Volvo XC90 review

Our Rating: 
2002-2015 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Volvo XC90 is a great-value alternative to newer 4x4s like the BMW X5 and Mercedes M-Class

Seven seats, massive boot, comfortable seats
Large turning circle, bulky dimensions, dated

With the Volvo XC90 for sale since 2002, it's starting to feel a little dated these days next to rivals such as the BMW X5 and Land Rover Discovery. But a recent facelift has helped to keep it fresh ahead of the new XC90 launch in 2014. The current car has always been a strong seller, due to its hugely spacious cabin, very comfortable ride and top-notch safety rating. It represents good value at the moment, too, with dealers offering significant discounts ahead of the new model's launch. Only one engine and transmission combination is available in the XC90 – a 2.4-litre turbodiesel with an automatic gearbox – but it suits the car perfectly.

Our choice: XC90 D5 AWD Executive

Engines, performance and drive


As mentioned above, the XC90's engine range has been reduced to a single 2.4-litre D5 diesel as the car approaches the end of its production run. It makes 197bhp and 420Nm of torque, with the latter figure in particular helping the big SUV to feel faster than its 10.3-second 0-62mph time would suggest. As is typical for cars in this class, the XC90 prioritises ride comfort over handling prowess, so you'll find it rolls quite a bit when tackling sharp corners. Refinement is excellent, however – road and wind noise are barely noticeable, even at motorway speeds.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


This is one area where the XC90 shows its age – it can't really compete with the efficiency of more up-to-date rivals. The four-wheel-drive system and six-speed automatic gearbox both increase the 2.4-litre diesel engine's fuel consumption. Official figures are unimpressive: 34mpg and 219g/km CO2 emissions equals big bills for road tax and fuel. There's better news on the servicing front, with good-value, fixed-price packages on offer from Volvo, but overall the XC90 will be significantly pricier to keep on the road than some of its competitors.

Interior, design and technology


Although it's now over a decade old, the XC90 doesn't look out of place compared to more modern cars. The design was classy and understated from the start and has held up well. However, those who like their cars a bit stylish will probably be disappointed – and the dull and dated cabin won't do much to change their minds. On the plus side, even the entry-level ES spec has 17-inch alloys, while Executive and R-Design cars get larger 19-inch rims. The R-Design has quad exhaust pipes, too. They certainly catch the eye, but some buyers may feel they're a bit over-the-top.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


With five full-size and two child-size seats, the XC90 makes an excellent choice as a luxurious yet practical family car. Even with all seven seats in place, you can still carry 249 litres of luggage, but if you don't need the two small child seats, you can fold them down and free up 615 litres in total. If you do a lot of driving in town, it's worth noting the XC90 has an unusually large turning circle, making parking in tight spaces and three-point turns quite tricky.

Reliability and Safety


The Volvo XC90 boasts a five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP – although it was recorded back in 2003, when the testing body's criteria were less stringent than they are now. Safety kit is impressive, nonetheless: you get driver, passenger and full-length curtain airbags as standard. Volvos have a generally solid reliability record, although owners are reporting more and more problems as the XC90 gets older: the car finished 86th overall in our Driver Power 2012 survey, with half of owners surveyed saying they'd had a problem with their car in the last three years.

Last updated: 15 Aug, 2013