UK Drive: Volvo’s XC90 D5 R-Design remains a classy all-rounder

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The Volvo XC90 is the largest car in Volvo’s range. Jack Evans gets behind the wheel to see what it’s got to offer

What is it?

The XC90 has always led the charge when it comes to classy, seven-seater cars. Luxurious yet understated, it’s a solid contender against the likes of the Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5. It’s also packing as much safety technology as you’ll find on a car on sale today, which makes it a key family car-segment option.

A large boot makes the XC90 incredibly versatile

We’re testing it here in diesel-powered D5 set-up, which is in fact the lowest-powered option in the range – sitting underneath a turbo petrol and a twin-engine plug-in hybrid.

What’s new?

There’s plenty going on inside the new XC90. The amount of safety system fitted to it is impressive, with features such as the city safety pack – which includes pedestrian, cyclist and large animal detection systems – combining with pilot assist and adaptive cruise control to make it a very safe way of getting around.

The XC90 can seat seven people in comfort (PA)

It returned a full five stars when crash tested by Euro NCAP back in 2015 and, though some new safety assistance systems have entered the market, the XC90 still remains close to the top when it comes to passenger and pedestrian protection.


What’s under the bonnet?

Our test XC90 uses, as mentioned, Volvo’s D5 powertrain. This sees a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine plonked under the bonnet, linked to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Economy figures are good, with Volvo claiming 49.6mpg on the combined cycle, and emissions of 149g/km.

R-Design models get a sportier exterior look (PA)

You may ask why Volvo hasn’t decided to fit the XC90 with silky six-cylinder as is de rigeur with large, luxurious SUVs – but the Swedish manufacturer is committed to, slowly but surely, reducing the amount of diesels in its range and replacing them with ultra-efficient yet powerful petrols and hybrids. In fact, the new S60 saloon won’t be offered with a diesel option at all, which shows just how committed Volvo is to this change in powertrain adoption.


What’s it like to drive?

The XC90 is everything you want a large, seven-seater SUV to be; comfortable, refined and predictable. The steering is light, but not overly so, and the engine provides more than enough punch to get you up to speed in a smart fashion.

The gearbox is smooth shifting and, when travelling on the motorway, there isn’t too much road or wind noise – and all of these factors combine to make it quite a relaxing car to drive. A good amount of forward visibility helps improve your overall perception of the road ahead, too.

Volvo has done well to make the XC90’s ride into a decent compromise, balancing comfort with a good amount of support – the big Volvo doesn’t lean too much in the corners, but it manages to absorb the vast majority of road imperfections too.

How does it look?

The XC90 was one of the first Volvo vehicles to debut the brand’s new design language, and it’s as eye-catching as it is classy. The recognisable ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights have now been applied to all of the cars in the Swedish manufacturer’s range, but they look just as special on the XC90 too. Whereas other large SUVs trade on big alloys, chunky side skirts and quad exhausts, the Volvo combats this with well-judged proportions and muted, yet stylish exterior colours.

‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlights are a recognisable styling touch

The colours available change depending on specification. For instance, our test car in R-Design trim, can be specified with a fantastic red exterior colour. However, you won’t find this on other equipment grades – tip top Inscription cars are only available with a series of greys, blacks and blues.

What’s it like inside?

The cabin of the XC90 matches the understated look of the exterior.

Everything is well made and feels solid to the touch, with plenty of high-quality materials contributing to an overall exceptionally good cabin. The large central touchscreen dominates the interior of the car, and clears up the need to have a myriad of buttons for various different controls.

The Volvo XC90 features a sturdily-made cabin (PA)

Volvo hasn’t chucked all of the physical controls in the bin, however; you still get a rotary dial for the volume – which is a clever move, as touchscreen controls for audio functions have been a sticking point for many in-car systems.

There’s plenty of space for all seven occupants inside the car too. Even the third and final row offers up more than enough room for most, though having these in place does impact the car’s boot space considerably.

What’s the spec like?

Our test car came in sporty R-Design specification, and this comes fitted with all manner of standard equipment.

Features such as heated and electric powered front seats, that huge central touchscreen and adaptive cruise control with distance alert do feature within a comprehensive list of included tech, though it’s worth pointing out that the XC90 is not a cheap car – our test vehicle, fitted with a smattering of options such as a 360-degree parking camera and a panoramic sunroof, came in at £62,030 – which is a lot of money, whichever way you look at it.


The XC90 is a solid all-rounder and, though now more expensive than ever, features everything you could want from a seven-seater luxury SUV. It drives well, and is incredibly comfortable over longer journeys while also being just on the right side of firmness for UK cars. There are rivals in the market, but for now the big Volvo remains firmly at the top – and will take some beating.

  • Model as tested: Volvo XC90 D5 Powerpulse AWD R-Design Pro
  • Price: £62,030
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel
  • Power: 235bhp
  • Torque:480Nm
  • Max speed: 137mph
  • 0-60mph: 7.6s
  • MPG: 49.6mpg
  • Emissions: 149g/km
  • Rivals: Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery, BMW X5

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