Greatest road tests ever: Volvo XC90 D5 SE

Volvo XC90 2003 front quarter mud splash

Off-road ability was limited by poor ground clearance

Volvo’s first SUV was worth waiting for

Volvo was late to the SUV party with its XC90, but the firm’s talent for practicality, safety and comfort suited the genre well.

The XC90 added width, length and wheelbase to the V70. At 4798mm long, it even outstretched the contemporary BMW X5 but was 1kg lighter. Haldex four-wheel drive normally sent 95% of drive to the front axle but could shift up to 65% rearwards if required.

Healthy low-end torque was smoothly deployed by the optional five-speed auto, and while the XC90 was left trailing in the performance stakes by the equivalent X5 and Mercedes ML, it yielded comfortable and relaxed progress. All-round ventilated disc brakes were powerful but grabby in town.

With both suppleness and impressive resistance to roll, the XC90 was bettered for handling by only the X5. Grip was excellent. Off-road ability was limited by relatively poor ground clearance, though.

A split tailgate, a big flat-floored boot, three independently sliding middle-row chairs and stowable sixth and seventh front-facing seats made the eminently practical interior more MPV than SUV.

For: Packaging, ride, safety, equipment, price

Against: Performance

What happened next?

The original XC90 proved such an enduring sales success that it remained in production until 2014, with the help of a facelift in 2007.

A Mk2 model arrived in 2015 and employed a similar formula. However, it was lower, longer and wider than its predecessor and initiated Volvo’s shift to the SPA platform and the use of solely four-cylinder engines.

Facelifted in 2019, it remains on sale. An electric successor is expected to be revealed in the coming months.


Price £30,400
Engine 5 cyls in line, 2401cc, turbo, diesel
Power 163bhp at 4000rpm
Torque 251lb ft at 1750-3000rpm
0-60mph 12.2sec
0-100mph 43.4sec
Standing quarter mile 18.9sec, 74mph
Top speed 108mph
Economy 24.4mpg

Source: Autocar

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