Volvo XC90 review - Practicality, comfort and boot space
In spite of its premium feel, practicality is the real strength of the Volvo XC90
There’s only one body style in the Volvo XC90 range, and it’s a handsome, if still relatively conservative, take on the large SUV/crossover theme. That means an imposing five-door body with a moderately raked tailgate, three rows of seats and the sort of commanding driving position that has helped to make the genre so popular.
Aside from a truly spacious, seven-seat interior, the Volvo XC90 lives up to its practical image thanks to details like a large storage area in the centre console, a decent glovebox and a deep central cubbyhole. Storage in the back row is good as well, with each seat getting its own cup-holder and trinket tray. The climate control allows you to set up independent temperature zones for four forward occupants on top-spec models, but the XC90 doesn’t offer heating controls for passengers in the third row.
The Volvo XC90 is a very big car, at 4,953mm nose to tail. But then the Audi Q7 and Land Rover Discovery are even larger. The XC90's shape is essentially boxy and practical, unlike more overtly ‘rakish’ rivals such as the Audi Q7, and this shows against the tape measure.
With a 1,776mm roof height the Volvo XC90 stands tall against the 1,762mm BMW X5 (both without roof bars), and falls in-between the 1,737mm high Audi Q7 and 1,796mm Mercedes-Benz GLE (both of the latter have standard-fit roof bars).
Leg room, head room & passenger space
A vast interior has always been one of the Volvo XC90’s strengths, and the current model is better than ever. The seats are comfortable and roomy and, unlike many seven-seaters, even the third row is reasonably generous for adults - although headroom will be tight for anyone over around 5 foot 8 inches. Headroom is pretty much the same in the front two rows at 99.8cm and 99.7cm respectively, while the rear row offers only 92.3cm.
Car group tests
- Genesis GV80 vs Volvo XC90: 2021 group test review
- Lexus RX vs Volvo XC90
- Mercedes GLE vs Volvo XC90
- Lexus RX L vs Volvo XC90
- Audi Q7 e-tron vs Volvo XC90 T8
- Land Rover Discovery vs Audi Q7 vs Volvo XC90
Used car tests
You’ll have to be fairly agile to climb up and past the second row, too, but all passengers should find themselves comfortably accommodated once they’ve scrambled in. Pleasingly, seats six and seven are the same size as those in the middle row, and set slightly inwards for a better view forward. Theatre-style seating rising towards the back of the car helps rearmost passengers see out, too. Legroom is good in the first two rows, but becomes a little compromised at the back. The floor in the second row isn’t entirely flat due to a transmission tunnel.
The T8 Twin Engine has exactly the same interior passenger space as the D5 and B6 versions, due to innovative packaging of the battery in the ‘spine’ of the vehicle. With a 70-litre fuel tank up from the previous 50-litres, and with no modifications required to the hybrid drivetrain or battery positioning, practicality has certainly increased.
In seven-seat configuration, the Volvo XC90 offers a great mix of refinement and practicality, with 356 litres of boot space. Fold the third row down – an easier job than in the Land Rover Discovery thanks to the simpler mechanism – and this rises to 1,007 litres. Stow all the seats away and there’s 1,856 litres on offer. Plus, with a low loading lip and ‘hands-free’ powered tailgate as standard, it’ll be easy to pack away shopping.
There's a pop-up shopping bag holder in the boot, although it can't quite pop up if the rearmost seats are raised, and a very shallow under-boot area. All T8 versions are now supplied with a purpose-designed bag to store the charging cable. There's nowhere to stow the luggage cover when seven seats are being used, though - it just sits across the floor.
Many Volvo XC90 owners will be interested in the SUV’s towing capacities. The diesel B5’s 2,700kg maximum compares well with the 2,800kg towing limit of a comparable-spec Audi Q7 - although both are outclassed by the 3,500kg towing limit of the Land Rover Discovery.
In this review
- 1Volvo XC90 reviewRecent 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 space - currently readingIn 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