Volvo XC90 review
Recent tech and style updates have kept the luxurious Volvo XC90 SUV at the forefront of its field
If you're looking to buy a large SUV, then the Volvo XC90 is one of the best cars for sale in the class. Its big, seven-seat interior means it can be used as effective family transport, but the quality on offer means it's more like a luxury car than a family holdall.
The Volvo XC90 boasts a distinctive exterior and plenty of equipment, as well as advanced fuel efficiency and safety technologies, and the XC90 is also a great performer on the road. With seven comfy, adult-sized seats as standard plus a big boot, it's a strong candidate for family car buyers.
We love the Volvo XC90’s unique blend of technology, efficiency, style and safety – that’s why we named it Auto Express Car of the Year in 2015, while recent updates mean we'd still recommend putting it on your shortlist if you're looking to buy a large SUV.
About the Volvo XC90
The Volvo XC90 is a luxury SUV that rivals models such as the Audi Q7, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport. It’s been around since the early noughties, but the launch of the second-generation car in 2015 marked a step-change in desirability, with the emphasis on coolly minimalist Swedish design to help it stand out from rivals.
Updates to both the style, technology and powertrains have kept the XC90 at the top of its game, with the latest concave grille design, a new hybrid diesel engine and upgraded Sensus infotainment system all part of a 2019 round of upgrades.
Car group tests
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Used car tests
If you’re looking at the XC90 as a full seven-seater, its most direct rivals would be the Land Rover Discovery and Audi Q7, which also have a fully useable extra row. You can specify seven-seats in a number of other rivals such as the BMW X5, Mercedes GLE, Lexus RX and Range Rover Sport, but the limited extra accommodation in the rear of these means the extra seats are much more of the ‘occasional’ variety.
The Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento are also contenders in the seven-seat SUV segment, and offer much greater value with a surprising amount of luxury and quality thrown in, although they lack the perceived prestige of a European badge.
Volvo has revised the trim-level structure for its large, luxury SUV: the previous Momentum, R-Design and R-Design Pro equipment lines are no longer available and have been replaced by Core, Plus and Ultimate specifications. You shouldn't feel too short-changed opting for the Core trim, as standard kit includes 19-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, an automatic tailgate, a heating function for the steering wheel and front and rear seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad and integrated sat-nav.
Volvo was one of the first big SUV makers to embrace ‘downsizing’ powertrains in pursuit of increased efficiency, and all the XC90 engines are 2.0-litre units. The D5 PowerPulse diesel was replaced by a newly-badged B5, the name signifying the addition of a mild-hybrid system to the diesel engine. A little confusingly, the ‘B’ badge is applied to both petrol and diesel models, so there is also a B5 petrol version.
The old T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid remains as the flagship of the range, both in terms of efficiency as well as price, but it’s been renamed the XC90 Recharge. Every version of the XC90 features permanent four-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic gearbox with manual mode. Hill descent and hill start control are both fitted, although the Volvo is more suited to tarmac use than hard off-roading.
Used and nearly new
Spacious, comfortable and classy, it isn't hard to see why the Volvo XC90 was such a big hit when it was launched in 2002. The Scandinavian seven-seater had all the qualities to fit in with family life, and excelled on longer journeys where its spacious interior and superb refinement made for a relaxing drive.
Older examples are showing their age now, while running costs might be an issue for some. Second-generation models offer a touch of premium luxury and excellent standard safety kit but, as ever, be sure to do your homework on the history of your potential purchase - taking extra time to ensure your used buy is rock solid could help prevent spending out on repairs further down the line
Volvo XC90 Mk2: 2014-date
Volvo did a great job with its second generation XC90, dialling up the luxury, refinement and safety credentials of its large SUV. Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models are available, although you'll have to look out for a model from late 2015 onwards to secure a sporty R Design version - the Mk2 XC90 was initially launched with just Momentum and top-of-the-range Inscription trim levels.
There have been numerous manufacturer recalls for the latest XC90, so be sure to check all the necessary maintenance work has been carried out before any purchase. Read our full Mk2 Volvo XC90 buyer’s guide here…
Volvo XC90 Mk1: 2002-2014
If you're after a big, comfortable, seven-seat SUV then the Mk1 XC90 is hard to beat. Admittedly, time has caught up with Volvo's family 4x4, but despite dated styling and reasonably high running costs, it still offers good practicality and will easily accommodate a large family and luggage.
Facelifted models were introduced in 2006 and 2012, adding improved cabin materials, new engines and a revised infotainment system. Read our full Mk1 Volvo XC90 buyer’s guide here…
For an alternative review of the Volvo XC90, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingRecent tech and style updates have kept the luxurious Volvo XC90 SUV at the forefront of its field
- 2Engines, performance and drivePowerful petrol, diesel and hybrid engines ensure the big Volvo XC90 isn’t short of get-up-and-go
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsMild-hybrid diesel tech offers good economy, but the XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid is the most efficient model in the range
- 4Interior, design and technologyHandsome style masks a technical masterclass, as Volvo raises the bar for big SUV efficiency and safety
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceIn spite of its premium feel, practicality is the real strength of the Volvo XC90
- 6Reliability and SafetyVolvo’s reputation looks safe thanks to the XC90's comprehensive technology package and solid warranty