Volvo XC90 review
Tech and style updates have kept Volvo’s luxurious seven-seat SUV at the forefront of its field
If you're looking to buy a large premium SUV, then the Volvo XC90 is one of the best cars for sale in the class. The Volvo XC90 is a handsome, spacious and comfortable SUV with plenty of equipment and safety technologies, plus advanced hybrid powertrains.
With seven comfy, adult-sized seats as standard plus a big boot, the XC90 is a strong candidate for family car buyers, but the quality on offer means it's more of a luxury car than a family utility vehicle and that’s reflected in the price.
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. Recent updates, including a bigger battery for the plug-in hybrid XC90 Recharge and the new and improved, Google Android-based infotainment system, keep it fighting fit even with its all-electric successor, the Volvo EX90, arriving soon.
About the Volvo XC90
The Volvo XC90 has been around since the early noughties, but the launch of the second-generation model in 2015 marked a step-change in desirability, with the emphasis on coolly minimalist Swedish design to help it stand out from the competition.
As a luxury SUV the XC90 naturally rivals cars like the Audi Q7, BMW X5 and X7, Lexus RX, Genesis GV80, Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport. However, it also comes with seven full-size seats as standard, meaning it must also compete with the more family-friendly cars such as the Land Rover Discovery, Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe. Of course, the latest Range Rover is available as a seven-seater as well, but it’s a lot more expensive than the XC90.
Updates to the style, technology and powertrains have kept the XC90 at the top of its game, with the latest adding a new Google Android-based infotainment system, more sustainable interior materials and a bigger battery for the plug-in hybrid XC90 Recharge that boosted its electric driving range from 27 to 40 miles.
The all-new, all-electric Volvo EX90 will arrive in 2024 and eventually serve as the XC90’s replacement, but the plug-in hybrid XC90 Recharge will remain on sale in the UK alongside the fully electric EX90 for some time, for customers who aren’t quite ready to make the switch to electric.
The Volvo XC90 Recharge remains the flagship of the XC90 range, both in terms of fuel economy and price, powered by what Volvo calls the T8 Twin Engine powertrain with an electric motor used to drive the rear wheels. Volvo was one of the first big SUV makers to embrace ‘downsizing’ powertrains in pursuit of increased efficiency, and is why all the XC90 models now feature a 2.0-litre engine under the bonnet.
The XC90 PHEV uses a petrol engine, but Volvo hasn’t ditched diesels quite yet. The XC90’s D5 PowerPulse diesel was replaced by a newly-badged B5 diesel, the name change signifying the addition of a 48-volt mild-hybrid system. A little confusingly, the ‘B’ badge is applied to both petrol and diesel models, so you can also get a petrol B5 and a more powerful B6 petrol set-up, both of which use mild-hybrid tech to help boost efficiency.
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 hardcore off-roading.
Volvo has revised the trim-level structure for all its models, including its large, luxury SUV: the previous Momentum, R-Design and R-Design Pro equipment lines are no longer available and have been replaced by Core, Plus and Ultimate specifications. You shouldn't feel too short-changed opting for the Core trim, as standard kit includes 19-inch alloy wheels, front and rear parking sensors, an automatic tailgate, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, a wireless smartphone charging pad and nine-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
Plus trim adds larger 20-inch rims, a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree parking camera set-up, while Ultimate specification goes all out with air suspension, a head-up display, Nappa leather upholstery, 21-inch alloy wheels and an exceptional 18-speaker Bowers and Wilkins sound system.
Used and nearly new
Spacious, comfortable and classy, it isn't hard to see why the Volvo XC90 was such a big hit when it was launched in 2002. The Scandinavian seven-seater had all the qualities to fit in with family life, and excelled on longer journeys where its spacious interior and superb refinement made for a relaxing drive.
Older examples are showing their age now, while running costs might be an issue for some. Second-generation models offer a touch of premium luxury and excellent standard safety kit but, as ever, be sure to do your homework on the history of your potential purchase - taking extra time to ensure your used buy is rock solid could help prevent spending out on repairs further down the line.
Volvo XC90 history
Volvo XC90 Mk2: 2014-date
Volvo did a great job with its second generation XC90, dialling up the luxury, refinement and safety credentials of its large SUV. Petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models are available, although you'll have to look out for a model from late 2015 onwards to secure a sporty R Design version - the Mk2 XC90 was initially launched with just Momentum and top-of-the-range Inscription trim levels.
There have been numerous manufacturer recalls for the latest XC90, so be sure to check all the necessary maintenance work has been carried out before any purchase. Read our full Mk2 Volvo XC90 buyer’s guide here…
Volvo XC90 Mk1: 2002-2014
If you're after a big, comfortable, seven-seat SUV then the Mk1 XC90 is hard to beat. Admittedly, time has caught up with Volvo's family 4x4, but despite dated styling and reasonably high running costs, it still offers good practicality and will easily accommodate a large family and luggage.
Facelifted models were introduced in 2006 and 2012, adding improved cabin materials, new engines and a revised infotainment system. Read our full Mk1 Volvo XC90 buyer’s guide here…
For an alternative review of the Volvo XC90, visit our sister site carbuyer.co.uk...
In this review
- 1Verdict - currently readingTech and style updates have kept Volvo’s luxurious seven-seat SUV at the forefront of its field
- 2Engines, performance and drivePowerful petrol, diesel and plug-in 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 Recharge plug-in hybrid is the most efficient model in the range
- 4Interior, design and technologyMinimalist exterior styling, combined with a quality interior makes the XC90 an appealing luxury SUV choice
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceIn spite of its premium feel, practicality is the real strength of the Volvo XC90
- 6Reliability and SafetyVolvo's excellent standard safety kit and improving Driver Power customer feedback should be reassuring for buyers