Is the 2020 Volvo XC90 the best 'fancy' SUV on sale in the world?
A segregated market is never easy to conquer, especially when the competition is fierce - but Volvo have managed to make a truly exceptional SUV
We live in a world where people show off their wealth in vehicle purchases, house purchases or watch purchases. These items are symbolic to them in signifying their personal monetary value. In the automotive world there are few vehicles which do this better than big, fancy SUVs - usually a Range Rover. Volvo have always made brilliant SUVs but now they've taken it a step further by taking on Range Rover in the fight for the best fancy SUV in the world.
Remember the last generation XC90? Boxy, rugged and trustworthy. It was a proper Volvo (as we knew them), however the 2020 update has made the new version even more sleek and visually nice to look at. The front is smooth, with a flowing grille (nothing BMW here) and lovely headlight cluster design. Whilst the side profile implies off roader, it isn't bulky in the slightest - it's smooth. Spec yourself an Inscription model and you'll get 20" diamond cut multi-spoke alloys, go for an Inscription Pro and they grow to 21"... MASSIVE!
The back end has styling information alike to the older generation, however it has now been smoothed off and brought up to the modern day. It's unique, though, as you're unlikely to see design like this in anything except Volvo XC40/60/90 - unlike JLR and VAG products.
An interior to take on all of the competition...
When you're spending upwards of £70,000 on an SUV, you'd better be getting an interior which nicer than your own home. Fortunately, Volvo do just that - they give you an interior so nice you don't want to leave it when you finish a long or short drive. That drivers seat is holding and supportive but equally like an armchair - match that with superb visibility and you quickly begin to love the driving position.
Option yourself the Bowers & Wilkins audio system (£3,000) and you very quickly discover how audio should sound. It is without any doubt in my mind the best manufacturer fit audio system available in any car on sale at the moment. Clear, punchy, loud and not tainted with 'alterations'. Close your eyes and you're there - it's rare a car can do this from an audio point of view but the XC90 B&W system is absolutely mind blowing.
The rest of the interior is of a brilliant quality, perfectly designed and easy to spend time in. A 9" infotainment screen controls most of the entertainment functions. Find yourself in the back seats? Well those are as comfy as the front, but with mega leg room - even the rear rear seats (7 seater) also give you reasonable space. This is not only a better designed interior than the competition but it's more comfortable too.
Performance and economy? Yup!
With 235hp / 480Nm torque, the B5 diesel turns around 0-60mph in 7.1 seconds and tops out at 137mph. Those figures are near enough the same as a SDV6 Range Rover, and considering the fuel economy of the XC90 is considerably better and it's cheaper... that's good already, right?
In the twists and turns the XC90 doesn't feel like it's large or lumbering, rather quite light on its feet and pretty capable. The steering does offer a pleasant response but it isn't totally enthralling in overall feel - really the best of both worlds, Volvo have nailed that.
Economy wise - expect to see 50mpg on the motorway, combined 37mpg and 33-33mpg around town. For a huge luxury SUV with poke and a fun driving characteristic, could you ask for anything more? These figures are helped to become a reality thanks to the mild-hybrid 48V system the XC90 B5 has.
The best in the world then...?
In this segment, I do believe so. Not only because it's nice to have something different but because this specific alternative choice is better in so many ways. Aesthetically less in your face and giant, inside it's just a castle on wheels and the economy and performance is more than you expect. In a world where everyone with £70k+ to spend on a car gets a Range Rover, this gives you the chance to stand out - in a good way.
No matter where you drive it, on road or off, it does it with ease. Whilst it may not have the off-road prestige of a Range Rover, honestly ask yourself how many of them actually make it off-road. The on road driving characteristic is worlds above most of the competition and... oh yeah... it's cheaper too.
Also consider this - it's a Volvo. When the rest of the vehicles in the segment have gone to the scrapyard in the sky, these will still be kicking about.