As soon as one four-wheel-drive departs, another arrives. Will Matt Prior's new SUV appeal as much as his much-loved Land Rover Defender?
2 February 2016

For the past six months I’ve been driving a Land Rover Defender. Obviously, in many ways it’s terrible, as you may well be aware, but I have enjoyed every single one of the 15,000 miles I’ve driven in it, even though most of those were on my own, on a motorway, which is hardly natural Defender habitat.

Motorways are rather more the preferred ground of the car that has come to replace it: a Volvo XC90, in what counts for entry-level XC90 specification these days. It has a 2.0-litre diesel engine producing 222bhp and has arrived in entry-level Momentum trim, in which form it costs some £45,750 before options.

“What’s an XC90 for, then?” asked a passenger, who’d known the Defender, the other day. “Well, it’s an off-roader like the Land Rover,” I said. “Only it’s longer and wider, it won’t go as far off road, it’s more expensive…”

I trailed off, getting the distinct feeling this wasn’t really selling the XC90, which wasn’t my intention at all. It was one of my favourite new cars of last year and, if you’re going to drive more than 30,000 miles a year in anything, a Volvo XC90 is quite the choice.

So I better explained. It’s a seven-seat executive car, I went on, explaining how Volvos have exceptional seats (the driver’s one being electrically adjustable) and a terrific driving position, and that the XC90 in particular has in its centre console a cool new touchscreen that is as easy to flick around as a smartphone’s screen. Then there are the safety features, I said, of which it has loads. It’s comfortable, posh and practical, but at the same time it’ll tow things and go through a field if you want it to.

All of which is true. The XC90 is one of those do-anything vehicles, the sort of thing that would migrate to near the top of the list if someone said you could have just one car.

Even in its base Momentum form, the Volvo comes well specified. There is leather trim, that touchscreen infotainment system as standard, including navigation, and a fine stereo. There is also cruise control and an eight-speed automatic gearbox.

Volvo won’t offer anything bigger than a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, be it petrol or, as here, diesel, so that’s what this XC90 gets, badged D5. Air springs are optional (£2150) and fitted to this test car, as is ‘Drive Mode select’ (£395), which I’d have thought should come free with the springs, but can stiffen them up while sharpening the gearbox’s responses and adding weight to the steering. Other options fitted to this XC90 include an all-round camera to supplement the standard reversing camera (£700), 20in diamond-cut alloys (£1000) and sensors that look out for traffic if you’re reversing out of a parking space and also look into your blind spots and try to mitigate rear-end collisions (£500). Topping it off is a Winter Pack of heated seats, windscreen, washer nozzles and steering wheel, at £575.

Truth be told, only the Winter Pack makes this car feel any more plush than it would do as standard. All of the things that feel luxurious about the XC90’s interior are fitted as standard anyway: the leather seats, the touchscreen, the all-digital dash whose look can be changed via an options menu.

Ah, yes, digital things. The XC90 has a lot of those. It gets keyless go, while the heated seats and radio and so on are all controlled via the touchscreen. And I’ll be honest: they don’t work flawlessly. The XC90 is one of those cars that involves ‘ensembles’ when displaying digital radio stations, the passenger’s heated seat frequently switches off automatically after only a few seconds, and on about one journey in five the XC90 ‘loses’ the key and thinks it’s no longer in the vehicle.

Pity, because its functions mostly work brilliantly. The XC90 has automatic headlights including auto high beam, and they aim, dip or dim just a section of the lights with impeccable skill. The stereo sounds fabulous and the heated windscreen unfreezes in seconds. The XC is a fantastic winter car.

It’s a comfortable one, too, for the most part. If you were being picky - and let’s face it, on Autocar we’re paid to be - you’d argue that the ride was occasionally a bit crashy over big surface imperfections, while the four-cylinder diesel is a bit gruffer than you’d expect in a £50,000 car.

It performs pretty well, though. We recorded a 0-60mph time of 8.3sec when we road tested the XC90 and, apart from a slightly hesitant step-off, there’s plenty of urge. You can always flick the gear selector to the left and make shifts yourself - something I sometimes do at roundabouts because it seems to improve response. Fuel economy is 34.1mpg so far - pretty good for a 2076kg SUV. It’s not a massive improvement over the 28mpg the agricultural Defender was getting, but I do cruise in it rather more quickly on the motorway - at around the legal limit rather than a steady 55-60mph. Will 30,000-plus miles a year in the XC90 be as enjoyable as those in a Defender? I strongly suspect so. But even if they’re not, they probably won’t take quite as long.

Our complete road test team have got their mitts on the Volvo XC90 - see what they made of it here

Car: Volvo XC90

Needs to be: Comfortable and effective as a motorway cruiser, somewhat economical.

