Volvo offers just the one engine in the XC90: a five-cylinder, 2.4-litre turbodiesel. The old-fashioned oil-burner produces 197bhp at 3900rpm and 309lb ft from 2000-2750rpm.
Dig deep and this Volvo will move along at a reasonable enough pace, but it’s still more sedate than the latest premium diesel 4x4s. Predictably, much more modern – and powerful - six-cylinder units in the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz M-Class comprehensively outperform the XC90.
On the motorway, the XC90 will sit around the legal limit and have sufficient power in reserve to overtake safely and maintain speed up any gradient. But accelerating beyond these speeds is always a struggle, the XC90’s bluff shape making the shift from 70-90mph a slow and laborious process. It takes roughly twice the time to get from 70-90mph as it does from 40-60mph.
The six-speed automatic gearbox suits the engine’s character well: slow and steady. It’s also been recently reconfigured so that it doesn’t feel like it takes such an eon to do a simple task such as pulling away from a roundabout or traffic lights.
Full-throttle upshifts are slick and downchanges well judged, often relying on the engine’s torque for smoother progress. A manual mode allows each gear to be held right through to the rev limiter.
The XC90 can crack 0-60mph in 9.7sec and go on to reach a top speed of 127mph. A manual option used to be offered to counter the rather lazy performance of the automatic, but, along with the petrol engines, it is now confined to the used market.
Braking performance is excellent, stopping power coming from disc brakes all round.