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.
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 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 most recent update saw the D5 PowerPulse diesel 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 are also B5 and B6 petrol models.
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 for 2021.
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.
Like the rest of the Volvo range, the XC90 comes in Momentum, R-Design and Inscription specs, and that means all models are well equipped, even if you choose the least expensive variant. Standard kit includes adaptive cruise control, keyless starting, auto LED headlights and wipers, a reversing camera, park assist, a hands-free power tailgate, two-zone climate control, electrically adjustable heated leather seats and Volvo's excellent portrait-mounted touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, nav and connected services.
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 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 a comprehensive technology package and solid warranty