Run by Autocar since: January 2016

Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum

Price £45,750; Price as tested £51,770; Options Air suspension £2150, 20in alloys £1000, metallic paint £700, 360deg camera £700, blind spot/cross traffic/rear collision warning £500, Drive Mode settings £395, winter pack (heated seats, windscreen, steering wheel, washer nozzles) £575 Economy 34.1mpg; Faults Electronic niggles; Expenses None

Our Verdict

Volvo XC90
The new Volvo XC90 costs from £45,750

It has big boots to fill and talented rivals to face. Is it up to the task?

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Comments
17

2 February 2016

A crashy ride seems to be a Volvo feature. I remember reading the C30, V40 shared the same trait. I've had personal experience in a S60 and the old XC90, both ride horribly. They had a hard edge, which when pushed through gave way to uncontrolled pogoing on bad roads... as if the dampers were marshmallows with a super hard crust. Very wierd.

2 February 2016
winniethewoo wrote:

A crashy ride seems to be a Volvo feature. I remember reading the C30, V40 shared the same trait. I've had personal experience in a S60 and the old XC90, both ride horribly. They had a hard edge, which when pushed through gave way to uncontrolled pogoing on bad roads... as if the dampers were marshmallows with a super hard crust. Very wierd.

2 February 2016

Can't believe on a £46,000 you have to pay extra for heated washer jets, are you sure?

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

289

2 February 2016

quote "Can't believe on a £46,000 you have to pay extra for heated washer jets"
Quite agree xxxx, disgrace and rather cynical to charge for items expected of any quality hatchback half the Volvo's price.
With regard to the crashy ride, I think every Volvo from the 850 onwards has suffered with this. It is almost as if Volvo have fitted low profile tyres to their range but forgotten to alter damper settings to suit. It is tiresome on a long journey and particularly if it involves any driving in the counties of Surrey or Berkshire where despite the enormous council income from expensive households, the roads compete with Poland's for the worst roads in Europe!
With regard to engines in the XC90, I think the 4 cylinder route is a mistake.
No 4 cylinder engines have a prestigious or 'executive' feel to them, they just feel 'budget'...god forbid a 4 cylinder oil burner!
Even if I were interested in a two year old XC90 at some point the lack of a V6 or V8 would preclude being added to the shortlist for me.

2 February 2016

Matt - how is it when not being used to drive from home to the office? A friend has a new XC90 and as soon as you get into our small towns and try to park, it's just too big. The 360 camera helps but doesn't make it any smaller.....(a perfect USA car but like it's Q7 rivals just too big for easy UK parking)

2 February 2016
Deputy wrote:

Matt - how is it when not being used to drive from home to the office? A friend has a new XC90 and as soon as you get into our small towns and try to park, it's just too big. The 360 camera helps but doesn't make it any smaller.....(a perfect USA car but like it's Q7 rivals just too big for easy UK parking)

Thats not a fault of the car, its the fault of the current markets love of urban SUV's. No one needs a car this big in the city, but it doesnt prevent the customers demanding them from every manufacturer in greater numbers.

2 February 2016
Deputy wrote:

Matt - how is it when not being used to drive from home to the office? A friend has a new XC90 and as soon as you get into our small towns and try to park, it's just too big. The 360 camera helps but doesn't make it any smaller.....(a perfect USA car but like it's Q7 rivals just too big for easy UK parking)

Thats not a fault of the car, its the fault of the current markets love of urban SUV's. No one needs a car this big in the city, but it doesnt prevent the customers demanding them from every manufacturer in greater numbers.

2 February 2016
Deputy wrote:

Matt - how is it when not being used to drive from home to the office? A friend has a new XC90 and as soon as you get into our small towns and try to park, it's just too big. The 360 camera helps but doesn't make it any smaller.....(a perfect USA car but like it's Q7 rivals just too big for easy UK parking)

Thats not a fault of the car, its the fault of the current markets love of urban SUV's. No one needs a car this big in the city, but it doesnt prevent the customers demanding them from every manufacturer in greater numbers.

2 February 2016
Deputy wrote:

Matt - how is it when not being used to drive from home to the office? A friend has a new XC90 and as soon as you get into our small towns and try to park, it's just too big. The 360 camera helps but doesn't make it any smaller.....(a perfect USA car but like it's Q7 rivals just too big for easy UK parking)

Thats not a fault of the car, its the fault of the current markets love of urban SUV's. No one needs a car this big in the city, but it doesnt prevent the customers demanding them from every manufacturer in greater numbers.

2 February 2016
Deputy wrote:

Matt - how is it when not being used to drive from home to the office? A friend has a new XC90 and as soon as you get into our small towns and try to park, it's just too big. The 360 camera helps but doesn't make it any smaller.....(a perfect USA car but like it's Q7 rivals just too big for easy UK parking)

Thats not a fault of the car, its the fault of the current markets love of urban SUV's. No one needs a car this big in the city, but it doesnt prevent the customers demanding them from every manufacturer in greater numbers.

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