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.
The optional air suspension costs quite a bit. While it offers better absorbency over large lumps, such as speed humps, it doesn't improve the ride to any noticeable degree on patched-up city streets – you’ll still feel a harsh thud when you strike something sharp-edged. We’d save the expense and stick to the standard set-up. Meanwhile, the T8, despite the increased weight from its heavy batteries, manages to remain as comfortable as lesser XC90s.
Whichever model you choose, we suggest going for the smallest wheels possible. Essentially, the smaller the wheel, the more comfortable your XC90 will be. We’d stick to 19in or 20in wheels where possible, and avoid the vast optional 22in ones at all costs.
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.