What's the used Volvo XC90 4x4 like?
The Volvo XC90 is a very practical family car and a school-run favourite, yet it’s also a comfortable long-distance cruiser.
That comfort is partly down to supple suspension, but the XC90 also has fantastically supportive seats. And, although the interior looks dated, it’s solid and hardwearing.
The fact that the XC90 has seating for seven adds to its popularity with families. There’s plenty of room for adults in the front five seats, and these all slide and recline individually. However, the third row is best left to kids because leg and head room are tight.
Even when all the seats are in use, the boot should be big enough for the weekly food shop, and the rear seats can be folded into the floor when they’re not needed, leaving enough space for a family’s holiday luggage.
The driver sits up high – as you would expect in a 4x4 – with excellent forward visibility, although the high bonnet makes it tricky to see the front corners of the car, which can make the XC90 harder to manoeuvere in tight spaces.
Don’t expect to have much fun driving the XC90, either. It leans over dramatically when you turn in to corners and the steering is nowhere near as responsive as a BMW X5’s.
The diesel engines sound gruff at low speeds and send quite a lot of vibration through the steering wheel.
What used Volvo XC90 4x4 will I get for my budget?
Thanks to its popularity and longevity, there are a huge number of used XC90s to choose from.
Prices range from about £2500 for early diesels that have covered more than 100,000 miles to about £32,000 for Executive and R Design cars built just before the first-generation XC90 went off sale in 2014.
A 2013 2.4 D5 in our favoured SE spec that has covered 36,000 miles will cost about £20,000 bought privately.
How much does it cost to run a Volvo XC90 4x4?
Don’t go thinking that you’ll be able to run a Volvo XC90 on a shoestring. This is a big, complex vehicle and it takes a fair wad of cash to look after one.
Servicing will cost about the same as it would for a BMW X5, which means it should cost less than a Mercedes M-Class. What’s more, it should be cheaper to insure than either of those rivals.
You’ll be doing well to see 20mpg with the V8 petrol and none of the other petrols are likely to average more than low 20mpg in daily use. The diesels, meanwhile, should be good for mid-30mpg.
Which used Volvo XC90 4x4 should I buy?
The 2.4-litre diesel models make most sense. Early ones have a power output of 163bhp, while those badged D5 produced 182bhp until January 2011 and 197bhp thereafter. However, all offer the sort of strong pulling power that’s really welcome in everyday driving.
The diesels are also a lot more efficient than the petrols, of course. But if you don’t mind bankrolling the oil companies during your XC90 ownership, there’s a wider choice of petrol models.
Our preference is the 210bhp 2.5-litre, which was introduced in autumn 2004 and is marginally less thirsty than the 272bhp 2.9-litre T6; both are turbocharged.
In 2006, a 236bhp 3.2 and rapid 4.4 V8 (0-62mph in 6.9sec) joined the line-up as part of a mild face-lift of the XC90 that only dedicated car spotters would really notice. Neither of these engines are really worth bothering with, however.
Whatever version you go for, safety kit is good for a car that was introduced so long ago; those in the front are protected by active anti-whiplash head restraints and front and side airbags, plus airbags run the length of the car at window level.
The basic S specification has climate control, a CD player, cruise control and alloy wheels, but it’s worth upgrading to SE to get leather seats. The R-Design, sold from 2008, offers a sportier look.
Our favourite used Volvo XC90: D5 SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used Volvo XC90 4x4?
The BMW X5 was introduced a few years before the XC90 and is much more enjoyable to drive, with precise steering and agile handling. However, it isn’t as practical because you couldn’t specify it with seven seats until the second-generation version arrived in 2006, and even then the third row seats were both optional and tiny.
The Land Rover Discovery 3, on the other hand, is even more practical than the XC90, with enough space for seven adults to get comfortable. What’s more, it’s just as comfortable on road and a lot more capable off it. However, the Discovery’s poor reliability record might make you think twice.
If you don’t need seven seats, then the Lexus RX is also worth considering, despite having numb steering. It’s available as a petrol-electric hybrid, is incredibly well equipped and probably has the best reliability record of any SUV on sale.
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