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white volvo xc90 driving on the road

Volvo XC90 review

When the second-generation Volvo XC90 arrived in 2015, it underlined Volvo's credentials as a true rival for Audi, BMW and Mercedes. Volvo's flagship SUV can stand comparison with any of Germany's finest big 4x4s, and does so in style. Practical cars with room for this many people have rarely looked so good.


Remember the '80s? Then you'll remember that Volvo wasn't always a standard-bearer for understated Scandinavian style. Volvos used to be boxy and boring, practical and on the dull side. 

That's long since changed. Perhaps more than any other car, the second-gen XC90 has established Volvo's as a maker of stylish and good-looking cars. 

With the XC90, Volvo has pulled off the difficult trick of designing a car with real presence, without seeming ostentatious. You notice the XC90, but it doesn't shout as loudly as the muscular BMW X5 or a blingy Mercedes GLE

From the prominent but elegant grille to the curvy rear lights, the XC90 looks handsome and distinctive. 

white volvo xc90 off-road

Perhaps more than any other car, the second-gen XC90 has established Volvo's as a maker of stylish and good-looking cars. 

What’s it like to drive?

Big 4x4s can be intimidating to drive around town. The XC90 is better than most thanks to a high driving position and clear view out.  Head out on to country roads and you'll find the Volvo doesn't smother bumps in the road as well as a Land Rover Discovery, though it does corner neatly for such a heavy SUV. 

All engines deliver strong performance. The diesels aren't as quiet as those fitted to the Audi Q7. The T8 Twin Engine plug-in hybrid is the quickest model, with plenty of punch for overtaking. 

white volvo xc90 rear off road

It does corner neatly for such a heavy SUV. 


For many car buyers it's the cabin that really sells the Volvo XC90. It's beautiful to look at, and beautifully made. As cool as the latest Nordic noir thriller, and as practical as an IKEA wardrobe, the XC90 is hard to resist. 

Volvo has gone minimal. There are hardly any buttons on the dashboard. Instead, most features are controlled by the Sensus sat-nav and infotainment system. The portrait-shaped screen looks stunning. It does take a precise touch to hit the right part of the screen while driving. With more menus than your favourite takeaway delivery service, it's rather fiddly to use. 

You sit up high behind the wheel, with a comfortable position that makes long journeys a breeze. Anyone sat in the second row has plenty of space, too, with enough head and legroom for adults to stretch out and enjoy the ride. 

Every Volvo XC90 is a seven-seater, and like many cars with this many seats, the third row is cramped. It's fine for children. Adults will find their knees shoved up around their ears. If you plan on using all the seats often, there's more room in the third row if you choose a Land Rover Discovery

volvo xc90 interior


There's enough room for some shopping in the boot, even when the car is full of passengers. Lower the third row and there's loads of space – a family of four should find room for all their suitcases when heading off on holiday. 

Every XC90 comes with plenty of useful cubbies and cupholders dotted around the cabin. Nobody should have to do without their morning cuppa, wherever they are sitting.  

Flexibility is just as important as space when designing a practical interior, and Volvo has that base covered. The middle-row seats slide back and forth on runners to give those in the third row a bit more legroom, or for extra luggage space if the third row is folded into the floor. 

Running costs and reliability

For a big 4x4, the Volvo XC90 has low running costs. The original D5 AWD diesel from 2015 has an official combined figure of 49.6mpg. You may struggle to match that in real-world conditions, but the Volvo is unlikely to drink fuel as quickly as a Land Rover Discovery. 

Volvo has been quick to bring hybrid technology to its range, adding mild-hybrid versions of the XC90 to the line-up in 2019. These use battery power to give the engines a helping hand, improving economy and cutting emissions compared with earlier XC90 models. 

In the theory, the T8 plug-in hybrid has the best fuel economy of the range. You'll just need to plug in and recharge regularly to get close to the 83.1-100.9mpg official economy figure. 

What we love

We love the XC90 as it does things differently. Instead of copying Audi or BMW, Volvo has followed its own path with the XC90's styling, and it's all the better for it. The elegant, uncluttered, practical interior is a real highlight. Anyone who appreciates Scandinavian design will enjoy travelling in the Volvo XC90.

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Town and country drivers




The Volvo XC90 is one of our favourite large SUVs. Aside from the cramped third of row of seats it's a very practical family car. There's lots of space for5, and the Volvo is supremely comfortable on long journeys. Understated and elegant styling gives this practical package a very appealing wrapping.

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