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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Volvo XC90 T5 AWD R-Design

Click to view picture gallery“You could spend a cool £300,000
  on an SUV wearing a Rolls-Royce
  badge but just £51,860 will buy you
  what many consider to be one of
  the best and most versatile SUVs on
  the market
Volvos XC90...”


ARGUABLY MORE HANDSOME than the Rolls-Royce-badged behemoth, the XC90 is even more welcoming on the inside where classy Scandi design and craftsmanship rules. It's as big as it needs to be for a functioning seven-seater but it cleverly blends practicality with chic poise and upmarket allure and makes the perfect all-weather machine to ferry around multiple permutations of grown-ups and gear.

The XC90's designers have pulled off a neat trick in making this five-metre long SUV look so elegant given that it's big enough to provide generous space for seven adults. Fronting it is a commanding upright, vertical-barred grille flanked by light units with distinguishing T-shaped 'Thor's hammer' LED daytime running lights inset into a profiled bonnet.

Along the sides, deep flanks are punctuated by standout 20-inch diamond cut/matt black five-spoke alloy wheels while the glasshouse is topped-and-tailed with a subtle spoiler and Volvo's trademark high-set vertical LED taillights, themselves underscored by chrome-finish tailpipes meticulously dovetailed into each corner of the lower apron. Power dressed? Absolutely.

With the government
misguidedly regarding
diesel as the ‘Big Satan’,
petrol engines are now,
to paraphrase John
Le Carre’s classic spy
story, the engines that
came in from the cold.
The good news, when
it comes to petrol power,
is that the XC90
offers a choice of two:
the turboed 246bhp
T5 or the decidedly faster
turbocharged and
supercharged
305bhp T6...”
With the government misguidedly regarding diesel as the 'Big Satan', petrol engines are now, to paraphrase John Le Carre's classic spy story, the engines that came in from the cold. The good news, when it comes to petrol power, is that the XC90 offers a choice of two: the turboed 246bhp 2.0-litre T5 or the decidedly faster turbocharged and supercharged 305bhp T6.

As the UK is not officially banning new petrol or diesel engines until 2040, you can, should you prefer, still opt for a more economical (47mpg) D5 PowerPulse turbodiesel. Alternatively, Volvo also offer an über-green petrol-electric plug-in hybrid — the 108mpg T8 Twin Engine.

However, this past week we've bypassed both diesel and hybrid to spend time pootling around in the latest turbocharged T5 petrol unit that, in addition to a lively 246bhp, also kicks out a muscular 258lb ft across a broad rev-band running from 1,800 and 4,800rpm. As you'd expect, with this much well spread out 'twist' there's gutsy 'pull' from low-down, making the T5 a relaxed performer from the off.

Press hard on the loud pedal (not, we'd like to stress, that there's anything other than minimal noise intrusion into the cabin) and you'll be whisked cleanly off the line before, 7.9 seconds later, passing the 62mph marker. Top speed, although you probably won't be going there in the UK even if you are a wealthy ex-footballer with a penchant for tattoos, is 134mph. Better still, all XC90 models come with a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, so laying down the power is a very civilised affair whatever the road and whatever the weather.

Civilised, too, is the rate at which this T5 engine drinks unleaded — its official Combined Cycle figure is 35.8mpg but a week's motoring in the real world saw our hard-driven test average come in at a liveable 31.7mpg; given its size, seven seats, automatic transmission powertrain and all-wheel drive, that's good enough.

The XC90 also offers the driver, via its Drive Select feature, a choice of five driving modes so if economy is a priority then, using the very tactile milled roller wheel control on the centre tunnel to select Eco should help you beat our 32mpg test average figure; other settings are Dynamic, Comfort, driver-customised Individual, and Off Road.

A nice touch: before you even leave the building you can, via your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, remotely activate the XC90's climate control, so by the time you open the car's door the cabin has been pre-warmed for you (or, if it's a baking summer's day, pre-cooled). And you need never remove the key fob from your pocket or handbag, either to unlock, lock or start your XC90.

The app enabling this is part of Volvo's On Call system, which enables onboard WiFi as well as making life easier for you in a number of ways: Forgotten exactly where in the car park you left it? No problem; simply use your mobile to get the XC90 to flash its lights or sound the horn. You can even be shown where the car is on a map and get directions directly to it. Want to forward a route map to the SatNav so you're ready to motor the instant you buckle-up? No problem. It will also automatically contact the emergency services if the car is in an accident, or let you do it yourself (or just request breakdown assistance), by pressing the SOS button.

A nice touch: before you
even leave the building
you can, via your
smartphone or smart
watch, remotely activate
the XC90’s climate
control, so by the time
you open the car’s door
the cabin has been pre-
warmed for you (or, if
it’s a baking summer's
day, pre-cooled).
And you need never
remove the key fob from
your pocket or handbag,
either to unlock, lock
or start your XC90...”
Once seated you'll agree that Volvo's designers have concocted the perfect interior — kitted-out with a wealth of high-tech features and tasteful and stylish upmarket trim finishes, the XC90's cabin is a joy not just to sit in but also to behold; easily the equal of cabins from top rivals such as Audi and Range Rover.

