Used buyer's guide: Volvo XC90

9 Oct, 2012 11:00am Richard Dredge

Seven-seat SUV is our former Car of the Year, and a fine used buy


The Volvo XC90 was Auto Express’s Car of the Year back in 2003, and then underlined the breadth of its talent by being crowned Best SUV at our Used Car Honours in 2006. While newer rivals have come and gone, the car’s design hasn’t really dated, which shows how Volvo got its first SUV just right. You shouldn’t expect too much from the car in terms of off-road ability, but when it comes to on-road driving with the family aboard – and when towing especially – this stylish SUV is a cracking used buy.

Believe it or not, this year the Volvo XC90 celebrates its 10th birthday. Back in 2002, Volvo’s first SUV proved a huge success; long waiting lists formed thanks to this seven-seater’s versatility, discreet styling and keen pricing.

The XC90 was one of a new breed of road-biased 4x4s that were good to drive and provided ideal family transport. In the intervening years, there’s been no shortage of rivals, but while the XC90 is no longer a class leader, it has aged well and still makes a great used buy.


The XC90 arrived in November 2002, in 161bhp 2.4-litre D5 turbodiesel or 272bhp 2.9 T6 turbo petrol forms. The Executive (from March 2003) brought rear seat entertainment screens, while in autumn 2004 a 2.5-litre petrol turbo appeared.

The best engine, however, is the 183bhp D5, introduced in summer 2005.

A summer 2006 facelift brought revised exterior styling, plus better trim materials, along with a barking mad 4.4-litre petrol V8. At the same time, a 3.2-litre straight-six replaced the T6. The 2009 R-Design offered a sportier look and, by January 2011, there was a 197bhp D5 as well.


Rival seven-seat SUVs include the Audi Q7, Mercedes GL and Land Rover Discovery. The latter excels as a people carrier and off-roader – it’s great to drive and very spacious, although reliability can be an issue, especially with older examples. The GL is a superb all-rounder, while the Q7 is talented and beautifully built.

If you want a driver’s car, the Porsche Cayenne is perfect, while the VW Touareg is another great all-rounder – but these come with five seats only.