Volvo’s brave new world has given it, on the face of things, a far more competitive line-up than the old XC90 and its five-cylinder engines could ever offer.

Here, it’s down by a cylinder and almost half a litre of capacity, yet it still has the kind of power, performance, fuel economy and emissions claims to enable it to compete with the best in the field. The new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel’s 222bhp is above average for the sector, in which about 200bhp is the norm. And it’s enough to give the Volvo a 0-60mph time of 8.3sec in our hands.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
The XC90's new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel’s 222bhp is above average for the sector, in which about 200bhp is the norm

It has been a while since we obtained a set of performance figures for a four-cylinder direct rival for the XC90, but in 2012 the Mercedes-Benz ML 250 Bluetec needed 8.8sec to cover the same benchmark, even though it made more torque than the Volvo’s 347lb ft.

You can probably assume that the work of Volvo’s body engineers is coming to the fore here. The XC90 tipped our scales at a respectable 2076kg – more than the 2009kg claim but well below the Mercedes’ 2350kg and half a tonne less than a full-fat Land Rover Discovery.

That relative leanness means the Volvo is one of the most alert cars in the class in response to the throttle. It will accelerate from 30-70mph through the gears in only 8.3sec. The ML takes more than a second longer.

That performance, though, is slightly at odds with the feel you get from the gearbox. Mostly, the XC90’s eight-speed automatic is an easy thing to get along with: you stick it in ‘D’ and leave it at that.

But when you ask for more than moderate performance, the gearbox can be a touch slow to respond unless you’re extremely firm with your demands. There’s no immediate ‘S’ alternative, so you have to head into the drive menus and ask for the car’s responses to be sharpened, by which time the opportunity to overtake or that short stretch of enjoyable road has probably passed.

This isn’t the quietest engine in the world, either. The numbers say an ML is no louder than the XC90 at idle and only marginally more so as speeds increase, but the Volvo’s note is more clattery than that of the BMW X5 and Discovery we tested it against, although it’s well within the bounds of acceptability.

We have no complaints about the brakes, though. The XC90 always stops strongly, straight and true. 

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