volvo_xc90_frontVolvo’s all-new XC90 family SUV is finally here. It replaces the original model that was introduced way back in 2002 when it created quite a stir with its clever new packaging and technology.

Though no one within the Swedish company really wants to comment on the long delay we understand it’s due to Ford’s control of Volvo from 1999 till 2008 and the US company’s decision to concentrate on its American SUV models. Ford sold Volvo to Chinese auto maker Geely in 2008 and we assume gave the Volvo people more autonomy than the Americans had.

In any case, new Volvo XC90 is an immensely practical seven-seat family wagon that follows its own path in style, safety and infotainment.

Though the Volvo image of being a car for old men in hats has all but vanished Volvo Australia treated us by lending us a ‘Polestar Optimised’ version of the XC90 D5 for the current week. With more power, firmer suspension and bigger wheels it looks, and acts, the part.

Polestar is the Volvo racing team that competes in Australian Supercars and many other global arenas. So Polestar is the Volvo equivalent of Audi S, BMW M and Mercedes AMG.


Volvo got it right in 2002 when the first XC90 was uncompromisingly square and practical in its body. Making for plenty of people and luggage space paid off and it was a big seller. The new model has a similar shape and the big grille makes a statement about the no-nonsense wagon. Clever shaping of the headlights gives it plenty of appeal.

Volvo invented daytime running lights almost 40 years ago – and was laughed at by other makers for doing so. Nowadays just about every car on the road has them …

Infotainment comes from a large vertical screen that’s almost like a tablet in the way it operates. A home button at the base and horizontal touch slides give access to various menus. While it’s reasonably intuitive, the words on the screen are very small and drivers should learn to use voice recognition because visual inattention could be long enough to bring anti-crash electronics into action – or worse.

There’s standard satellite navigation, a useful suite of apps, and the Bowers & Wilkins audio system provides excellent sound reproduction.

The XC90 D5 Polestar has added power (171 kW, up from 165 kW) and torque (was 470 nm, now 500) from its four-cylinder, 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine.

The numbers don’t tell the full story; faster throttle and automatic transmission response supplied by the onboard computer certainly make driving very enjoyable.


It’s hardly surprising that the XC90 features the very latest in safety technology. However, I feel Volvo is being brave in pledging that no one will be killed in a new Volvo by the year 2020. While it’s an extremely worthwhile goal there are just too many uncertainties on the road to my way of thinking. I would just love to be proved wrong…

The XC90 easily scored five stars in the European NCAP testing regime and was the first car ever to score full points in Autonomous Emergency Braking Car to Car rear-end tests (AEB City and Interurban). It also scored 100 per cent in the Safety Assist category.

However, on several occasions the Volvo beeped and dabbed the brakes while we were driving around bends on suburban roads with cars parked on them. Seems the safety systems saw the parked cars as being in our path and thought a collision was imminent. Better safe than sorry? Perhaps, but the system need to be refined.

The front seats are large and well shaped and can be adjusted to most people’s satisfaction. The centre row slides back and forward to let you find the best legroom. It has seating for three, with the carryover feature of a young-child seat in centre that can be moved forward to make it closer to the adults in front. That centre seat can also be folded down to give a table-like area for two occupants.

Two separate third row seats are reasonably spacious, though adults wouldn’t want to do long trips back there. They can be folded flat individually.

We turned our Volvo XC90 into a van one day and can report it holds six largish dining chairs with room to spare.

During that trip we did about five hours of driving on motorways and fuel consumption hovered around six litres of diesel fuel per hundred kilometres for the entire time. That’s impressive.

On day-to-day suburban driving the consumption was typically in the eight to ten litre range.

A seven-seat diesel-engined SUV that can go from rest to 100 km/h in just 7.7 seconds? I’d like to see that. Well I just did … power to overtake makes it simple and safe to drive and the response of the engine in normal driving is pretty quick.

Road grip of the big Volvo is impressive in bends and it provides nice feedback through the steering. This is no sports wagon and you are aware that there’s over two tonnes of high-riding wagon underneath you.

Anyhow, who wants to finish a great thrash along your favourite stretch of hilly driving roads by having to empty out six sickness bags?

Big, unpromisingly sensible in a very Swedish manner, the Volvo XC90 deserves a place on the short list of all who have only been considering one of the big-name Germans. It’s most certainly a worthwhile alternative.


XC90 D5 Momentum: $89,910 (automatic)
XC90 D5 Inscription: $96,910 (automatic)
XC90 D5 R-Design: $97,910 (automatic)
XC90T6 Momentum: $93,670 (automatic)
XC90 T6 Inscription: $100,670 (automatic)
XC90 T6 R-Design: $101,670 (automatic)
XC90 T8 R-Design: $122,910 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Volvo dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Volvo XC90 D5 2.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon)

Capacity: 1.968 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 173 kW @ 4000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 480 Nm @ 2250 rpm
Fuel Type: Diesel
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 5.9 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 154 g/km

Eight-speed automatic

Length: 4950 mm
Wheelbase: 2984 mm
Width: 2008 mm
Height: 1776 mm
Turning Circle: 11.8 metres
Kerb Mass: 1970 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 71 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Three years / unlimited km

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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