It’s a mixed bag here. At times we’ve been extremely impressed with the way the Volvo goes about things. At least, we were on the XC90’s launch, during which we only had access to cars with optional air springs.
So far, in the UK, we’ve had only a brief drive on air springs. For most of our work, including all of the road testing on the example you see here, we’ve been running with the steel/composite spring set-up.
Air offers an improved high-speed ride as well as a better secondary town ride over this version, which here involves more patter than we’d have expected on a car in this class.
It’s not uncomfortable – far from it – but it’s just that, when you think a BMW X5 is going to be the most dynamic and pseudo-sporting car in this class, it’s unusual to find that a Volvo is challenging it on a B-road for being the firmest and most intrusive car in the class across high-frequency inputs. There’s more body and ride isolation in a Land Rover Discovery, by far.
The Volvo is rather more competitive when it comes to body control. It feels like a large passenger car, rather than an out-and-out 4x4, absorbing bumps and crests without float or wallow.
It steers consistently and, at three turns lock to lock, has the kind of steering speed that those coming from an estate car – or an X5 – will be entirely familiar with. Its responses are consistent and linear as well.
Likewise, agility and handling will make those who arrive from a family car feel at home, and those who come from the old XC90 will think it’s a borderline revelation. The new XC90 grips well and changes direction without fuss – if also without any great feedback.
Nearer its limit, it’s safe and predictable, exactly as a Volvo should be. There’s no great enjoyment to be had here, but there is plenty of security and maturity. Just be sure you can live with the ride of the steel/composite-sprung car.