Volvo XC90 Review and Specs

Volvo XC90 Review


  • Easy car to drive
  • Great sound system
  • Unrivalled value for money in the Luxury 4x4 segment
  • Comfortable
  • Integrated child booster seat


  • Power and fuel economy not the best in class
  • Lacks keyless entry
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Overview, Look, and Feel of the Volvo XC90

The Volvo XC90 is a mid-size 7-seater crossover 4x4 based on the P2 platform that was brought to market in 2003. The XC90 has now been around for a decade and continues to be successful in a market full of newer-generation 7-seater rivals.

Gearboxes are all automatic and initially came in 4-speed and 5-speed variations until 2006, when the 5-speed gearbox was replaced with a 6-speed variant. From 2007 onwards, all models were produced with a 6-speed gearbox to coincide with a facelift, which included a restyled front and rear end in addition to a revised interior.

Despite its appearance, the XC90 is not merely a glorified station wagon. Indeed, there is room inside for 7 people, with a ground clearance that is greater than that of the average around-town vehicle, which combined with its four-wheel drive capacity, makes it an able off-road vehicle. In addition, the second and third row seats fold down, providing a lot of extra space. A great feature of the XC90’s body design is the plastic protection strips, which are great for driving along narrow bush trails or even when negotiating busy shopping mall car parks.

Typically for a Volvo, the XC90 includes safety features that are integral to its design, with its front-end designed to absorb impact and to deflect pedestrians involved in a front-end collision up on to the bonnet rather than underneath the vehicle. The XC90 includes Volvo’s patented frontal structure that uses crumple zones coupled with pre-determined positions for the car’s engine and other vital components in the event of a crash.

The roof of the XC90 is reinforced with very high strength steel to guard against collapse in the passenger area in the event that the vehicle spins out of control and rolls over, utilising Volvo’s Roll Stability Control to help minimise the effects of such an accident.

The rear of the XC90 has been designed to absorb the energy from impact for added protection against whiplash, using Volvo’s innovative WHIPS system to effectively cradle occupants’ bodies in the event of a rear-end crash.

Volvo XC90 Engine Specs and Performance

Power was initially provided by either a 2.5L 5-cylinder turbo engine with 154kW of power and 320Nm of torque, or by a 6-cylinder 2.9L sports model using 200kW of output power and 380Nm of torque. In October 2006, Volvo introduced an 8-cylinder engine to the XC90 range. This 4.4L petrol engine competes with the best of the high-performance 4x4s on the market. With a power output of 232kW at 5850rpm and a torque of 440Nm at 3900rpm, this model could reach 0-100km/h in 7.3 seconds.

Also released in 2006 was a 2.4L engine that was housed in the D5 Executive Geartronic model and provided 136kW of output and 400Nm. This was a slower car capable of reaching 0-100km/h in 11.5 seconds, yet this is not a massive issue as the XC90 is not necessarily intended as a performance vehicle, and its smoothness and awesome torque characteristics make it a worthy purchase.

In 2007, the 2.9L engine was expanded to 3.2L, which provided 136kW of output and a hefty 400Nm of torque, which despite having less power than its predecessor, utilised a wider spread of torque which made it highly driveable in the process. This model could accelerate from 0-100km/h in 9.5 seconds.

In terms of handling, the XC90 provides a good ride, although being so heavy – two tonnes – it is not the most nimble of vehicles. Nevertheless, the soft and suspension soaks up potholes and bumps with aplomb and hangs on brilliantly on corners, thanks in part to its awesome traction control. In addition, refinement is very impressive, with little or no wind or road noise being evident inside the car, even at high speeds.

Standard Equipment and Options for the Volvo XC90

Upon introduction in 2003, standard equipment included 17-inch alloy wheels, park rear distance, ABS, rollover stability control, air-conditioning with climate control, traction control, driver and passenger dual airbags, cruise control, engine immobiliser, flares, brake assist, power steering and windows, and electronic stability control among many, many other features.

Options included a 12-speaker stereo, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather seats, alarm, and CD stacker. Later models added mp3 decoder, audio USB auxiliary input, and Bluetooth as standard.

Never a company to skimp on kit, Volvo has continued that tradition with the XC90, despite the minor disappointment caused by the lack of keyless entry.

Volvo XC90's Competition

This comes from the likes of Land Rover’s Discovery and the Mercedes GL500. The Mercedes is a product of German engineering and thus blends impressive off-road ability with on-road capabilities that belie its relatively small size. In addition, the Discovery is also a versatile and robust alternative to the XC90.

However, the XC90 has the cleverest seating layout and is a willing performer on most terrains, with a list of safety features that continues to illustrate Volvo’s illustrious and continued dedication to the matter of safety.

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