The skinny: After a long wait, Volvo finally has a new XC90 SUV ready to go into battle against established premium players. With a high quality interior, reimagined infotainment, and bluff new styling, the new XC90 marks a revitalised Volvo.
Vehicle Style: Large Luxury SUV
Price: $89,950 to $122,950 (plus on-roads)
- 165kW/470Nm 2.0 litre turbo diesel 4cyl | 8sp automatic
- 235kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo and supercharged petrol 4cyl | 8sp automatic
- 235kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo and supercharged petrol 4cyl + 65kW/240Nm electric motor | 8sp automatic
- T6 claimed: 8.5 l/100km | tested: 13.5 l/100km
- D5 claimed: 6.2 l/100km | tested: 8.9 l/100km
- T8 claimed: 2.1 l/100km | tested: not available
You may not pick it at first sight, but the new Volvo XC90 signals the start of a whole new chapter for Volvo.
Many of the brand hallmarks are there: the square-set grille, full height tail-lights , and a suite of safety gear.
What you don’t see is an entirely new platform, one that will find its way under every car in the Volvo range in just a few short years.
Established luxury manufacturers are firmly within the XC90s sights. Where the previous generation straddled segments somewhat, this one is aimed squarely into premium large SUV territory.
With innovation as a headline act, and a luxury interior, the new XC90 deserves the attention of buyers.
Two grades of XC90 will be offered initially, the entry level Momentum, which is still very strongly specified, and the more upmarket Inscription.
Joining the range later this year, the sport-styled R-Design and the T8 Twin Engine (plug in hybrid) due in six month's time and available in R-Design spec only.
We took to the roads around the nation’s capital for a first taste of Volvo’s aspirational new seven-seater.
- Momentum: Leather seat trim, powered front seats with driver’s memory, leather steering wheel and gearshifter, front and rear park sensors with park assist pilot, full LED headlights with auto high beam, auto headlights and wipers, road sign information, 12.3-inch graphical instrument cluster, in-built child seat booster cushion, brushed aluminium interior inlays, cruise control, four-zone climate control, 19-inch alloy wheels.
- Inscription (in addition to Momentum): Nappa leather seat trim, hands-free tailgate opening, illuminated door handles and puddle lights, illuminated metal tread plates, Inscription carpet set, additional interior illumination, leather key remote, metal mesh interior inlays, 20-inch alloy wheels.
- R-Design (in addition to Inscription): Charcoal headlining, drive mode settings, gearshift paddles, R-Design carpet mats, sports pedals, perforated leather steering wheel and gearshifter, sports seats in Nappa leather.
- Infotainment: 9-inch vertical ‘Sensus’ touchscreen, navigation with voice control, Bluetooth and WiFi tethering, Aux and USB connectivity. Optional Bowers & Wilkins high performance audio with subwoofer.
- Luggage capacity: 1102 litres (to roof) with third row folded and second row raised, 1951 litres with all seats folded.
Climb aboard and the most attention-grabbing aspect of the XC90 has to be the monolithic tablet that takes the place of Volvo’s previous overload of buttons in the centre stack.
That reconfigurable nine-inch screen isn’t the biggest screen in the interior however. That prize goes to the instrument cluster, with a 12.3 display taking the place of a traditional gauge pack.
That simplification of the interior leaves the dash facia looking almost concept-car like in its execution. But like similar screen-only interfaces, a few more shortcut buttons would be nice.
Familiarity goes a long way with a system like this. It’s just like an iPad to use, and the grouping of entertainment, navigation, phone, etc. is easy to comprehend.
The multifunction steering wheel can be a little confronting at first. The buttons offer control over almost every aspect of the car, and can change function depending on the menu in use.
It’s innovative, but, again, the more time spent using it, the better.
The seats are of a new design, with the only carry-over mechanism being the in-built booster seats of the second row. Standard electric lumbar and base length adjustment of the front rows makes for a comfortable ride for all shapes and sizes.
Second row occupants are able to slide the individual seats fore and aft by 120mm (50 percent more than before) and a reclining backrest is also fitted.
The third row has been designed for use by adults up to 170cm, and the rearmost backrests are even the same dimensions and design as the outboard seats in the second row.
The base is more compact, and the seats are moved closer together, but there’s enough toe room for adults. And, if the second row is kind enough to shimmy forward a little, there’s even generous legroom.
Second row seating gets centre and outboard face level vents, the third row also has heating and cooling piped through the C-pillar vents.
And, just to reiterate Volvo’s pioneering safety focus, the front seat belt buckles are engraved with ‘since 1959’ - the year Volvo introduced the modern three-point seatbelt.
