There’s an old cliche in car reviews, one I’ve been known to use myself on occasion, that a given car’s rear seats ‘have plenty of room for six footers’.
Volvo makes some big claims about just how much space the new, seven-seat XC90 offers second- and particularly third-row passengers, thanks to the clever packaging allowed by the modular platform that underpins the car.
But has it actually worked? Is there enough room for that archetypal six footer in the third row of the XC90? Fortunately, two of my housemates stand a lofty six-foot-three and served as the ideal guinea pigs when they needed a lift into town to continue a drinking session. (This was a serious scientific experiment and in no way purely for my own amusement.)
Volvo isn’t lying. Access to the third row is a cinch, the second-row seats folding and sliding a long way out of the way. Even half in the bag, my housemates clambered in easily. Once the second row seats had been pulled forward (all three slide individually) there was plenty of kneeroom and more than enough for legs and shoulders. The seats are comfortable, too, and there’s speakers, air vents and cubbies back there as well. Both said there would be more than happy to spend a long journey back there.
It’s worth pointing out, too, that three more average-size housemates also had plenty of room in the second row on the same journey, with the seats pulled right the way forward. Add in an enormous boot (still generous with the third row up), the XC90 is truly cavernous.
There’s no getting from the XC90’s sheer size behind the wheel, but the communicative chassis and accurate handling ensure it never feels unwieldy. Body control is good too, but this is not a car for attacking B-roads. If you want to have fun driving your SUV, look elsewhere.
The ride on our non-air suspended car was generally composed, but one rear seat passenger complained of nausea-inducing floatiness, possibly something to do with how the transverse composite leaf spring rear suspension is located.
Regardless, the XC90 is a consumate cruiser. If not a rapid one. It’s not exactly slow, the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine serving up 225bhp and 347lb/ft of torque. But it’s six-cylindered rivals post quicker 0-62mph times than its 7.8secs and are just more satisfying to use.
The trade-off is economy. Volvo quotes a class best combined average of 49.6mpg; on long motorway runs in consistently turned in high-30s.
The only real annoyance we had with the XC90 was the infotainment system. The 9in, portrait touchscreen looks fantastic and responds well, but the multi-page layout takes a lot of learning and it was too easy to press the wrong thing. And I could not work how to turn off the radio traffic updates.
If you’re in the market for a large, seven-seat SUV, I really can’t see why you’d get anything other than an XC90. The utterly rational, distinctly Swedish design outside and in looks fantastic, it’s economical, good enough to drive, supremely comfortable and more spacious than anything this side of a limo.
In fact, it might just be the ultimate family car.
Volvo XC90 D5 Momentum
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission: 8-speed automatic; 4-wheel-drive
Power/Torque: 225bhp; 347lb/ft
Economy/Emissions: 49.6mpg; 149g/km
Top speed: 137mph
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By Only Motors
- Vastly spacious
- Looks great inside and out
- Excellent infotainment system
- Engine lacks torque
- Inert handling
- It's so big