In-depth reviews

Volvo XC90 review - Engines, performance and drive

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

The XC90 has a 4x4 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 all-new 22-inch wheels.

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 sporty reaction. 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, 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.

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 T8 Twin Engine hybrid version has a different 4x4 system, as it uses its electric motor to drive the rear axle.

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.

An air-suspension system is optionally available 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.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

Power options are now limited to either a 2.0-litre petrol with 247bhp, or a 2.0-litre diesel delivering 232bhp - both with mild-hybrid technology.  A T8 plug-in hybrid model offers greater efficiency, along with a combined output from its combustion engine and electric motor of 449bhp.

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 on the 0-62mph sprint, at 7.7 and 7.6 seconds respectively. The T8 plug-in hybrid is significantly quicker, taking just 5.4 seconds from 0-62mph.

Next Steps

Which Is Best

Cheapest

  • Name
    2.0 B5D [235] Momentum 5dr AWD Geartronic
  • Gearbox type
    Semi-auto
  • Price
    £55,050

Most Economical

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

Fastest

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

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