Volvo XC90 Review
The Volvo XC90 is an ultra-luxurious large SUV that incorporates the very latest technology
Strengths & weaknesses
- Extremely comfortable and quiet
- Very spacious and practical
- Classy, hi-tech interior
- All versions are expensive
- Touchscreen gets grubby very quickly
- Can be hard to match hybrid economy claims
The second-generation Volvo XC90 has been on sale since 2015, and has remained one of the best seven-seater SUVs on the market throughout its lifespan - it's still the case today. Volvo really pushed the boat out in terms of styling and technology when it first launched, a fact that has meant even the initial models have aged remarkably well.
It's certainly not cheap, but the quality you're getting here is worth every penny. The XC90 is a strong contender for best in its class, alongside esteemed rivals such as the BMW X5, Audi Q7 and Mercedes GLS. A key part of the Volvo’s appeal is its understated yet classy Swedish design, evident from both the exterior and interior styling, buyers may like the idea of standing out from the crowd with something a little different from the norm.
A series of revisions in 2019 saw some minor styling changes with a new front end, a redesigned grille, a lower front bumper and striking air intakes. Three new paint colours were also introduced for an extra splash of personality.
Inside, there’s no shortage of the all-important boot and passenger space, with three good-sized rows of seats and lots of room for occupants’ luggage, too.
The XC90 is also one of the safest cars on the road, scoring 97% in the adult occupant protection section of Euro NCAP’s evaluation and the maximum five-star overall rating, too.
In addition to its robust nature, it also packs a whole host of clever technology designed to stop you from crashing in the first place, such as cameras that can detect pedestrians and cyclists and an autonomous braking system that brings the car to a stop if it detects you’re about to run into the car in front.
Connectivity is another focus, with Volvo’s On Call connected services platform, which includes help from an automatically connected call centre in the event of an emergency.
There’s also the ‘Volvo Pilot Assist’ system, which uses a combination of adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning to take some of the stress out of motorway driving. The upshot of all this was a perfect 100% score for safety assistance from Euro NCAP.
|3 years / 60,000 miles
|£0 to £855 in first year and £135-£145 thereafter
Best Volvo XC90 for...
Best for Economy – Volvo XC90 T8 R-Momentum
On paper, the T8 hybrid has a fuel economy figure of more than 100mpg, but the real-world figure will depend on how you drive it, and if you keep it charged up.
Best for Families – Volvo XC90 2.0 D5 Momentum
The least expensive Volvo XC90 is also the most sensible choice. There's plenty of performance and standard equipment. It's efficient too.
Best for Performance – Volvo XC90 T8 R-Design
Volvo calls its sportiest models ‘R-Design’ and although in this case there’s no more power on offer than elsewhere in the range, you do get sports seats, a choice of driving modes and 20-inch alloy wheels. T8 versions have around 400hp depending on the model year.
One to Avoid – Volvo XC90 T6 Inscription Pro
The T6 feels surplus to requirements in the XC90 range, as it’s both more expensive and less efficient than the D5 diesel, as well as nowhere near as economical as the hybrid.
Early 2015 Volvo XC90 goes on sale.
August 2015 Recall of 1,688 Jan-Jul ‘15 cars for potential third-row airbag problem.
November 2015 Sportier R-Design trim is launched and Polestar performance upgrades become available.
February 2019 A fresh face is added. Non hybrids gets clever new energy recovery system.
September 2019 XC90 is revised, with styling tweaks and addition of 48-volt mild hybrid diesel engine
Understanding Volvo XC90 names
The petrol versions are badged T, diesels are badged as D and mild hybrids are denoted by a B, which can be confusing as both petrols and diesels get mild hybrid assistance and are both badged with a B. A plug-in hybrid version that uses an electric motor alongside a petrol engine is called the T8.
The trim level dictates how much equipment comes as standard. The more expensive the trim, the more you get. These were previously Momentum, Inscription and R-Design, with some Pro and Plus variants thrown in with extra kit. Volvo updated this in 2022, and the range currently consists of Core, Plus and Ultimate.
Driven wheels AWD
All XC90 versions have all-wheel drive.
All XC90s are fitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Early versions are sometimes called Geartronic.
Volvo XC90 Engines
D5 and B5 (D), T5 and B5 (P), T6 and B6 (P), T8
The vast majority of Volvo XC90 buyers will probably specify the D5 diesel engine in their car, for the simple reason that it’s a great all-rounder. With 235bhp on tap, it gets the big SUV from 0-62mph in under 7.5 seconds while returning mid-40s mpg. That's more performance than a typical SUV-driver will ask of it, whether that’s efficient everyday commuting, long-distance motorway trips or towing a caravan or horsebox.
