From £35,525
More doesn't mean better

Our Verdict

Volvo XC90 2003-2014
The XC90 led the charge for seven seat SUVs when it launched in 2003

The Volvo XC90 is a big seven seat SUV in desperate need of modernisation, despite still having some strengths

  • First Drive

    Volvo XC90 2.4 D5

    Engine and styling refresh achieves little in updating an ageing SUV that’s practical, but at the same time noisy and crude.
  • First Drive

    Volvo XC90 D5 SE Sport

    Sport spec makes for a more involving drive - and sleeker look - but without making the XC90 uncomfortable.

At a stroke, the new Volvo XC90 Executive redresses the biggest mistake the firm made when it launched its class-leading seven-seat SUV. They’ve made it more expensive. A lot more expensive.

With waiting times still around 12 months’ long, used cars changing hands for well over list price and punters spending more on options for their XCs than on any previous Volvo, the Swedes have realised that they could have set list prices much higher and still sold every car they could build.

So now they have. At £44,388, the 163bhp D5 Executive – also available as a 272bhp petrol – is £10,655 more than an SE-trim car with the same engine and auto gearbox. The Executive has almost all of Volvo’s long list of gadgets as standard, including a DVD player with screens in the rear headrests, sat-nav, integrated phone, premium sound system with mini-disc player and subwoofer, metallic paint and xenon lamps. But to add all this to an SE would cost you ‘just’ £7985, leaving you paying £2670 for the stuff you can only have on the Exec.

So what do you get? A better grade of leather upholstery, which is very nice, and walnut wood trim, which is neither nice nor optional. Oddly, the rearmost seats are still trimmed in the SE’s standard leather. There are a few other minor interior upgrades and a fridge in the centre console, though this and the DVD player mounted with it mean you’re denied the big, central storage box. You can also no longer lift out this box to slide the integrated child seat in the middle row all the way forward – one of the XC90’s best features.

Outside, the alloy skid plate and roof rails, body-coloured door handles and rubbing strips and new design of 18in wheels make the XC look a bit smarter, but not two-and-half-grand smarter.

Will it sell? Undoubtedly, to the legions of well-heeled buyers the XC has recruited to the Volvo brand, who just want the best model money can buy and find ticking all those option boxes on an SE a terrible chore. But our XC of choice is still the SE, with more tasteful alloy or piano-black interior trim and only the gadgets you really want or need. The XC is still the best SUV, but the Executive isn’t the best XC.

Ben Oliver

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • 2016 Audi A3 Sportback e-tron UK review
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    First UK drive finds the facelifted A3 Sportback e-tron remains a first-rate plug-in hybrid that is packed with tech if a little short on driver appeal
  • Citroen C11.2 Puretech 82 Furio
    First Drive
    29 September 2016
    Citroën's city car gets a new sporty-looking trim level, adding visual adornments, but no premium for the 1.2-litre Puretech triple we're driving
  • Mercedes C350e Sport
    First Drive
    28 September 2016
    Petrol-electric C-Class is a surprisingly well-priced alternative to a diesel but not the greatest example of the new ‘PHEV’ breed
  • Car review
    23 September 2016
    Aston kicks off its ‘second century plan’ with an all-new turbo V12 grand tourer
  • Ford Ka+ 1.2 Ti-VCT 85
    First Drive
    22 September 2016
    A rounded, refined and well-sorted bargain supermini – once you’re used to the confusing role redefinition imposed on the once-cheeky Ka