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In-depth reviews

Volvo XC90 review - Interior, design and technology

Minimalist exterior styling, combined with a quality interior makes the XC90 an appealing luxury SUV choice

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Interior, design and technology Rating

4.3 out of 5

Price
£62,330 to £83,465
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Volvo says there are ‘Scandinavian influences’ everywhere in the XC90, such as the brand’s now signature T-shaped ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running lights. The narrow light bars give the XC90 an aggressive glare, helped by its deep front bumper and bluff radiator grille.

Despite the square-jawed front end, the rounded wheelarches and raked windscreen pillars provide a sleek and aerodynamic look, while the 19-inch alloy wheels and silver roof rails on base Core models give the XC90 a hint of the rugged SUV about it. The 20- and 21-inch rims Plus and Ultimate-spec versions ride on a bit more flashy.

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At the rear, the XC90 is less striking, but the brand’s designers have still used the light clusters to good effect. The tail-lamps run from the top of the boot right down to the bumper and, with Volvo’s traditional shoulder kink halfway down, the XC90 is instantly recognisable in the dark. There’s also a small boot lip spoiler and a few creases in the tailgate. Combine that with the car’s dual exhausts, and it makes for a minimalist and crisp rear end.

That Scandi-inspired theme continues inside, with expensive-feeling brushed metal inserts, lots of leather and an attractive layout. Compared to the original XC90, Volvo has decluttered the dashboard and removed most of the buttons. Instead, the entertainment and climate systems are controlled by a central touchscreen, flanked by two main air vents and attractive chrome detailing. Along with the Range Rover-like digital dials, this central unit – known as the Sensus interface – is the highlight of the cabin.

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Standard kit across all models is comprehensive, with entry-level Core models equipped with a 12.3-inch digital driver’s display, nine-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, Google Maps and other apps built-in, LED headlights, hands-free power tailgate opening, front and rear seat heating, auto-dimming mirrors and a whole host of safety features – as is the Volvo way.

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Upgrading to the Plus trim adds bigger wheels, Active Bending Headlights, a panoramic sunroof and a 13-speaker Harman Kardon audio system, while the Ultimate specification goes up another inch on the rims, and adds a head-up display, Nappa leather upholstery and a further audio upgrade with an 18-speaker Bowers and Wilkins setup. Volvo also offers either a Dark Theme or a Bright Theme design option, which means you can choose between gloss black or matte silver/chrome exterior trim accents.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

All XC90s get a nine-inch tablet-style portrait touchscreen that we found was very responsive and easy to navigate, which is good because everything from the climate control to the entertainment and sat-nav is controlled through the touchscreen. While simpler to use than some screen-based climate control set-ups, it’s more fiddly and distracting to use than physical knobs or buttons, so it seems somewhat at odds with Volvo’s focus on safety to go down this route.

The Google Android-based infotainment system is a welcome addition, too, and helps keep the XC90’s tech offering fresh when going up against the latest version of BMW’s iDrive or Mercedes’ MBUX systems. No OEM navigation set-up works as well as Google Maps, and it appears Volvo also knows this because the app is now built-in on the XC90.

Those with Google accounts (which is probably most of us these days) can also log in and access previous destinations stored in your other devices, as well as use the Google Play Store to download car-friendly Android apps like Spotify.

The optional 1,400W, 18-speaker Bowers & Wilkins audio system produces a superbly detailed sound and plenty of power – and because the Volvo XC90’s interior refinement is so good, you can really appreciate the installation’s qualities.

The Volvo On Call app was replaced by the Volvo Cars app, but the functionality hasn’t changed. The smartphone app allows you to monitor charging if you get plug-in hybrid XC90, check if your car is locked and even schedule servicing, among other things.

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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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