Alternatively, the B5 mild hybrid diesel added to the range in late 2019, replacing the D5, is said to offer all the advantages of the previous diesel engine, but with lower fuel economy – by up to 15% in real world driving, according to Volvo – and lower levels of harmful NOx emissions.
The D5 and B5 are both so capable that they make the T5 petrol seem almost irrelevant. The T5 is not only slower from 0-62mph, but you also pay the price for this in the shape of notably reduced fuel economy and higher annual road tax.
A new B5 petrol mild hybrid was also introduced in 2020, itself bringing better fuel economy up to around 30mpg along with a power increase up to 250hp.
The T6 is notably faster than the diesel, and the T5, while being not that much less economical. It is £3,500 more expensive than the T5, but is just over £7,500 cheaper than the T8 too. Mild hybrid versions of this - badged B6 - have also been available.
The T8 plug-in hybrid setup incorporates some very impressive, high-tech engineering and the results are eye-opening: over 100mpg fuel economy paired with the ability to race from 0-62mph in a hot-hatch-beating 5.5 seconds. Of course, such numbers come at a price: around £20,000 more expensive than the equivalent D5 diesel version. Electric-only range for the original cars is 12-24 miles, but an upgraded battery to the cars revised from 2019 means that this has increased to between 21.7 and 28.6 miles. You may see these badged as 'Twin Engine' or 'Recharge', too.
Volvo XC90 Trims
Momentum, Momentum Pro, R-Design, R-Design Pro, Inscription, Inscription Pro
Bare-bones entry-level versions don’t really exist at this upper end of the car market, and the least expensive Volvo XC90 Momentum is a perfect illustration of this fact. As standard, it comes with seven seats, a nine-inch touchscreen, DAB digital radio, LED lights, sat-nav, smartphone connectivity, automatic wipers, four-way power-adjustable front seats, 19-inch wheels, leather seats, brushed aluminium interior trim, rear parking sensors and a hands-free power-operated tailgate.
In the middle of the range sits the XC90 R-Design, which Volvo designates as the sporty member of the XC90 family. It’s not any quicker than the other trims, but it does have eye-catching visual additions such as silver mirrors, tinted windows and 20-inch alloy wheels. Inside there are body-hugging seats, metal pedals, and a choice of driving modes.
R-Design Pro also adds some of the same features on Momentum Pro, but with 22-inch alloys and adaptive dampers and air suspension.
Inscription offers buyers the ultimate in luxury. Key features here are even plusher leather upholstery, enhanced interior lighting, integrated sun curtain and a different design of 20-inch alloy wheels.
The range-topping Inscription Pro then adds some of the features in the other Pro packages (most notably the active dampers and air suspension), plus 21-inch wheels and massaging front seats.
Despite the restructuring and renaming of trim levels in 2022, standard equipment levels remain fairly similar. Entry-level Core models come with keyless entry and push-button start and a reversing camera. Plus models add a 360-degree camera, powerful LED headlights and an upgraded sound system, while range-topping Ultimate models get a few more bits and pieces along with styling tweaks. Both Plus and Ultimate models are available in Bright and Dark forms, which primarily consists of chrome or black exterior detailing.
Volvo XC90 Reliability and warranty
The model has had a few minor recalls, but one of more major concern in mid-2019 covered diesel XC90s: a fault with the plastic intake manifold used on its 2.0-litre engine, was found to pose a potential fire risk, prompting a recall.
In common with other premium brands, Volvo isn’t a market leader when it comes to warranty cover, guaranteeing its cars for three years and 60,000 miles only. As far as large seven-seater SUVs go, the much cheaper Kia Sorento has it trumped, and is covered for seven years or 100,000 miles.
Used Volvo XC90
The XC90 is a highly rated and extremely sought-after model. One-year-old XC90s tend to be only worth around 5% less than new examples.
Not many T6 petrol-engined XC90s will be sold in the first place, but those that are definitely won’t hold their value as well as the D5 diesels. If you don’t do much annual mileage and therefore aren’t too sensitive to running costs, one of these could make a canny used buy.
For a short period, Volvo’s tuning arm Polestar, offered power upgrades for the D5 diesel and T6 petrol for a cost of £835. These will be hard to find, but are worth seeking out if performance is important for you.