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View all Volvo XC90 reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4
  • Four engine options for the XC90
  • Two petrol, one diesel and a plug-in hybrid
  • Diesel best for economy, hybrid for company drivers

There’s a good range of engines available for the XC90, with a pair of petrols, one diesel and a plug-in hybrid that uses a petrol engine combined with an electric motor. They’re all 2.0 litres in size and are matched to an excellent eight-speed automatic gearbox which we have very few complaints about. It’s smooth when you want a relaxed drive, but will be responsive enough to switch gears quickly when you need an extra burst of acceleration.

All of the top speeds mentioned below are for XC90s built before 2020 - after that date, each is subjected to Volvo's electronically capped top speed of 112mph as part of its ongoing safety campaign.

Volvo XC90 D5 diesel

Our pick of the powertrain options is the D5 diesel, offering 235hp (the lowest of all the engines) and 480Nm of torque (the highest of all the engines). This means it’ll crack the 0-62mph sprint in 7.4 seconds, and will go on to reach a 137mph top speed.

It doesn’t feel really lively on the move thanks to the car’s heavy weight, but that punchy torque figure means it’s plenty brisk enough for most, and will perform an overtaking manoeuvre on the motorway with ease. Probably the most impressive thing about this engine is how versatile it is considering the fact that it’s smaller than the engines in most rivals. It doesn’t quite have the refinement of a six- or eight-cylinder engine, though, but it does remain hushed unless you really push it, but that’s also testament to the car’s impressive sound insulation in general.

Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine

This is the one to pick if you’re a company car driver since its CO2 emissions are a miserly 59g/km, which means Benefit-in-Kind tax is ludicrously low for a car of this sheer quality. On the road the cocktail of high-tech petrol engine (supercharged and turbocharged to produce 320hp and 400Nm of torque) and electric motor (with 87hp and 240Nm) delivers quite a punch.

Volvo XC90 T8

The combined power (400hp) can be applied all at once using the car’s Power mode, and this enables it to sprint from 0-62mph in just 5.9 seconds, making it the quickest XC90 in the range. Frankly, that’s amazing speed for a car of this size, and it feels as quick too. Put your foot down from a standstill and it rockets away with a feeling of urgent acceleration you simply don’t get from conventional powertrains. The instant torque available via the electric motor is to thank for that.

It’s not all about speed, though. One of the main advantages of a hybrid car is that it’s also smooth around town and cheap to run. The former aspect is best felt in Hybrid mode, which swaps between petrol and electric power automatically and almost seamlessly – based on what you demand of the car.

Volvo XC90 T8 rear

If you really concentrate you can just about tell where the change happens, but only just. In the main it’s just an easy car to drive. Stick it in D and away you go, and the car will work out the most efficient way of driving. It’ll default to Hybrid mode as much as possible, with up to 25 miles of electric-only travel possible, but this will most likely happen around town with a light right foot. In reality, you’ll get closer to 20 miles on the battery.

There are a few other driving modes available, including Pure – which maintains electric power for as long as possible until the battery runs out and the petrol engine must kick in – and Save, which stops electric power to prevent you using it all up at motorway speeds so you can “save” your emissions-free motoring for city centres. It’s all very Greenpeace.

Volvo Orrefors gear lever

Finally, AWD (all-wheel drive) mode delivers power to all four wheels so tough terrain can be tackled. All of this electronic wizardry is controlled through an eight-speed automatic gearbox which works absolutely faultlessly. In the UK, cars will come with paddle-shifters as standard.

Two petrol engines: T5 and T6

Two pure petrol engines are also available in the XC90, but these might be of limited appeal as they won’t offer the fuel economy of the more frugal diesel, nor the tax benefits of the T8 plug-in. However, if you plan to just use the XC90 around town, it could work out as a sensible option to avoid the strain on a diesel covering few miles. There are two options, kicking off with the T5. This engine produces 250hp and 350Nm of torque, and is more responsive than you might think when you consider the sheer size of the car it needs to haul around. It won’t pick up as quickly on the motorway as the D5, but it’s responsive enough and remains quiet at all speeds, making for a relaxed option if you’re never in too much of a hurry.

Volvo XC90 tracking

Still, it’ll get from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds, which is just a fraction behind the diesel, and it’ll reach a 134mph top speed. If you’ve got your heart set on petrol, your second option is the T6, with 310hp and 400Nm of torque. This is more rapid, taking just 6.1 seconds to get from 0-62mph. This will reach 140mph at the top end.

While this one does feel fairly punchy – it’s turbocharged and supercharged – don’t expect fire-breathing excitement here. It’s more about smooth progress, and this it does do well. What you can expect from both petrols though, is fuel economy that won’t get anywhere the diesel’s. Volvo claims in the mid-30s for mpg, but don’t be surprised if you see less than 30mpg on most journeys.

Handling

  • The XC90 is a large, heavy car
  • Handles its size fairly well
  • Best as a relaxed cruiser, though

This isn’t a car for flinging around corners. There’s a fair bit of bodyroll, which is a direct result of how comfortable the car is. With that said, it’s a very easy car to drive, and the purpose of the XC90 is to provide comfortable family transport – not to thrill like a supercar. Its steering isn’t particularly communicative but it is direct and accurate, which means the car goes where you expect it to – it’s just not as responsive out of town like a BMW X5 is. It’s quite light too, which further helps with ease of driving around town.

Thanks to the sheer size of the car it can be difficult to manoeuvre in tight spaces, but thanks to systems such as parking sensors and all-round cameras or even automatic parking, there’s always a way around it to help with visibility. The XC90 makes a great tow car too, with a braked towing weight of 2,700kg for the T6 petrol and D5 diesel and 2,400kg for the T8 hybrid and T5 petrol. It might look like an off-roader, but we’re not entirely convinced the XC90 will work particularly well when the going gets tough. Most buyers won’t dream of taking theirs off the beaten track anyway, so perhaps this isn’t a huge issue, but we’d like the opportunity to see what it can do regardless. Some of its rivals excel in this regard.

Volvo XC90 R-Design cornering