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In-depth reviews

Volvo XC90 review - Engines, performance and drive

Powerful petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid engines ensure the big Volvo XC90 isn’t short of get-up-and-go

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Engines, performance and drive Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£62,330 to £83,465
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The XC90 has a four-wheel drive system, but it’s more of a luxury SUV than rugged off-roader. Its road-biased set-up means a comfortable ride in all models and plenty of grip, although those seeking a smoother drive would do well to steer clear of the flashy 21-inch or 22-inch wheels.

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There is a fair amount of body roll if you take corners quickly (although most owners won’t) while the steering errs on the side of lightness rather than sportiness. We preferred delving into the manual drive settings to opt for a comfortable ride and relaxed gear changes, but a bit more steering weight.

Refinement is very good, with very little wind, road or engine noise disrupting the cabin’s zen. There's a vague hint of wind noise around the mirrors (sited well back on the front doors to improve forward visibility) but it's only noticeable due to the general quiet and calm in the cabin. 

When we drove the plug-in hybrid XC90 Recharge we also found that if your throttle inputs are gentle enough the engine is barely audible and smoother driving allowed for far more subtle transitions between petrol and electric power.

The XC90 has permanent ‘on demand’ four-wheel drive that puts most of the power down through the front wheels. It can, however, send torque to the rear when conditions demand. The XC90 Recharge version has a different 4x4 system, as it uses its electric motor to drive the rear axle.

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On the road, the XC90 strikes a neat balance between comfort and agility, with great body control and a rounded edge to the standard steel suspension’s damping. It means you can push the car fairly hard and guide it down narrow country lanes while still retaining that composed ride.

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Top-of-the-range models get an air suspension system that replaces the front coils and transverse rear springs. This delivers even smoother progress than the standard set-up, and the Active Four-C system also adds adaptive dampers, so you can adjust the suspension to suit the driving you're doing.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

The majority of the Volvo XC90 line-up uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged and supercharged petrol engine, coupled with either mild-hybrid or plug-in hybrid technology. B5 petrol modes produce 247bhp, while the B6 version bumps that up to 296bhp.

The plug-in hybrid XC90 Recharge adds an electric motor on the rear axle, fed by a 18.8kWh battery for greater efficiency and an impressive-sounding 40 miles of electric running, not to mention a combined power output of 449bhp.

You can still get a diesel-powered XC90, oddly called the B5 as well. The 2.0-litre diesel motor delivers 232bhp and also comes with mild-hybrid tech to help boost efficiency.

The petrol and diesel engines provide decent if not outrageous performance, but they’re all reasonable when it comes to CO2 and mpg. Volvo’s four-cylinder-only engine policy means a slightly higher-pitched engine note than you might expect in the petrol cars, but the diesel sounds cultured rather than rattly. Generally speaking, refinement is impressive regardless of which unit you choose.

Just a tenth of a second separates the petrol and oil-burning B5 models’ 0-62mph times, at 7.7 and 7.6 seconds respectively, meanwhile the petrol-powered B6 will do the same sprint in 6.7 seconds.

The XC90 PHEV is significantly quicker, taking just 5.4 seconds to hit 62mph, though the car still feels brisk rather than stupidly fast. When you put your foot hard down in the XC90 Recharge we found that the motor responds quickly, however the engine takes a moment to get in the game, and it can do so in a rather clunky fashion.

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Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 D5 Momentum 5dr AWD Geartronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £45,500

Most Economical

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    2.0 T8 [455] RC PHEV Inscription Expr 5dr AWD Auto
  • Gearbox type
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  • Price
    £66,325

Fastest

  • Name
    2.0 T8 [455] RC PHEV Inscription Expr 5dr AWD Auto
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £66,325
News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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