Above all, the front seats in the R-Design are truly AbFab. Seriously, they are soul-satisfyingly good and once you've parked your body in one you won't want to move a muscle, not even when, at journey's end, you reach that 'you have arrived' moment.

Setting the perfect position is a doddle as there's full power adjustment including an electrically-adjustable extending under-thigh cushion and powered multi-directional lumbar support. And the strongly-bolstered sports-style seats don't stop at being just brilliantly supportive — there's also three-stage heating and you can memorise three of your favourite setting (as, too, can your front passenger). If that's not enough to make you smile, they're upholstered in luxuriously soft Nappa leather and Nubuck.

The driver is further indulged with a great-to-grip, three-stage heated, leather- wrapped multifunction steering wheel with paddle-shifters for convenient driver-managed gearshifts whenever you're feeling truly 'hands-on'; from behind the helm, the driving position is imperiously commanding with an uninterrupted view of the bonnet and the road ahead. The large, fairly upright rear screen also affords expansive views of what's going on behind you.

And despite the XC90 putting down a fulsome 'footprint', placing and parking this big SUV is hassle-free thanks to large glasshouse windows and slim front pillars — in fact, even 'old-fashioned' over-the-shoulder parking is a breeze. However, if you're a fully paid-up camera-and-mirrors driver then you'll be more than happy with the front and rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera taken to the next level by an especially handy 360-degree surround-view camera system. Plus, if you've really had it with DIY parking, there's an automated 'parking jockey' on hand to take the hassle out of both parallel and 90-degree parking.

Adding to the spacious and soothingly minimalist cabin ambiance is a fascia that's delightfully uncluttered by switchgear; just about everything is operated from the multifunction steering wheel or via the large, high-definition tablet-style nine-inch touchscreen set in the centre of the leather-clad dash.

The touchscreen is home to Volvo's all-singing-all-dancing Sensus infotainment system — if you can use a smartphone then you've got this tamed. Connecting a mobile couldn't be quicker or simpler. Menus are logical and it helps enormously that your voice can, in many cases, replace your fingertip — Sensus understands over 300 everyday phrases, from 'Set temperature 20 degrees' to 'Listen to Queen'.

Directly ahead of the driver is a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel that's customisable at the press of a button on the steering wheel; our favourite configuration was full-screen mapping with smaller 'dials' to maximise the map detailing. Naturally there's a digital speed readout — importantly, it's shown immediately above the posted speed limit (that flashes if exceeded) so you won't get caught speeding unless you really wnt to! Equally worthwhile is the easily-seen visual speed camera alert.

“The XC90’s cabin is
a joy not just to sit in
but to behold; easily the
equal of cabins from top
rivals such as Audi
and Range Rover.
Above all, the front seats
in the R-Design are
truly AbFab.
Seriously, they are soul-
satisfyingly good and
once you’ve parked your
body in one you won’t
want to move a muscle,
not even when, at
journey’s end, you reach
that ‘you have arrived’
moment...”
If you like your sounds there's easy listening to be had from the XC90's standard-fit 330-watt, 10-speaker audio system — true audiophiles will no doubt opt for either the 600-watt, 14-speaker Harman Kardon or 1,400-watt, 19-speaker Bowers & Wilkins premium HiFi that effectively turns the cabin into a concert hall.

There's also a WiFi hotspot so your passengers can get online using their personal smartphones or tablets (web apps include Local Search, Spotify, Tunein, Weather, and Yelp). You also have DAB radio and Bluetooth (with handsfree voice control functionality) and USB and aux-in sockets to connect an MP3 player.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available for on-screen interfacing with your smartphone. The navigation serves up crisp 3D mapping supported by über-easy destination input using your voice, fingertip or even via your smartphone (you can even sync to your Outlook Calendar to get to your next destination). Spoken directions are reassuringly timely and straightforward. No U-turns here!

It's good, too, to find that there's a plentiful supply of storage spaces; in the front you'll find three interlinked dual-use cupholders that double as an accommodating storage tray with a sliding lid, a deep storage box capped by a wide armrest between the front seats, door pockets that hold large bottles and still have space left over for other stuff, a good-sized, damped, lined and lit glovebox that's opened by pressing a nail-friendly button on the centre stack, as well as a large netted pocket alongside the front passenger's right knee.

The best-selling mid-range R-Design trim level provides everything you're ever likely to need including, and in addition to all the other kit mentioned elsewhere, dual-zone climate control, multicolour theatre cabin lighting, electric parking brake with auto hold, four one-shot power windows, tinted glass, powerfolding heated and autodimming door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking), frameless auto-dimming rearview mirror, auto lights and wipes, adaptive cruise control, speed limiter, sports pedal set, and 20-inch alloy wheels.

As you'd expect, the XC90 is also well-specced with proven safety kit — in fact, Volvo says the XC90 is its safest car yet. For instance, unlike many other seven-seaters, it has window airbags that protect those in all three rows of seats, not just the first two. Then there's the City Safety system with cyclist, pedestrian and large animal detection and front collision warning with fully automatic emergency braking including at junctions (a Volvo world-first).

