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

The new Volvo XC90 is the culmination of a remarkable period in Volvo’s history. Just six years ago – normally the period of time you’d want to develop such a car – Volvo was perched on the edge of uncertainty.

A nose-diving global economy, falling sales and the desperation of then-owner Ford to extricate itself from European concerns left Volvo adrift on much the same perilous waters that eventually pulled Saab under.

The original Volvo XC90 was a long-lived sales hit

Even the immediate solution to its woes – acquisition by Chinese company Geely – seemed precarious. What chance its recovery with a potentially fickle and impatient foreign investor at the head of the table?

But the clouds have parted spectacularly. Geely (from the outside, at least) has apparently been content to sit back and let the Swedes do what they do best: come up with neat, idiosyncratic solutions to the multitude of challenges that face a comparatively small European manufacturer.

Consequently, the XC90 is not merely a replacement for the firm’s flagship model. It’s also teeming with recently developed technology that will underpin a raft of new models in the next decade - as can be seen by the 2017 Volvo XC60 and XC40 models.

That’s for tomorrow. Today, the car must simply be very good. Which isn’t simple at all, of course, because Volvo’s new halo is a premium large SUV, and that segment is hardly stocked with underachievers.

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Among them is Land Rover, a company also divested by Ford and which has gone from strength to strength under foreign control. Volvo will have noted the company’s rise with interest and will hope to convince buyers that its take on seven-seat, all-wheel-drive luxury is at least as compelling as the one that has emerged from Gaydon in the past 18 months.

There are three trim levels to choose from: Momentum, R-Design and Inscription and only two four-cylinder engines, plus a plug-in hybrid version. The entry-level D5 model is likely to be the most popular, so that’s what we’ll focus on here.

Volvo XC90 engine line-up and trim levels

A total of three engines are available on the XC90 (and all of them are four cylinders), with the B5 nomenclature applying somewhat confusingly to both the base petrol and diesel ICE units. There's also the Recharge T8 AWD, which not only has super- and turbo-charged boost for the petrol lump, but is also a plug-in hybrid (the clue's in the name). This offers a claimed near 60-mile electric-only range. 

Unsurprisingly, manuals are absent, with every car getting an eight-speed Geartronic auto 'box with an all-wheel drive transmission. There are five trim levels available: the base Momentum (B5 petrol only); Inscription Expression (T8 only, and is effectively Momentum kit but with Inscription styling); R-Design (the most popular, and therefore available on all the engines); R-Design Pro (D5 petrol and T8 only); and lastly the all-singing-all-dancing Inscription Pro (T8 only). With diesel being offered on one trim level only, that alone tells you where the market is heading.

MORE ON THE VOLVO XC90

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Nearly new buying guide: Volvo XC90

Volvo confirms electric version of next XC90

 

 

First drives