ON THE ROAD
- 165kW/470Nm 2.0 litre twin turbo diesel in-line four cylinder, eight-speed automatic
- 235kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo and supercharged petrol in-line four cylinder, eight-speed automatic
- 235kW/400Nm 2.0 litre turbo and supercharged petrol in-line four cylinder plus 65kW/240Nm plug-in electric motor, eight-speed automatic (available 2016)
- All wheel drive
- Double wishbone front suspension, transverse leaf spring rear susspension
- Electric power steering, 11.8m turning circle
- Towing capacity: 2250kg (braked) 225kg downball
Despite the D5 and T6 labels, both the diesel and petrol engines feature four-cylinders and 2.0 litre capacity. Expected in six months time, the range topping T8 twin engine (petrol and plug-in hybrid) will round out the range.
Both engines are paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission (built by Aisin Warner for Volvo) and with four-wheel-drive down below.
Volvo’s T6 petrol engine features a supercharger to provide low rev torque with a turbocharger taking over for top-end duties. Peak power is 235kW at 5700rpm and maximum torque is 400Nm between 220 and 5400rpm.
According to Volvo, that makes the T6 good for a 6.5 second 0-100km/h sprint.
On the road that translates to comfortable acceleration. Prod the throttle and it will produce and it will deliver a rush of speed, but it reacts gently, rather than aggressively.
There’s little in the way of engine noise or vibration, but up you run it hard the four-cylinder brings in a tinny-sounding exhaust note. There’s nary a hint of supercharger or turbo noise though, both operating unobtrusively.
The D5 diesel meanwhile, generates 165kW at 4250rpm and 470Nm of torque from 1750 to 2500rpm. The engine runs two turbos, one for lower revs and one for high, with a seemless delivery of power.
In and around town, it feels noticeably stronger, with the extra torque on tap helping shift the XC90 more effortlessly.
The new generation turbo diesel is also monumentally quiet from inside the car. Most would struggle to pick this as a diesel engine.
We think that the smooth and quiet diesel, with its stronger torque delivery, should fast become the buyer’s pick
The eight-speed auto works a treat with both engines. It feels a touch more sharp-witted in the T6, relying on the torque more in the D5.
Ride falls ever-so-slightly on the firm side, but there’s no real shortage of comfort on the open road. Sharp potholes can catch the XC90 out, most other imperfections are dealt with easily.
Through the bends, the big Volvo remains impressively composed. There’s little in the way of body roll, it is surprisingly agile for an SUV of its size.
Steering feel however is somewhat lacking, the front wheels track accurately but feedback is dulled down.
The faithful front-end can be put down to the sophisticated double-wishbone front suspension. At the rear the Volvo breaks with convention somewhat by employing a compact transverse composite leaf spring - part of the reason for the rear seat’s impressive size.
Air-suspension is also available as an option, bringing ‘drive mode control’ and adjustable ride height.
On loose surfaces there’s a feeling of front-wheel bias. Not a great cause for concern, but on gravel there can be a momentary pause before the rear wheels start to bite - either way the stability control has your back if things start to wander too wide.
ANCAP rating: This model has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Standard safety includes City safety autonomous braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane departure warning, front collision mitigation, in-built child booster cushion, auto high beam with active bending lights, rear camera, plus front and rear park assist with park pilot.
That’s on top of six airbags (dual front, front side impact, full length curtain) as well as traction and stability control, ABS brakes, pretensioning seatbelts for all outboard seating positions, and a passenger cell comprised of 33% high-strength steel.
Additional safety features on Inscription include blind spot monitoring with cross traffic alert, and front and rear collision mitigation. An optional Driver Support pack adds 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control with lane keeping and head up display for $4000.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There’s plenty of opposition in the luxury SUV market, BMW offers some of the best driving dynamics, Range Rover provides sophisticated styling, while Land Rover is the go-to choice for proper off road adventures.
Audi’s Q7 has just landed in Australia, while the ML range is about to be updated and renamed as the GLE.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
As the first of Volvo’s all-new product range, the XC90 shows that Volvo’s future is looking bright. A strong list of standard safety and luxury features provides some sharp opposition to the established luxury troop.
On the road the XC90 feels solid, copes well with Aussie roads and has enough poke underfoot to be driven with confidence.
Some buyers might shy away from the touchscreen dashboard interface at first, but we’ve little doubt it will become second-nature very quickly.
And best of all, if the third row of seating is called into action often, there’ll be little complaint from the rear-most passengers thanks to a highly practical pair of seats back there.
As a snapshot of modern, practical, luxury motoring, the XC90 has what it takes. This one’s a real disruptor for the high-end SUV class.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
165kW/470Nm D5 Diesel
XC90 Momentum - $89,950
XC90 Inscription - $96,950
XC90 R-Design - $97,950
236kW/400Nm T6 Petrol
XC90 - Momentum - $93,950
XC90 Inscription - $100,950
XC90 R-Design - $101,950
298kW/640Nm T8 Twin Engine
XC90 R-Design - $122,950