Road test review: 2015 Volvo XC90 - Luxury overloaded

  • Oct 06, 2015
Volvo launched the all-new second generation XC90 in May this year and while deliveries are yet to begin as of end September, the company already has 266 confirmed bookings in its kitty, a clear indication of the SUV’s massive popularity. We drove the top-end Inscription version for a couple of days around picturesque Lonavala and here’s what we think of this Swedish 7-seater.


[caption id="attachment_17994" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Volvo XC90 exterior design Volvo XC90 exterior design[/caption]

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The new XC90 is worlds apart from its earlier generation model. The company proudly states that the new version has lot of “Scandinavian Influences” and for starters, this is clearly visible in the T-shaped “Thor’s Hammer” day-time running lights. This single trait alone, along with the massive grille, gives the XC90 a distinctive identity and an aggressive front face. Park the car by the side of the road, switch on the hazards and the Thor’s hammer turns orange and make the world stare in admiration. These headlamps would have looked at home in a concept Supercar and full marks to Volvo for putting these on a production SUV too.

[caption id="attachment_17989" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Volvo XC90 Volvo XC90[/caption]

And then there is a long never ending bonnet which leads us to the passenger cabin – side profile of the XC90, with respect to the front, looks a bit conservative but the 20-inch alloy wheels (standard on the Inscription version, lower trim gets 19-inch ones) fill the arches pretty well and look great. The shoulder line is almost flat and this in turn has allowed for large windows for the 2nd and 3rd rows and even the roof rails sit closer to the, well, roof unlike raised ones on other SUVs. You also notice the door mounted outside rear view mirrors and horizontal chrome strip on the lower part of the body with ‘Inscription’ embossing.

Move your eyes to the rear and similarity with the older model begins – the inverted Y shaped tail-lamps look familiar and also showcase the immense width of this SUV. The Inscription version also gets silver skid plates at both ends with neatly finished outlets for the exhausts.

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While the older XC90 looked a bit like a crossover, the newer one makes its intentions of being a full-sized 7-seater SUV very clear. It’s handsome and has a lot of character but then it also competes in a segment that will soon witness the launch of the all-new Q7. Sparks shall fly but for now, the XC90 is surely the best looking of the lot.


Volvo provides a set of 2 keys with the XC90. You get a standard remote key which allows you a true keyless entry and start-stop experience and second is a smaller waterproof (featuring same keyless feature) key tag that you can wear around your neck (with a strap) and go about any kind of adventures before returning back to the car. Smart. Once you enter the car with the regular key, you can either leave it in your pocket or ‘dock’ is neatly in the storage space on left side of the gear lever. And then there are the tiny Swedish flags stitched into the seat leather on the sides. How cool is that?

[caption id="attachment_17998" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Volvo XC90 cabin Volvo XC90 cabin[/caption]

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8 buttons are all that can be found around the central console of the new XC90, lending it a very ‘clean’ look. It features a smartphone like 9-inch touch screen that will surely become the talking point for owners who are gadget freaks and/or their young kids. It shows everything you would want to know about the XC90 – climate control, seats, car settings, lightning, navigation et al. You can also, like a smartphone, swipe, pinch or zoom the display with your fingers . This is surely going to add to the ‘wow’ factor of the SUV. And then there is the speedometer console which looks classy and you can even change the way it looks with the touch of a button, err, with a touch of the infotainment screen! A little shock of sorts is that this modern SUV comes with manual adjustment for the steering and there are no paddle shifts on the avail for changing gears manually.

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Before you start the engine, getting comfortable in the driver’s seat is an easy and impressive affair. Once you hit the adjust buttons on the bottom right side of the driver’s seat, the display shows exactly what all you can adjust – the back angle, lumbar, moving the seat to and fro etc. The seats themselves have been designed with inputs from Orthopaedic surgeons which means you can be rest assured of your back even after a non-stop 1000km drive.

