From £45,7507
48V starter-generator and battery meets 2.0-litre petrol engine as the new starting point for the XC90 line-up

What is it?

Volvo’s shift to electrification is happening faster than most, to the point it’s currently impossible to buy a Volvo XC90 from the factory without some form of hybrid assistance. 

A pure electric version of the company’s seven-seat flagship SUV might be a long way off, and a plug-in powertrain remains the preserve of the T8 TwinEngine, but now even entry-level cars get a 48V starter motor/generator and small battery. The system assists the 2.0-litre engine under acceleration and regenerates power under braking, which Volvo says can help cut down on emissions over the outgoing, combustion-only car, and gives real-world fuel economy a boost too.

Our car is the B5 petrol: a 2.0-litre four cylinder, available exclusively with all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission, but not to be confused with the slightly pricier B5 diesel. That’s also a 2.0-litre four-pot, but prefers to drink from the black pump. 

There are no visual clues as to which is which, with both sporting the same mildest of mild facelifts as the rest of the range, and there’s little to separate them in performance terms, the petrol taking an extra tenth of a second to reach 62mph and having an ever-so-slightly lower top speed.

3 Volvo xc90 b5 petrol 2020 uk fd hero rear

What's it like?

It’s not like there are any obvious signs the mild hybrid system is doing anything at all, an icon on the instrument cluster being the only indication that it is recuperating energy. Brake regeneration is very subtle, with nowhere near the level of deceleration you’d find in an electric car. 

This is no magic bullet, though. The XC90 is still a big, heavy SUV, and while it feels responsive enough in a straight line, the engine has to work much harder here than it did in the smaller XC60 we drove earlier in the year. It’s a little more vocal under load, and fuel economy is rarely that impressive. Our testing rarely saw figures top 30mpg, even on more relaxed motorway cruises. Compare that to the high 30s we saw from a similarly-equipped B5 diesel, and it’s clear which version provides better value for money at the fuel pump.

That’s a shame, as otherwise this powertrain suits the XC90’s premium nature. It starts smoothly, is unobtrusive at slower speeds, and in traffic the start/stop system is very subtle. Momentum trim does without the optional air suspension, but even on passive dampers the ride is well-judged across most surfaces. Only particularly rough B-roads are felt to a major degree inside the cabin.

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This isn’t a car that needs to be pushed, and doing so reveals light but slightly disconnected steering and a gearbox that can feel a little sluggish at times. Momentum-spec cars don’t come with paddle shifters, and while the gear selector does at least let you take manual control, there’s little incentive to do so.

Instead, better to appreciate the Scandinavian charm of the XC90’s cavernous interior, which is light and well-appointed even at the entry-level. The digital instrument cluster is comprehensive, as is the 9in portrait touchscreen, but it is relied upon for a few too many functions - it better integrates climate controls than rival systems, but using it still requires taking your eyes off the road. Calling the Pilot Assist adaptive cruise control ‘semi-autonomous’ feels a little disingenuous too, but its lane-keeping abilities do manage to put optional systems from certain rivals to shame.

8 Volvo xc90 b5 petrol 2020 uk fd dashboard

Should I buy one?

Modestly-sized petrol engines in big and heavy SUVs haven’t made great bedfellows in the past, and the addition of mild electrification hasn’t done much to rectify that here. The XC90 remains well-equipped and comfortable family transport, but in this configuration will cost more to run in the long-term.

Given that it can also be had with a mild hybrid diesel powertrain, which delivers better economy and lower CO2 emissions while adding very little to your monthly PCP payment, there’s little reason for it not to be the go-to choice for anyone not yet ready to migrate to a plug-in hybrid.

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Volvo XC90 B5 Momentum Pro specification

Where Hampshire, UK Price £55,560 On sale now Engine 1969cc, 4-cyls, turbocharged petrol, Power 248bhp at 5400-5700rpm Torque 258lb ft at 1800-4800rpm Gearbox 8-spd automatic Kerb weight 2049kg Top speed 134mph 0-62mph 7.7sec Fuel economy 33.6mpg CO2 191g/km Rivals Audi Q7, Lexus RX L 450h, Land Rover Discovery

14 Volvo xc90 b5 petrol 2020 uk fd otr front

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Add a comment…
jer 19 May 2020

yeah spent best part of £60k or £600pm

....on a nice but very compromised and offers little driving pleasure or performance. Does a petrol that uses 25%  more fuel emit more Nitrogen dioxide or particulates than a modern ad blue "urine" diesel? I guess a bit more but its probably close.

nimmler 19 May 2020

1/2 too much money. chinese not product dumping this car?

fifty five grand is insane money for what you get. very odd because the chinese masters who own volvo usually ‘product dump’ [supported by the ccp] below cost to destroy competition, similar to what happened to the uks steal industry..

Volvo is now in no mans land, too expensive for the average pcp curtain twitcher and here in the uk company car drivers have no incentive to lease and would go for the more expense tesla

nimmler 19 May 2020

2/2 too much money. chinese not product dumping this car?

  volvo will be a non starter because of the bik rates.

Tory gov changed the bik tax laws which punishes business users who lease ice vehicles and give amazing tax subsidies to evs which in turn makes the monthly payments on the more expensive model x lower than the volvo.

As much as I despise tesla and the musk cult they are kings at gaming the system so the average ratepayer is subsidizing the rich in turn dodging tax on their seventy plus grand toy


Ski Kid 19 May 2020

The trouble with Volvo is they are scrapping diesels soon

So you would not want the petrol as is lousy on fuel and underpowered and they will stop the hybrid diesel soon as their recent press release informed us,so that will lose a load on being obsolete.