Under Volvo’s new 2.0-litre fourcylinder edict, the XC90’s 222bhp diesel engine is outgunned by the Range Rover’s 3.0-litre V6, but only by 32bhp. Claimed figures pitch the Volvo at two tonnes and the Range Rover at 150kg more but, in reality, the difference is probably at least 300kg, which helps to explain identical 0-60mph times of 7.4sec. However, the Range Rover’s bigger lump turns out 443lb ft of torque, compared with the Volvo’s 347lb ft.
The TDV6’s character suits the Range Rover’s image. It’s a muted grumbler of an engine that pulls happily from 1500rpm and has a broad powerband, yielding linear delivery for the next 2500rpm, although the bellowing mid-range becomes a slightly strained churn towards the top. During most driving, though, it’s suitably refined.
Although Volvo’s four-pot is more advanced than the Range Rover’s engine, it is a bit less civil. It impresses with unhesitating tug from a mere 1000rpm and promptly gets into a steady, humming stride, but it needs to be goaded above 3500rpm before delivering its best, at which point there’s more noise than in the Range Rover. But both engines are whisper-quiet at a cruise, and if you hadn’t experienced the Range Rover’s superior sound deadening, you mightn’t yearn for it in the Volvo.
Their eight-speed automatic transmissions are equally keen on low revs, and although each has a usefully responsive step in the throttle pedal to request kickdown, only the Range Rover has steering wheel-mounted paddles. The Volvo makes do with a shifter-based manual override. Neither ’box shifts with whipcrack pace. Rather, they fudge nonchalantly between ratios in a manner entirely appropriate to big, comfortable cars.
Speaking of which, it’s the Range Rover’s ride that impresses the most, especially in town, where it smothers scars and ridges with an ease that the Volvo can’t match. That’s not to say the XC90 is a bag of nerves up the high street – in fact, it’s suitably composed – but a bit more body movement and suspension noise mean that it lacks the nuclear bunker isolation of the Range Rover.
For the most part, the Vogue retains this serenity beyond the city limits, riding longer waves of asphalt with assured luxury, but a sharp ridge taken at speed can produce an unseemly thump from the chassis. The Volvo won’t quash such bumps entirely but limits them to a distant thud. The XC90 provides more cornering composure, too, aided not only by its lower weight but also a 20mm drop from the air suspension that happens automatically at pace or by choosing the Dynamic drive mode. It turns in smartly and roll is kept nicely in check.
Deprived of the active anti-roll bars exclusive to V8 versions, this ‘basic’ Range Rover can’t perform the same mass-defying cornering feats that make its costlier siblings twirl nimbly through apices like plus-size ballerinas. There’s plenty of stability, of course, but speeds must be tempered to keep roll within comfortable limits, and although both cars grip well, the Range Rover drifts into juddery understeer first. Make no mistake: the Vogue is impressively agile for such a tall, heavy car, but of the two, you could only call the XC90’s attitude car-like across twisty roads – albeit a car that’s more capable than engaging.