Volvo XC90 review 2019

Find out more about the Volvo XC90 in the latest MOTORS Review

Average price
Make (any)
Model (any)
Min price (any)
Max price (any)
Out of 5


  • - Enough room for seven adults
  • - Quality interior
  • - Outstanding comfort and refinement


  • - Android Auto and Apple CarPlay optional extras
  • - High list price
  • - Petrol engines don’t suit XC90’s character
Model Review

Before 2002, Volvo was best known for its large luxury saloons and estates, but that soon changed as Volvo delved into the SUV market with the XC90.

Unveiled at the 2002 North American International Auto Show, the XC90 quickly became known for its hugely practical and comfortable cabin and its impressive safety record, which still continues today, even with far newer rivals for it to compete with.

Initially offered with a mix of petrol and diesel engines, Volvo then expanded the range further by fitting a Yamaha-sourced 4.4-litre V8; a sporty-looking R-Design trim level was launched to coincide with this addition to the line-up.

A light refresh in 2007 helped the XC90 remain a desirable model, although it was beginning to look a bit past its sell by date when the first-generation model ended production in 2014.

Latest model

Volvo chose to rip up the rule-book with its second XC90 – choosing a bold look to both the interior and exterior, which would set a precedent for all Volvos that have followed since.

Debuting in August 2014, the XC90 showed off Volvo’s now trademark ‘Thor’s Hammer’ daytime running lights, as well as a new front fascia.

At launch, it had the most advanced safety equipment of any car on-sale, with technology to protect occupants should the car run off the road, as well as a system that can automatically brake if the driver pulls out in front of another motorist.

It combined the XC90’s signature practicality with excellent levels of refinement. On the inside, the new design featured a tablet-like nine-inch touchscreen, as well as a virtually button-free layout to make it look de-cluttered.

Since launch in 2015, Volvo has added an R-Design trim level to the line-up, alongside a powerful T6 petrol engine.

Value for money

All this kit and luxury has come at a price, though, and the Volvo no longer undercuts rivals from Land Rover and Audi. However, with all this safety equipment and luxury, it can no longer be considered a sub-premium model.

Standard equipment includes adaptive cruise control, electrically-operated and heated seats, an impressive nine-inch touchscreen and automatic LED headlights, to name but a few of the features fitted to it. That said, top-spec models cost over £60,000, which is a lot of money, even if the XC90 is a very accomplished car.

For those on a budget, the first XC90 represents an excellent choice. With tidy high-mileage examples for sale for under £3,000, there’s the opportunity to get a lot of car for your money. Thankfully, those wanting a slightly fresher example of the first-generation car will not need to extend that budget too far.

Second-generation versions are unsurprisingly far more expensive, but the XC90 has still depreciated quite heavily. This means that around £25,000 will be enough for a 2015 model in Momentum spec, although it will likely have close to 100,000 miles on the clock.

Increasing the budget to £30,000 will buy a well-specced model with a more conservative 40,000 miles displayed.

There are also some fantastic discounts to be had on nearly-new XC90s. We spotted an example under a year old, with just 10,000 miles on the clock for £38,000, which is a sizeable £14,000 off the original list price.

Looks and image

The first XC90 was a car that got on with the job in hand, but lacked any style while doing so. Fast-forward to the latest model and that has certainly changed. The fantastic ‘Thor’s Hammer’ lights, imposing grille and beautifully crafted rear end all help provide the XC90 with some tremendous road presence. While it is a huge car, the styling manages to mask it well – far better than the Mercedes GLS and Land Rover Discovery, for example.

It’s a similar story on the inside when it comes to style. Volvo ripped up the rulebook with the XC90’s cabin, removing all but a few buttons in the centre console and on the steering wheel to leave a clutter-free layout that runs throughout the cabin. The cabin also receives a new nine-inch portrait touchscreen, which looks classy though it can be fiddly to use at first. This dash layout has been rolled out on all new Volvos since, with the XC90 setting a firm precedent about where the Swedish firm wants to head with its future design. The interior quality is also excellent, with the XC90 feeling upmarket and luxurious throughout.

For those wanting superb comfort and refinement, there are few cars more capable than the XC90 over long distances.

The ride is superb, and it’s only cars fitted with the largest 22-inch alloy wheels that can feel a bit firm; that aside, you’ll be hard-pressed to fault the XC90 for comfort.

