Ten Point Test

Auto Trader Ten Point Test rating: 82%

The Volvo XC90 was a hit as soon as it was launched in 2003 for its understated quality, practicality and luxury.
Now the Swedes have given it a shove upmarket with a facelift and introduced two powerful new petrol engines to add to the more frugal diesel model.
We drove one for a week to see how this multipurpose seven-seater SUV punches at a higher weight.

1. Looks 8/10

Volvo is pitching its flagship off-roader at the luxury end of the SUV market and changes to the 2007 model reflect this. At the front this takes the form of a new, more chrome-laden grille and a bigger Volvo badge. The rear sees redesigned lights, a full-width rear skidplate and a greater level of colour coding than on previous models. The car also has a shorter roofline due to the sloping tailgate, designed to make it clear this is most definitely not a Volvo estate. Trim levels SE and SE Lux also feature new 18-inch alloy wheels as standard with 19-inch alloy wheels available on the top Executive trim.

2. Looks inside 8/10

Volvo interiors have a calming effect. The Swedish manufacturer likes to ensure its drivers are unhurried and unflustered and the Volvo XC90 is no exception. The information display is set low to emphasise the vehicle’s car-like credentials while the updated central console is angled away from the cabin, helping create the feeling of space. The latest model also incorporates new materials and upholsteries, such as Sovereign Hide leather to enhance the premium quality claims.

3. Practicality 9/10

The Volvo XC90 seats up to seven, with the sixth and seventh seats able to fold flat while not in use, just one of a total 64 possible seating combinations available – a big feature for buyers who have placed the car’s passenger capacity top of their list of reasons for buying. The split tailgate features a bottom half able to take the weight of an adult standing to load items on to the roof. The car features very comfortable seats with plenty of headroom. The second row centre seat is less roomy, but among a number of smart space-increasing ideas from Volvo is a removable armrest between the driver and the front seat passenger to create more legroom. It is also possible to slide the centre seat forwards to bring a child closer to the front seats. The downside of using all seven seats is the remaining boot space only amounts to 249 litres. However, this can be increased to 615 litres with the third row folded flat and up to a maximum of 1,837 litres with both rows of seats down. The XC90 also boasts off-road ability through all wheel drive, 218mm ground clearance and stability and traction controls.

4. Ride and Handling 8/10

The Volvo XC90 lives up to its promise of a luxury SUV drive. We found the car very comfortable as a driver and as passengers with the vehicle dealing with even the most demanding lumps and bumps with disdain. The handling does not match up to the benchmarks of 4×4 rivals the BMW X5 and the Porsche Cayenne and feels a bit vague in comparison but we were generally impressed by handling which instilled confidence through corners.

5. Performance 9/10

Buyers can now choose between three engines, two petrol and one diesel. The 185bhp D5 turbodiesel six-speed automatic gearbox model we drove covers 0-62mph in 11.5 seconds and has a top speed of 118mph. This delivered plenty of punch when required to overtake but also felt smooth for cruising. Go for the manual and the 0-62mph drops to 10.9 seconds while the top speed is increased to 121mph. If it is power you’re after however, the two automatic gearbox-equipped petrol models will prove more appealing. The 3.2-litre model covers 0-62mph in 9.5 seconds with a top speed of 130mph. The top of the range 4.5-litre model introduces Volvo’s first V8 engine and slashes the 0-62mph time to 7.3 seconds.

6. Running Costs 6/10

The diesel model is the most frugal, with the manual option the most economical at 34mpg. That compares with 31.4mpg if you choose the automatic. This drops to 23.9mpg for the 3.2-litre petrol version, and 20.9mpg for the 4.5-litre petrol model. The diesel model also offers the lowest CO2 emissions of 219g/km which place it within car tax band F (attracting an annual bill of £205), compared to the 3.2-litre petrol with 281g/km and the 4.5-litre petrol model with 322g/km. The two petrol-engined models fall into car tax band G, meaning a £300 annual bill until April 2008 when it increases to £400. From October cars in tax band G will also be face a £25 charge to enter the congestion zone in London. Insurance will not be cheap with models ranging between Group 15 and 19.

7. Reliability 7/10

The original Volvo XC90 was launched in 2003 before being updated in 2007. The model is still a little new to evaluate its reliability. However, Volvo has built a deserved reputation for building reliable cars and there is no indication that its flagship SUV is any exception.

8. Safety 10/10

The Volvo XC90 boasts plenty of kit to keep you out of trouble. The All Wheel Drive system reduces the chances of the driver losing control – as do driver aids dynamic stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist. There is technology to reduce the chances of rolling and Volvo has also increased the strength of the roof by using boron steel – which is up to five times stronger than regular steel. All this helped the Volvo XC90 receive a full five star EuroNCAP crash test rating.

9. Equipment 8/10

Volvo has armed its SUV with a high degree of specification to help its shift upmarket. The entry-level S trim is only available with the diesel model. Beyond that there are the SE, SE Lux and Executive trims. Go for the diesel model and choose the S trim and you will get 17-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, rear park assist, 8-speaker CD system, steering wheel audio controls and leather gear knob. SE adds 18-inch alloy wheels, body-coloured wheel arches, mirrors and door handles, rear skid plates, electric driver’s seats, leather-faced upholstery, 6CD multi-changer and automatic windscreen wipers. SE Lux adds brushed aluminium roof rails, bi-xenon headlamps and cleaning system, Sovereign hide soft leather upholstery, wood trim and heated electric front seats. Executive adds 19-inch alloy wheels, extended body-coloured wheel arches, chromed wide tailpipe cover, 12 speaker-CD, sat-nav and a refrigerator within the front centre armrest.

10. X-Factor 9/10

The Volvo XC90 performs very well on most fronts. It’s a very competent car, whether you intend to go off-road, simply ferry the family about or pitch your use somewhere between the two. However, while drivers will still enjoy an engaging drive, passenger comments regarding the comfort of this car were overwhelming. The seats are great and the ride is superb. A great car for taking the slog out of long journeys.

Specifications

Model tested: Volvo XC90 D5 SE
On the road price: £35,345
Price range: £32,845 – £54,420
Date tested: January 2008
Road tester: Adrian Higgins