Also fitted is Volvo's semi-autonomous drive technology Pilot Assist that helps with the steering and takes care of the accelerator and braking to keep the car within lane markings at the desired cruising speed. Oncoming Lane Protection is another safety assist that automatically provides steering assistance should you accidentally drift out of your lane, guiding you back and out of the path of any oncoming vehicles.

If things ever go pear-shaped and the XC90 is about to inadvertently leave the road, Run-off Road Protection applies the steering to bring it back on track as well as pre-tightens the belts — the front seat frames now incorporate a collapsible section (another world-first) designed to help prevent spinal injuries.

When the going gets
tough, it’s not always the
tough who get going but
those with four-wheel
drive. And when those
whispering white flakes
come spilling out of the
sky the XC90 is a very
reassuring place to be.
Volvo uses the XC90’s
all-wheel drive
principally for safety,
although that’s not to say
that it hasn’t benefited
from more grip and
confidence through the
twisties and when
cornering, where it
remains nicely composed
and easily steered...”
A full five-star EuroNCAP safety rating can also be taken for granted plus additionally included in the full suite of airbags is one for the driver's knee, a road sign recognition system, automatic LED headlights with fast-acting automatic dip/main headlight switching, LED front foglights with cornering function, anti-whiplash head restraints, height-adjustable front belts, tyre pressure monitoring, stability and traction control, and Hill Descent Control.

A lane departure warning system is also standard-fit but should you want to double-up on safety you can add blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert and rear collision mitigation systems for just £500.

All UK-spec XC90s are genuine seven-seaters. That's not to say that the middle row has given up any territory in the process — passengers enjoy a huge amount of space for feet and legs plus a fist of headroom; the seats are split 40:20:40 and all three sections can be slid independently of each other up to six inches backwards or forwards. The three backrests also recline, individually, so everyone aboard can set their own travelling sweet spot.

Both back cabin areas are bright and airy even before you press the one-shot button for the blackout sunblind; do so and you'll discover a panoramic tilt-and-slide glass sunroof that, literally, floods the cabin with light. If it's less light and more privacy your passengers' crave, pull-up sunshades are incorporated into the rear doors.

On a more practical note there are Isofix child seat mounts on the outer rear seats (the central second-row seat can also be specified with a pop-up, child-friendly booster seat). Air vents are on hand in the B-pillars and cupholders pop-out of the comfy centre armrest, while there are net pouches on the back of the front seat backrests.

When we said that the XC90 is a genuine seven-seater we weren't kidding — six-foot adults will be more comfortable in the middle row but you won't hear any complaints from near-six-foot (5ft 7in) grown-ups and youngsters especially as the seats are properly shaped and not the glorified benches some carmakers fit. The XC90's sixth and seventh seat also each have their own dedicated air vents, armrests and lidded storage bins.

There's much of that 'handsome is as handsome does' maxim about the XC90 — it certainly rides handsomely. Even rolling on 20-inch alloys shod with meaty 275/45 rubber the fluent ride is cushioning, notably so when travelling on the UK's nation-wide poorly-patched tarmac. It's also an agreeably refined car, well insulated against wind, road and engine noise.

When the going gets tough, it's not necessarily the tough who get going but those with all-wheel drive. And when those whispering white flakes come spilling out of the sky the XC90 is a very reassuring place to be. Volvo uses the XC90's four-wheel drive principally for safety, although that's not to say that it hasn't benefited from more grip and confidence through the twisties and when cornering, where it remains nicely composed and easily steered. For the record, ground clearance is between 227 and 238mm (depending on load) and it will wade through water up to 450mm deep.

Amazingly, even with the third row seats in use there's 451 litres behind them! However, most of the time the XC90 is likely to be used in its five-seater mode with the rearmost two seats folded neatly into, and flush with, the boot floor — configured thus, there's 1,102 litres for luggage or shopping. Drop the middle row seats too and this expands to a ginormous 1,951 litres with a seamless and totally flat loadbay floor — easily enough to shame the largest estate cars.

And it's much more than just a large space because all five rear seats can be configured as you please, with anything from one folded with four in use to four in use and one folded. Accommodating long cargo items is a no-brainer. And with no load lip and a large tailgate aperture, loading even bulky items is a breeze.

Other thoughtful features include a flip-up section that can be raised to partition the boot widthways, and sturdy pop-out bag hooks. There are also levers in the boot sidewalls to remotely fold the centre row backrests. And let's not forget the fast-acting powered tailgate that's activated via the key fob, tailgate button or a switch on the dash. And given its muscular torque and four-wheel drive, you won't be surprised to hear that the T5 can tow a braked 2,400kg.

The multiple-award-winning XC90 is a classy offering with a comfortable, luxurious and contemporary cabin, generous and versatile space for seven people as well as cargo, oodles of connectivity and safety tech, and off-road ability — and all at a bargain price (just check out the other guys!) And you know what? You can keep your Rolls-Royce. ~ MotorBar
.
Volvo XC90 T5 AWD R-Design | £55,360
Maximum speed: 134mph | 0-62mph: 7.9 seconds | Test Average: 31.7mpg
Power: 246bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2: 184g/km

.