The entire engine range is excellent, although the diesel unit suits the character of the car better than the T6 petrol engine does. The only thing to note is that it doesn’t feel as dynamic as the barometers in its class; the XC90 rolls more in the corners and does not have the same steering feel as either the BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne.

But on the road, the XC90 never feels its size, and is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre, which is helped by the fantastic array of cameras and sensors fitted.

Video review

Space and practicality

The first XC90 lead the way when it came to SUV practicality, and the current model is no different.

There’s a fantastic amount of space throughout the cabin, and even the third row of seats appears to be roomy enough for adults, albeit maybe not on long journeys. This extra seven-seat space gives the XC90 a clear advantage over many of its rivals — particularly as the third-row seats are no smaller than those installed on the second row.

The boot is huge, too. Even with seven seats in place, there’s plenty of room in the boot for shopping and a few good-sized suitcases, with an impressive 451 litres of capacity. If you fold all the seats down to leave just the front two, it frees up an enormous 1,951 litres of luggage space.

And then there’s safety.

It’s no overstatement to claim that the XC90 is one of the safest cars on sale, and was awarded one of the highest scores ever given out by industry experts Euro NCAP. The standard safety equipment is also fantastic, with an advanced autonomous emergency braking system, as well as adaptive LED lights, lane-keep assist, traffic sign recognition and adaptive cruise control to name but a few features. Volvo has an ambitious goal for no one to die in any of its new cars after 2020, and the XC90 will help with that.


Volvo offers four engines in the XC90 – one diesel, two petrol options and a plug-in hybrid. Each powertrain makes use of a 2.0-litre engine, paired with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and all-wheel-drive.

The D5 produces 232bhp, and gets the balance just right between efficiency and performance. It boasts a 0-60mph time of 7.4 seconds, and a top speed of 137mph.

As for petrol engines, the two specifications on offer are badged as T5 and T6. The T5 produces 247bhp, while the T6 produces an impressive 306bhp. The former takes 7.5 seconds to sprint to 60mph, and the latter manages it in 6.1 seconds, continuing on to a top speed of 143mph.

The plug-in hybrid T8 has its own review, which can be read here (HYPERLINK).

Running costs

Unsurprisingly given that the XC90 is a large SUV, running costs will be quite high. The diesel is the cleanest, though, and is the best option for drivers who cover a lot of miles each year. Volvo claims an economy figure of 36.7mpg, with CO2 emissions of 158g/km. The petrol units are quite thirsty and have rather high CO2 emissions figures, too.

Drivers who don’t do a lot of miles each day and have regular access to an electric charger should have a look at the T8.

Insurance cost will be quite high, but will ultimately be comparable to other vehicles of this size; the variants sit between group 33 and 43, depending on engine and trim level.

Road tax could also be quite costly, particularly between two and six years of the XC90’s first registration, when an additional £310 in road tax needs to be paid, because the model has a list price of over £40,000. This will mean that the XC90’s annual road tax bill amounts to £450.

Things to look out for

Despite Volvo being a premium manufacturer, the reliability of its cars hasn’t always been up to the levels you might expect. Issues certainly aren’t widespread in the case of the XC90, but it has been hit by a number of software issues that crippled certain features of the vehicle. These issues seem to have been rectified now, though.



The luxury SUV market is big business for a lot of manufacturers, and it’s meant that the XC90 has no shortage of rivals. Key models it sits against include the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE, Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover Sport. Other rivals worth considering include the huge Mercedes GLS, Porsche Cayenne, Lexus RX and Volkswagen Touareg.


While Volvo is firmly a premium car manufacturer now, it doesn’t have that desirability factor that you find with Audi, BMW and Mercedes, which helps the products of these marques retain their value. But all this means is that the XC90 is a fantastic used buy, with particularly significant discounts offered on nearly-new models.


  1. Excellent comfort and refinement
  2. Enough room for seven adults
  3. Huge boot
  4. Classy design both inside and out
  5. Petrol engines are thirsty
  6. Great value on the used market
  7. D5 diesel engine is the pick of the range
  8. One of the safest cars on sale
  9. List prices can be expensive
  10. One of the most accomplished cars on sale

Official sponsors of

British Motor Show logo