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Volvo XC90 V8 SE-Lux Car Review | July 5, 2006

Driven July 2006

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In image terms the Volvo XC90 is one of the lighter, fluffier, more politically correct SUVs. As such, while a small section of the public is tearing into 4x4s as monsters, the XC90 has escaped the worst of the green venom.

But stop. With the release of the V8-powered XC90 in the UK, proof has arrived that Volvo can do gruff SUV as well as anyone. In fact, the V8 has been on sale on the Continent and in the US for a couple of years, but only now has Volvo decided to offer it here.

This might seem strange timing, what with petrol pushing £1 a litre, but quite a number of XC90 owners are said to be prepared to pay a fuel premium to own the bigger engine.

Volvo reckons that many buyers are disappointed that they can't spec their car highly enough, so it expects the V8 to account for 10 per cent of sales - double that of the new and cheaper 3.2-litre in-line six-cylinder.

Drive it and you begin to see Volvo's point of view. The D5 diesel is a lovely engine, but it is a bit on the sluggish side in the XC90 - not a disadvantage you could accuse this V8 of inflicting on anyone.

It's quick: 0-62mph arriving in 6.9secs, which puts it ahead of even the supercharged Range Rover Sport. Kickdown is equally impressive the six-speed auto 'box shifts into gear quickly and smoothly.

Accelerate hard and this thing actually roars. It's a relief to see Volvo has kept the character of V8 intact - going against the modern trend to over-muffle big SUV engines. A word of warning, though; keep your foot hard down and fuel consumption becomes eye-watering.

Our trip computer was reading about 18mpg on the launch, although Volvo claims you should get nearer 20mpg along with 322g/km of carbon dioxide. So that rules out company car drivers, then.

All this comes at a time when XC is also being facelifted. You'll struggle to tell in isolation, but parked up next to the old one there are noticeable differences. New front and rear lights help, while, inside, different trim is also available. The diver's watch-style dials are cool - very Swedish in their simplicity and awesome at night with their ice-white lighting.

Volvo has wisely left the seven, easy-to-fold seats alone, so the XC90 still majors on family flexibility. But it now offers added aggression.

Piers Ward

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