’ll still feel the odd expansion joint thump through the base of your seat, but the big Volvo generally settles into a pretty comfortable motorway cruise.
There isn’t much feedback through the steering wheel, but turn into a corner and there's enough weight build-up to instil confidence, and to help you place the car accurately on the road. The Q7, X5 and Cayenne are better still in this regard, though; the XC90’s steering can feel a little sticky when you need to make small course corrections, such as when driving on the motorway.
While you’re unlikely to tackle a series of B-roads just for the hell of it in the XC90, it’s good to know both suspension options (standard passive springs or optional air suspension) deliver impressive body control. For such a tall car, the Volvo stays pretty level through turns and has plenty of grip. The T8 hybrid has a greater tendency to sway about in bends, due to the weight of those heavy batteries, but is still more agile than other big plug-in hybrid SUVs, such as the BMW X5 45e and Mercedes GLE 300de.
Noise and vibration
The diesel B5 makes the most noise at all speeds, sounding particularly clattery at idle and when accelerating, and sends more vibration back through the controls than the petrols. Judged alongside the ultra-refined 3.0-litre diesel engines in the Q7, Discovery and Mercedes GLE, it’s rather coarse, although the XC90’s near-instantaneous start stop system does make urban driving less of a chore. All XC90s come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that responds pretty promptly, requiring much less of a wait than that of the Audi Q7.
Wind noise is relatively well suppressed in the XC90, but road roar from the tyres is nowhere near as well contained as in a Discovery or Q7. Suspension noise is also an issue, you’ll hear noticeable crashes and thumps over larger bumps, such as potholes and expansion joints. Thankfully, these impacts sound much worse than they feel.
All XC90s come with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that responds pretty promptly, requiring much less of a wait than that of the Audi Q7. Under light acceleration it’s smooth, although the changes become much more pronounced when you put your foot down.
|RRP price range||£61,990 - £81,925|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, diesel, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||217 - 39.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£1,071 / £5,330|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£2,141 / £10,660|