SUV star reborn

2015 Volvo XC90

2015 Volvo XC90 - Credit: Archant

The hugely successful Volvo XC90 has a replacement after close to a decade and a half. Iain Dooley tests the boldly remodelled SUV

Given the importance of the second-generation Volvo XC90, it would be easier to list what hasn’t changed in the transition from old to new. This is an all-new premium sport utility vehicle. The car’s bold exterior is just one of many key changes to the XC90 recipe, as Volvo is setting its sights even higher in the fiercely-competitive premium SUV market.

The Swedish company routinely name-checks the Range Rover Sport as a direct rival, and with the new XC90’s enhanced luxury specification it’s also knocking on the door of the mighty Range Rover itself. Factor in a wealth of safety kit, clever new engines and an infotainment system boasting tablet-like ease of use and it’s clear Volvo is aiming high.

Looks and image

Volvos have always possessed unusual, and often unique, styling and aesthetics – it’s what has set them apart from the crowd. This XC90 stays true to its maker’s design philosophy, although the end result is more Apple iPhone than Nokia brick. Clean lines, an overall lack of fuss and a sprinkling of thoughtful details help it to stand apart from generic SUVs already on sale.=

Space and practicality

The default choice for the UK is a seven-seat cabin, which means a two-three-two layout. The rear seats are realistically best suited for children, although modest-size adults will fit for short trips. Still, that’s better than most rivals and, when not in use, the seats can be folded flat to form an expanded rear load space. Fold the second row and you’ve got a very posh, cavernous van. Back in the cabin, there’s ample space for adults and their belongings.

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Behind the wheel

In a serious bid to reduce emissions and fuel consumption, Volvo’s brave new world revolves around four-cylinder power. Be it diesel, petrol or plug-in hybrid, smaller but usefully powerful engines will be powering all XC90s. The D5 diesel driven for this test offers a reasonable 225 horsepower, complementing the 320 horsepower T6 petrol and 400 horsepower ‘Twin Engine’ T8 hybrid.

There’s a clear refinement and comfort bias when driving the D5 – this is no edgy driver’s car like BMW’s X5, but its rounded performance is much easier to live with. The Volvo’s accurate steering, lofty driving position, slick-shifting eight-speed automatic gearbox and air suspension – steel is also available – all conspire to make the XC90 a polished and agreeable experience. Despite its size it’s also surprisingly agile, while the all-wheel drive system sends power rearwards only when needed, saving on fuel and further boosting refinement.

Safety and comfort

Volvo is making a big deal about the XC90 package of safety and comfort, which it believes positions the car ahead of a number of key rivals. From the predictable array of airbags and electronic stability systems to the advanced cruise control, hazard detection, auto brake functions and systems designed to minimise injuries if it goes horribly wrong, Volvo has your back. It also has your ear thanks to an easy-to-use entertainment system, complete with oversize touchscreen and intuitive tablet-style, swipe-friendly way of navigating its many functions. And don’t forget those engines – they’ve been designed to burn and emit considerably less then the old units.

The XC90 offers a rounded, road-biased experience complete with all the mod cons associated with a premium saloon. Then there’s the cabin’s impressive versatility, clean design plus the promise of meaningful running cost savings. Being a Volvo, the fancy safety kit is a given.


Price: Volvo XC90 D5 Inscription, £50,185 (range from £45,750 to £63,705)

Engine: 2 litre, 225bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic driving all wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 7.4 seconds; top speed 137mph

MPG: 49.6 combined

CO2 emissions: 149g/km

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