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The Top Gear car review: Volvo XC90
For:Interior design and packaging, B5 engine, road manners, family focus
Against:Hybrid still short of range, but not much else really
What is it?
The best family SUV out there. Which, given the usage of most modern SUVs, makes this the pick of the bunch. Volvo was arguably the first firm to realise, back in 2003, that what people wanted was the functionality of a people carrier, but the image of a 4x4. The first gen XC90 was a runaway success, staying on sale until the current version arrived in 2014.
This was a ground-up rethink, built around different engines and a new modular platform that also underpins many other Volvos. But you’re not interested in that. Because you’re already thinking this is a handsome, cool car for forward-thinking people. Like you. And a safe one too, given all versions feature Pilot Assist driver assistance as standard (providing radar cruise control and lane keep).
The XC90 has recently been facelifted for 2019, with a bit of cosmetic work, but a more significant update for the engines. Four are available, the cheapest being the 250bhp T5 petrol, starting at a little over £52,000. For around £1,000 more there’s the D5-replacing B5 mild-hybrid, a 235bhp diesel with 48 volt assistance to spin the turbo electrically, reducing consumption and emissions. There’s also a T6, although that’s just a T5 with an extra 60bhp for a £3,500 uplift, and only accounts for five per cent of sales. Flagship is the T8 Twin Engine – Volvo’s moniker for a full hybrid, with a turbo and supercharged 2.0-litre petrol delivering 303bhp to the front wheels, while an 87bhp electric motor doles out more shove to the rear. A larger battery now allows Volvo to claim a 28.6-mile e-range, with economy and CO2 emissions of 113.0mpg and 52g/km respectively.
All versions are 4WD, have eight-speed automatic gearboxes and, of course, seven seats spread across three rows. Worried that an all-new one will be along shortly? Not Volvo’s style. The first gen XC90 stayed on sale for 12 years (about four years longer than the industry norm), and there’s no reason to suppose this one will be any different. Volvo’s stated aim of having 50 per cent of its model range fully electric by 2025 will likely have a bearing on the XC90 towards the end of its life, but for now (and likely until 2022 at the earliest) the T8 hybrid is the most environmentally conscious model in the range.
Volvo has been cleverly managed by Chinese parent company, Geely. They’ve invested in the firm, but let it decide its own course of action. Successfully, so far: sales are consistently up over the last few years. The XC90 is still built at the Gothenburg plant in Sweden and goes head to head with other seven-seaters such as the Audi Q7, Land Rover Discovery and BMW X5.
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