[caption id="attachment_18004" align="alignnone" width="1200"]Volvo XC90 cabin Volvo XC90 Ignition[/caption]

Attention to detail inside the XC90 is remarkable. For example, look closely and you will notice a ‘tyre’ pattern on the little knobs that control the flow of air from the vents. Then there is the natural unpolished wood that looks classy. Other exclusive touches include crystal glass finish for the start/stop knob and mode select knob. Beautiful! The Inscription version also gets a standard 1,400 W Bowers & Wilkins sound system with 19 speakers including an air-ventilated subwoofer. It is claimed to be best in the segment but during our stint with the car, we couldn’t spend much time with it – this is on my agenda though.

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Most XC90s sold in India will be chauffer driven which means the 2nd row will be used a lot. Step inside and the first thing that you notice is a sense of space and airiness. This is primarily due to large windows and a huge panoramic sunroof. Like the front seats, there is ample space here as well and the seats recline and while doing so move just a bit forward to make sure your posture is just right. Only space limiting factor is the slightly raised transmission tunnel which can be a hindrance for the passenger in the middle.

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The XC90 is a true 7-seater SUV. Access to the last row isn’t bad per se and once you are seated, it actually feels spacious for two average sized adults. Boot space with all three rows folded stands at 451 litres. Flip the last row and it increases to 1102 litres. The same can be expanded to even 1951 litres by flipping the 2nd row as well. Worthy of a mention is a special feature to lower the rear of the car (electronically) by as much as 50mm which in turn allows you to put in heavy luggage easily.

Performance, Ride and Handling

For the Indian market, the XC90 will initially come with just one engine option, the 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel from the new VEA (Volvo Engine Architecture) family. It puts out 225PS of power along with 470N of torque. These figures are less as compared to the competition but Volvo is confident that this will not be a deal breaker for two reasons. First, most customers will be back seat drivers and secondly, the new XC90 is way lighter than the outgoing model which means performance is brisk. The engine is mated to a 8-speed Geartronic transmission and this work well for most driving patterns. There is ample power and torque available in the rev range and when pushed hard, it responds very well for a 4 pot mill. Acceleration is linear and the twin-turbos work hard to make sure power is available throughout the rev range. The engine makes use of i-ART technology that makes it possible to continuously monitor and adapt fuel injection per combustion in each of the cylinders – this in turn helps bump up the fuel economy.


While the gearbox of the XC takes its own sweet time responding when you go down hard on the accelerator pedal, the truth is that most XC90s will not be driven enthusiastically. Next, you are also offered with a choice of four driving modes, namely Eco, Comfort, Off-Road and Dynamic. As the name suggests, Eco is geared more towards extracting every single drop of diesel to the max. Comfort is the default mode while Off-road comes in handy during adventurous escapades. It increases the ride height immediately and turns on down-hill assist too. Dynamic is for grinning moments – the car sits lower, gears hold onto about 4500rpm, steering feedback becomes better, throttle response is sharper and so on. It still feels like a big car but you can throw this big thing into tight corners and out smiling. No really!

The comfort mode, the XC90 feels great to drive. The top-end Inscription version comes with 20-inch wheels and these do rob the SUV of a perfect ride quality. I happened to be chauffeured back to Mumbai in the old XC90 and the difference in ride quality of both the generations was significant. Nevertheless, for most usages (city roads!), the XC will do just fine, especially with 19-inch wheels.


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The XC90 is packed with safety aids. There are curtain airbags for all the rows and it cleared the crucial Euro NCAP tests with top marks. It also comes with a unique ‘run-off road protection’ which not only pre-tightens front seat belts (on sensing a possible off-road mishap) but also includes energy absorbing functionality between the seat and seat frame – this cushions a hard landing impact and hence counteracts possible spine injuries.

The new XC90 is a sold out model for Volvo in India. At Rs 64.9 lakhs for the Momentum and Rs 77.9 lakhs for the Inscription, it locks horns with other 7-seater luxury SUVs like the Mercedes-Benz GL and Audi Q7. At this price, the new XC90 offers a lot of standard equipment and seems as a great buy. And we are fans of the way it looks and further, the uncluttered cabin is spot on for modern luxury SUV. The only major shortcoming we see here is the ride quality over roads that are anything but smooth. But looking at the bigger picture, Volvo sure has a winner on its hands.

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Volvo XC90 Image gallery:

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